As we approach our 2nd birthday, we thought we'd catch up with our Hook LDN founder and UKNY Music entrepreneur, Zak Biddu, for some celebratory reflection, expertise and industry advice.
How did you get into music?
I lived in New York for a year and when I came back at 22 I didn't really know what I wanted to do. All I did know was that after spending time in such a vibrant city and living it up, any job I had needed to be aligned with that spirit; I needed something that would get me out at night and keep the party flowing as I didn't want to work an ordinary 9-5 role. At 22, it was no more strategic than that. I happened to meet someone who worked at Sony when I was in a club one night and they offered me some work experience. I went to Columbia Records and after 3 weeks they offered me a full time job, and it all went from there.
You've worked with a lot of famous friends and faces at UKNY Music. What are the most exciting events to organise?
Every week we work with a superstar on an event and there have been so many that I'm proud of. Most people would expect me to say a show with Bruno Mars, David Guetta or Robbie Williams has to be the most exciting, but that's not always the case. Whilst those shows are epic in their own right, what we're doing is just producing someone else's show, and at the end of the day it is all about the artist. I didn't find or create Bruno Mars or The Black Eyed Peas - I take what they've done and who they've become and put them on stage.
The events that are most satisfying are those we've completely created and produced from scratch. For example, I had an idea to put Hugh Jackman on stage with dancers and a full orchestra for an event and I put together the repertoire, the look and feel etc and Hugh bought into my idea and together we made it happen. I produced a festival in India within 8 months from nothing. By the time it arrived, I had thousands of tickets sold to an incredible event that I dreamed up out of thin air. I had The Prodigy, Chase & Status and Pendulum headlining my festival. Even though you break your back doing those things, they are definitely more exciting.
What are the darker areas of the business no one can prepare for?
I think most people would be surprised at how last minute things are in music. With the biggest acts in the world, people assume everything is going to be slick and straight forward because these artists are touring and performing all the time, which is true. But on the flip side, because of the hectic schedules, there is often no time at all to properly rehearse or prepare the logistics. That's when things can get extremely stressful and straining.
I'd say it's common knowledge that artists have their own list of demands on a rider. However it's actually the accompanying entourage who can be surprisingly demanding, sometimes more so than necessary. People come up with the craziest requests at all levels, even rookies. Everyone demands a private jet, whether they are a megastar or someone who's only just managed to put an album out. The representatives can be spoilt because they're used to getting their own way, so managing those relationships can be testing.
What was the reason behind choosing eyewear for Hook LDN?
I wanted something you could hold, something that was tangible. UKNY doesn't own anything physical; we produce but we're at the mercy of artists and performers. I wanted to own something that had real intrinsic value. When looking at products, eyewear came out at the top of a long list of categories. I decided on it because it's a real product that has a massive influence on a person's identity and style and it's a growing market with an increasing global demand. I wanted to create a high quality, designer product at a competitive price point that young people could aspire to but also afford.
I feel that in the eyewear market there is a spectrum; there are lots of expensive and unattainable brands at one end, and cheap high street brands at the other. For the young consumer, there is really only that choice between expensive designer products at £400 + or the moulded rubbish that sells for £20. There wasn't really much in the middle and so I saw that as my entry gap to the market back in 2015.
Would you say music influences fashion, or vice versa?
It can go both ways. Traditionally I think music influenced fashion more, for example, rock 'n' roll, but I think over the last few years fashion has contributed towards music, particularly in the hip-hop genre. The fashion industry has hugely influenced the style of the Kanye's, the A$AP's, the Drake's etc. They've all been inspired by fashion, design and the appeal of luxury branding. It's a very 360 relationship; did the leather jacket inspire rock 'n' roll or did rock 'n' roll inspire the leather jacket? Either way you look at it, there is a definitive synergy between the two.
5 years down the line, where do you envisage Hook LDN being?
Hook LDN set out to create best-in-class, high quality products at a price point that young people could afford and purchase without breaking the bank. That is our mission statement and I'd love to see that truly accomplished within the next 5 years. I want Hook LDN to be a globally recognised, reliable and style-led brand that sells more and more amazing product at a fantastic rate each year.
What's your favourite frame of the new collection for SS17?
The new collection has loads of strong pieces, but for my personal style and taste, I would have to pick the Union sunglasses in dark tortoiseshell and the Colston optics in black. I also love the Bridgeman optics in brown and the Juke sunglasses in blue tortoiseshell from the SS16 collection.
You have some spare time in London. What do you do?
When I'm in London I do two things with my spare time; I either exercise by going for a run, a PT session or boxing, or I will take my dog Roxy out. On a cultural level, aside from gigs and festivals, I love going to out to dinner. Every night of the week I'm eating at a different restaurant and checking out new places.
What Valentine's Day restaurant recommendations would you give to those looking for something special?
London restaurants are booming and it's just fantastic to see. About 20 years ago I'd say London had a reputation for pretty average food and restaurants but now we're breaking the boundaries at all levels and seeing all types of cuisine across the city. Eating in London has now become a great culinary experience. If you're planning on pushing the boat out on Valentine's Day, (which is always a good idea), then you should be spoilt for choice.
If you're in West London, then Garage 108 on Golborne Road is a fantastic option. In Central London, I tend to go more for the classics, such as Hakassan or J Sheekey. Dishoom is a popular mid-priced restaurant that I will always recommend but it books up quickly!
Do you have any advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur?
The first thing to do is make sure you've done your consumer research. There is no point investing time, money and effort into something that won't take off. Find out if there is a demand for your concept/product and take your time planning it. Secondly, before you set off, make sure all your investment calculations are realistic and achievable. Although it may sound intimidating, you have to be properly prepared and willing to ask for help if you need it with the financial and logistical side of things.
Once you've got all of that, all that's left is passion. If you really love your concept and can visualise it working, chances are you will make it happen, or at the very least have given it a hell of a go. If all those things stack up, don't talk about it, think about it or mull it over .... just get out there and do it!