Kokaine’s Hao Phu presents his rags to riches fashion retail success story

Hao Phu, the founder of Australian retail clothing icon, Kokaine

Hao Phu, the founder of Australian retail clothing icon, Kokaine, has grown a significant fashion empire by creating a cult-like following among his growing base of avid fans.

While many people admire and respect Hao Phu and are in awe of his marketing genius – his journey has been one of genuine hardship and determination.

With the business now aiming for a turnover of $6m next year, the brand’s rise to fame has been nothing short of meteoritic given Phu literally started the retail label with nothing.

Reminiscing about the old times

“This year, Kokaine turns seven years of age. If you’d asked me seven years ago if I thought we’d be where we are today, I’d say ‘no way’,” Phu said.

“I knew that we would be successful, but we have surpassed everything I thought we would achieve and we still have much more growing to do. This year we are pursuing agreements with distributors that will see our clothes stocked on shelves across the world.”

“Not only will this help us to become a truly global brand, but it will also support our desire to be accessible to all. I can’t believe how far we have come.”

“When we opened our first pop-up store in Melbourne seven years ago, we only sold one shirt and the girl that bought it, brought it back because she changed her mind.”

“I was gutted. But, I knew that with time and hard work we would make it – and we have!”

Phu’s success story

“Today we sell hundreds of thousands of items each month and our customers proudly show off their Kokaine clothing as a cultural statement. I am so proud of this.”

Phu’s story is inspirational.  Seven years ago he was working in retail earning less than $200 a week.  In fact, he only had $16 in his bank account when he started the business.

He designed and created the Kokaine label at home in his parent’s garage. During the day he would work and then at night he would draw up designs and make the clothes.

“I knew from day one that I wanted to create the Kokaine label to be accessible to the many and to be a brand that evolved based on feedback and insights from our market.”

“I wanted to inject my personality into the brand to create a genuine connection with our customers and fans. This has helped us to grow and to be servant leaders in our industry.”

Social media marketing has been a big help

In seven short years, the brand has amassed a huge following and draws the majority of its sales through its online engagement. One of the key platforms that Kokaine uses is YouTube.

Phu created a YouTube channel called ‘Hao You Phill’, a cute play on words, which he delivers with his girlfriend Philly.  The channel has over 35,000 subscribers and is continuing to grow.

Phu mixes in his love of entertaining, DJing, visual merchandising and fashion design.

His approach has worked, Phu is a YouTube sensation who is loved the world over for his quirky, insightful antics and amazing fashion sense!

“We show our customers in very raw form – something that we have been documenting from day one, our venture from humble beginnings to where we are now.”

“Our brand is transparent and real for our clients so there are no smoke and mirrors or hidden agendas. They get to see why and how we create certain products and the process involved.”

Social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are also used by the business to connect with the brand’s customers and to broaden its market reach. Kokaine currently has more than 40,000 followers on Instagram alone!

Phu’s passion for the brand shows

He spends a lot of time intimately involved in Kokaine’s operations and also manages to find time to post to YouTube and other social media channels almost daily.

It’s no wonder Kokaine is a star performer in Australia’s retail fashion industry.

The business is seeing constant growth in its customer base with an average of 35% of sales coming from repeat customers.  Phu and his team keep a close eye on fashion culture and actively take in all kinds of feedback about their brand and products.

“We are close culturally to our clients to know what they want and their feedback is important. We have managed to build a brand in Kokaine that extends beyond common trends.”

“In fact, we are one of the few brands in the industry that sets our own trend in fashion. With this approach, we are able to attract more customers and stay ahead of the competition.”

“It is important as a fashion brand to understand what the trends are, but not necessarily follow them to a tee. Fashion trends come in cycles, and we have to be ahead of them.”

What keeps the brand from drowning under the intensity of industry competition is its goal to not compete, but to create. The brand is also doing collaborative projects with other pop-up stores as a way to help each other grow in the industry.

“There are a lot of brands out there that are trying to do what we do, but they can’t touch our traction and following. We are heavily involved in the community; my girlfriend and I have been involved in just about every type of fashion / sneaker-related thing in Australia.”

“We traveled country-wide to build the brand and connect with followers where we can.”

“Kokaine is definitely up for more success and we are excited about the future. COVID has only helped us to engage further with our customers online.”