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How 8Five2's Julius Brian Siswojo built a skateboard paradise

Dec 01, 2017

8Five2's founder Julius Brian Siswojo

8Five2 is Hong Kong’s go-to for all things skateboarding. Founded in 1999, Julius Brian Siswojo has brought the hottest skate and streetwear brands to the city while also helping build the skateboarding community. 

If you’re a skateboarder or someone into streetwear in Hong Kong, then you’ll almost definitely know 8Five2. Its humble storefront has been bouncing around for almost two decades, catering to the city’s growing population of skaters – not just as a retail space, but as a community hub. 8Five2’s founder, Indonesian-born Siswojo, ensures that Hong Kong’s stocked with the coolest labels such as Dime, Call Me 917 and Palace alongside industry stalwarts including Nike, Vans, Adidas and Stüssy. Not only that, Siswojo’s also making sure local skateboarders have room to ride within the concrete jungle of Hong Kong.

What inspired you to start 8Five2?

I started skateboarding in 1988 – I’ve been skateboarding for almost 30 years. It’s an integral part of my life. When I started, there weren’t any real skateboard shops here. The shops that were around at the time didn’t know what to order or how to bring real skate brands to Hong Kong. I had always wanted to bring in authentic skateboarding merchandise and hopefully one day get the opportunity to open my own shop.

In 1999, I met Alyasha Owerka-Moore, who used to be the creative director for Alphanumeric A#. Aly handed me his business card and when I saw that A# logo, I knew at that moment I wanted to start a distribution company and skateboard shop. That was the start of 8Five2.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1974. I moved to Hong Kong when I was 11 years old with my older sister to study English. Skateboarding was introduced to me in 1988 at one of our school sports days by my good friend Hyun-min. Once I stepped on the deck, I never let go. I still remember that feeling like it was yesterday. I ate, slept and skateboarded – it was my life! I’ve been doing it ever since.

How has 8Five2’s clientele changed over the years?

When we first started, 8Five2 customers were mostly the homies and the homies’ homies. Although we were located right in the heart of the city in Causeway Bay, we were in a commercial building on the first floor, with no marketing for our shop. Customers just came by word of mouth, so it was still a core audience.

We’ve moved around since, but in the summer of 2016, we decided to make the move to a first floor in Causeway Bay with a big window that was very visible from the outside. Now, more and more casual shoppers come up to our shop. I have to say that now 8Five2 is more like a must-see spot in Hong Kong. We have a lot of customers that come from all around the world that are also into skateboarding and street fashion. You should come up and check out our Polaroid collection that I’ve been taking since we started in 1999 – it’s crazy to see how many people have passed through 8Five2.

Julius Brian Siswojo

What sorts of brands does 8Five2 carry?

We bring in a lot of new, fresh brands such as Fucking Awesome, Call Me 917, Alltimers, Dime, Doom Sayers, et cetera. These are the leaders in terms of skateboarding and street fashion brands today. Hong Kong’s skate culture can be introduced to the most legit skate brands that are the most sought-after, first hand at 8Five2.

How have you changed Hong Kong’s skateboarding scene?

Due to being so overly populated and having such crowded streets, there’s rarely any street skating, so we’ve worked closely with Warren Stuart at X-Fed and the Hong Kong government to open more skate parks for kids, instead of more malls. We’ve opened 14 skate parks and counting.

With Hong Kong not having the most opportune weather, as it’s mostly extremely hot, humid or raining most of the time, 8Five2 also partnered up with Vans to open Hong Kong’s first indoor skate park in 2011, where we hold workshops and skateboard sessions. With that said, the city’s skate culture has grown rapidly with a lot of effort.

We also sponsor eight local skateboarders and we give back to support the scene. Every local shop around the world needs to do that – give it back!

What do you think of some skate brands becoming more and more mainstream?

It’s a good thing. For example, Fucking Awesome is definitely one of our best-selling brands. Jason [Dill], Mike [Piscitelli] and AVE expanded it into a legit skateboard brand with many pros under the name. It’s good to see that FA is doing really well after all they put into their company and their riders.

Julius Brian Siswojo

For skate brands, what’s more important: style or function?

Both – style and function are equally important, but it also needs a lot of creativity in the brand’s designs.

Name your top five favourite sneakers.

Vans Slip-On, Air Jordan 1, Nike Presto, Adidas Campus, Converse Chuck Taylor Low – and a thousand other styles. I just love sneakers!

What’s on your playlist right now?

It’s always Wu-Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers, Notorious BIG’s Ready to Die and Nas’ Illmatic albums. Then I also love Adele, Sam Smith, Lorde and so many others. 

This feature originally ran as 'Young Boss' in in the December 2017 print issue of #legend

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Helena Yeung