HONG KONG — Guests who attended a Hypebeast party on Oct. 20 have reported painful burns and eye injuries, including concern over potential long-term damage to their vision, after being exposed to improper lighting at the streetwear site’s Club Sorayama pop-up.
Guests — upward of 60 people, according to local newspaper Apple Daily — said they are suffering from photokeratitis and peeling skin after being exposed to lighting at the party that is usually used for disinfectant purposes.
“I woke up at 3 a.m. basically four hours after the event with extreme pain in my eyes,” said James Acey, who DJ’ed at the event for three hours. “I couldn’t really see or open my eyes for too long. My eyes were watering. I was just confused and [later] I heard that other people were sunburnt from the party.”
After seeing a doctor, Acey was told he had “welder’s eye.”
“It’s basically exposure to UV rays, UVC rays in particular, without protection. So when you see someone flash welding, they’re using a mask. If they weren’t, this is the condition they would have,” he said.
Another attendee, Kitty Wong, said that her eyes are feeling strained and gritty — as if they have sand in them — nearly a week later. “My eyes are still kind of sore. It feels like I’ve been looking at a screen, but more intense.”
An investigation is under way, Hypebeast said in a statement, but the cause appears to be “nonapproved lighting in a part of the area in the venue without our knowledge”. It was installed by a contractor, the company said.
The company said it “places safety as our utmost priority” and urged guests to seek medical advice, adding they have sought out legal counsel.
“The case is now under investigation by the insurance company and we are not in a position at the moment to draw conclusions about what happened,” Hypebeast said.
The party at The Landmark mall was the second of three planned events for Hypebeast’s pop-up store, each featuring a different collaboration and exclusive merchandise, scheduled to run until the end of the year. The first was a partnership with photographic duo Places + Faces in August. Last Friday’s event featured the Japanese illustrator Hajime Sorayama, known for his erotic depictions of feminized robots, encompassing an in-store exhibition due to run until Nov. 5. The store has been shut down until further notice.
A source within Hypebeast, who requested anonymity, said the third event may not go ahead as staff were told to delete any trace of the pop-up dates from the company’s web site. However, a company spokeswoman said it was still planned as scheduled.
Acey has criticized the company’s slow response and is concerned about long-term damage to his vision. Told initially for days not much more than there was “an investigation” being carried out, Acey said he went back to the venue on Oct. 23, which was then still open, to personally examine the lighting. He found that instead of black lights, installed were Philips TUV 30W G30 T8 lights, a type that emits 12.0W of UVC radiation and is mainly used as a disinfectant.
“Basically, it felt like they were covering it up, they wanted to take care of it quietly,” Acey said. “They said they were going to reach out to everybody one by one, which I knew wasn’t true, because there were people who were affected that they hadn’t reached out to. Rather than them make a public statement [initially], they were handling it in some hush-hush way.”
He continued: “We all who were affected by it kind of found each other and just been sharing our symptoms. Some people have flaky skin, their skin is peeling. My skin is peeling on my forehead, around my eyes. Because I’m black this is new to me, I don’t usually get sunburnt. It’s the handling of it [that bothers me]. A mistake was made; I don’t know if it was by HBX, Landmark or contractors.”
Share prices of Hypebeast Ltd., which listed earlier this year on Hong Kong’s GEM board, fell 2.4 percent Thursday.
Hong Kong Land, the landlord of the mall where the pop-up was held said, “We are aware that the privately organized Hypebeast event on [Oct. 20] is currently under investigation. As the event took place at Landmark, we are paying close attention to the situation.”