Emerging brand Hood by Air caused a stir on Sunday with a fashion show that combined kicked-up street wear with conceptual performance art, simian makeup, and an appearance by emerging rapper A$AP Rocky, sending the audience’s cool-kids into fits of underground bliss.
It’s the brainchild of 24-year-old New Yorker Shayne Oliver, who started the brand in 2006 when he informally created a range of T-shirts that climbed their way up the social strata until they landed on Rocky’s back. After dropping out of FIT, Oliver focused on his brand, branching out into sweatshirt design and ready-to-wear. Virtually self-taught (aside from internships at threeASFOUR and Roberto Cavalli) the label scored its first wholesale account at the much-revered (now shuttered) SoHo boutique, Seven New York.
But the years of work all amounted to Sunday afternoon’s show at Milk Studios—which judging from the array of awe-struck tweets and Instagrams from high profile audience members—could very well be considered Hood by Air’s breakout moment. The show’s front row was flanked by notables like Theophilus London, artist Terence Koh, and stylist Nicolas Formichetti who was perched with a small Pomeranian on his lap. A laser light show developed by performance artist boyChild shined down, with the artist also modeling a selection of looks.
According to Oliver, Hood by Air is a “play on cultural stigmas.” He explained: “It’s a play on something [my friends and I] used to call ourselves. People would elaborate on luxury ideas and bring them to the hood, but I felt like we could do the reverse and take the hood to an elevated level.” If by elevated, he means selling at Colette in Paris and Opening Ceremony in the London (where HBA is so in demand that Oliver has been invited to create an art installation there in the spring), then mission accomplished. But his brand has also reached counterculture heights, acting as a style centrifuge for the underground youth movement dubbed ‘ghetto gothic,’ which fuses music and fashion at bump-and-grind raves.
“The concept is all about finding new ways of going through the darkness,” Oliver explained of his fall collection. “It’s inspired by prophets and fetishists, people who push boundaries.” It entailed a fleet of male models made up to resemble Die Antwoord’s Yo-Landi Vi$$er—dilated contact lenses included. Those familiar with the cult street wear brand Supreme would recognize Hood by Air’s take on ‘street’ basics. Though simple, a sweatshirt emblazoned with ‘HBA’ in block lettering held an inimitable caché. They made Oliver’s leather outerwear pieces feel like foils, created to bring his everyday basics up to runway-ready speed. “When you do a show, you really do conceptual pieces,” he explained.
Closing out the presentation, Rocky emerged in a neoprene zip-up and scrunched-up drop-crotch pants. “He wore one of the stage pieces I made for him to go on tour with Rihanna,” Oliver said of the ensemble, “it’s a preview of what he’ll be wearing later on.” When worn without the contacts and bleached turbans, as Rocky did, Hood by Air’s street appeal suddenly came full-circle. Its cool transcends gimmicks—a sign of good things to come.