KNOWSTATE | Representing the Underrepresented

Kristine Sage is a co-founder of KNOWSTATE, a digital platform dedicated to uplifting homegrown, underground talent in the city through writing and visual storytelling.

Sage and her business partner, Mart Samiento, have worked with up-and-coming artists like TXMIYAMA, Young Hysan,  Dough-Boy, and Qoo. 

We caught up with Sage to learn more about her entrepreneurship journey and some of the ways we can support the local artist scene. 

Hey Kristine, how did you and Mart get started with KNOWSTATE ?

We built Knowstate based on our passion for storytelling. Before this, we’d both separately been in the business of making stories ‘marketable’, often times sacrificing a lot of the substance for mass appeal, and we wanted to create a platform that is dedicated to telling stories ‘the way they deserve to be told’. No bullsh*t, no filters, no fluff. It’s very rebellious, but that is the nature of giving a voice to the people who aren’t heard enough.

Did you face any setbacks? What were they?

Being in the business of creativity in a society that puts art on a very low stage, it's always a struggle for businesses to respect the craft for its real value. Ironically Hong Kong is also a very expensive city, so it's tough for creatives and artists to thrive here when big businesses only appreciate art when they can exploit it.

What let you know that you were on the right track?

The work we do involves a lot of convincing businesses to feature the street scene as a part of their business model, so the most rewarding part of all our projects is seeing and witnessing the impact this make on the people they matter to. Sometimes, people just want to be heard, and when they finally are, it means everything. When we see people repping Knowstate, knowing what we're about without us having to explain, that really.. that feeling is indescribable.

What do you wish someone told you before you started KNOWSTATE?

That we should've done it sooner.

How has COVID-19 impacted your business?

When a lot of our income relies on events, the social distancing policies pretty much voided our work opportunities.

You and Mart, your co-founder, have landed an impressive list of clients – Nike, NBA, Lane Crawford, and Puma to name a few. What’s your advice for fellow creative hustlers who want to work with their dream clients?

Build your brand. Know your brand. Live, and breathe your brand. These big brands got to where they are for a reason, study that reason, and apply it to your own work. And then keep hustling, because they will notice.

What are some of the top oversights you see brands or artists doing with their communication/social media?

In my personal opinion, the best thing that brands/artists can do is use their platforms wisely. Be honest, but also be careful. Especially at a time like this where people are very easily triggered, information is unverified, emotions are scattered, it’s important for businesses to relay truthful information, inspire positively, and instigate authenticity. When we have influential platforms, it becomes our responsibility, whether we like it or not. I think that’s important for all of us to remember.

You guys have dedicated your professional lives to telling exceptionally honest stories beautifully. You must have come across some interesting accounts in that time. 

Sometimes good stories fall into our laps, other times, we have to go out and search for them. The nooks and crannies of the city are filled with incredible stories, and it does push us to get out there. We really do try not to limit ourselves - the world is always bigger than the ones we’ve constructed in our heads.

What are some ways the uninitiated can support the local arts scene? 

Be present. Embrace your interests. If you like something, there is never going to be anything wrong with investing time, money, and effort in it.

It’s hard not to notice the orange in all of your branding! Is there a reason behind it? 

Content is our product, and it’s not something you can physically touch or feel, so we needed to find something for people to remember us by. So we sought colours. No colour stimulates mental activity like orange does – it entices the appetite, and we wanted to integrate that with a thirst for knowledge. It’s an unsung colour, but it’s never failed to catch everyone’s attention. Lo and behold, the Knowstate orange.

Are there any local businesses you would like to shout out?

Some of the most legit creative geniuses we’ve ever met are the ones behind the scenes – behind the heavy cameras, behind the insane edits, behind the witty copy, behind the clever graphics… any brand/company that has a good grasp of youth culture and an honest business model is worth praising. But if we had to name some: Goldthread & GoldfishTV, Gluestick Entertainment and Eaton Hotel is also putting out some really good stuff to uplift the scene.