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World famous YouTube star and founder of Australian fashion retailer ‘Kokaine’, Hao Phu, shares his secrets on how to create an iconic brand with a cult following



Hao Phu, the magnetic and energetic founder of Australian retail clothing icon, Kokaine, has grown a significant fashion empire by putting in genuine effort to connect with the brand’s growing crowd of avid followers.

Loved all over the world for his insightful, raw and genuine personality, the Kokaine brand is more than just a forefront label for Phu’s products, it’s a name and a sub culture that people connect with as they express themselves through Kokaine’s clothing and accessories and Phu’s extraordinary passion for life.   The brand is inspired and motivated by the Japanese culture – from fashion to vending machines. 

“We realised early on how important it was for our customers to be part of our journey and our eco system,” Phu said.

“So we created the ability for our customers to have more human interaction with our label – so they understand there is a real person behind the brand that they can engage and interact with. I wanted them to get a sense of who I am, what makes me tick and my love of life so they could share in the vision.”

In seven short years, the brand has amassed a huge following and draws 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 merchanising, fashion design and more.  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,” Phu said.

“We like to keep our brand transparent and real for our customers 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 Faceboook, 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 percent 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 also stay super close culturally to our customers – knowing what they want, and their feedback is important to us,” Phu explained.

“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.  We paved our own lane. Fashion trends come in cycles, and we have to be ahead of them.”

The brand has won the title for 2019 Business News Australia’s ‘Number 1 Business’. It has achieved numerous breakthroughs with one of those being the closure of Collins Street.   When Kokaine opened its store in Collins Street, Melbourne, the line of people queuing up to get into the store stretched two to three blocks from where the store is located, with a waiting time of about three hours.  

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 have travelled all over the country to build the brand – connecting with our followers where ever we can,” Phu said.

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

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