HOOD BY AIR
FROM V84 FALL PREVIEW 2013
PHOTOGRAPHY CARLOS SERRAO
FASHION SHAYNE OLIVER
TEXT PATRIK SANDBERG
CULT NEW YORK STREETWEAR BRAND HOOD BY AIR EMERGES FROM THE UNDERGROUND WITH A BREAKOUT FALL 2013 COLLECTION. NEXT STOP: THE FASHION STRATOSPHERE
“In the beginning it was about finding a new sense of style outside our usual way of dressing, playing around with subversion,” says 25-year-old Shayne Oliver, the entrepreneurial young designer of New York’s now-ubiquitous luxury streetwear brand Hood By Air. “The first official HBA garment we did was a dolman-sleeve Champion crewneck with Greek columns across the body.” Nearly seven years, a handful of personnel changes, thousands of T-shirts, and a couple heartbreaking production nightmares later, Hood By Air’s Oliver has managed to emerge as the young New York designer to watch: his Fall/Winter 2013 show was the most buzzed about event on the New York Fashion Week calendar, with several prominent editors, hip-hop superstars, and artists in the front row. In an act of creative solidarity, A$AP Rocky closed the show in one of his custom HBA tour ensembles. The fashion press heralded the runway presentation—a dark, raving procession with lasers, fog, and theatrical appearances by the performance artist Boychild—as a breakout moment for the brand.
For a twentysomething designer it’s undeniable serendipity, but it wasn’t always so easy. Oliver had to wing it with no money: kinks with his production team even resulted in a canceled show. “They didn’t get the design aesthetic,” Oliver says. “I decided to take a hiatus to regroup and grow as a businessperson, and grow in life. I began working with Venus X, as a resident of GHE20G0TH1K, which loosened me up and made me comfortable with the performance aspect of design. It helped with finance and kept the heritage of the brand alive as well.” When a critical mass of New York-based musicians began to adopt the style codes of Oliver and company, retailers like Opening Ceremony and VFiles reached out and revived the line’s commercial appeal. Today HBA logos stream across the bodies of everyone from Rocky to Rihanna to Drake, not to mention young creatives everywhere, from Tokyo to London.
“One of the initial concepts of the brand was to create a breakdown of design genres,” Oliver says. “I think the challenge for me every time is to get more tuned-in with this aesthetic, to make it even more well-polished and well-oiled.” Though the clothes are technically labeled as menswear, their urban flamboyance appeals across the board. “To me this is the new dress, the new luxury,” he says. “It embodies the sense of relaxed, established extravagance and appreciation for wealth. It’s guarded from the intimidation of social boundaries. People consider this to be swag, but it’s really something else that hasn’t been fully realized yet. The hood is always current, and a balance of modernity and luxury is something I think is needed on the high-end market.”
For Spring, Oliver plans to cement Hood by Air’s status as a new aesthetic to be reckoned with. “I think some social media has diluted some of the core themes and moments for the label,” Oliver says. “This season will be a full-circle moment—very upfront and direct, design-wise. It will establish the HBA cut and shape.” Fans of the brand got a preview this summer in the form of a successful pop-up shop with Scion A/V in L.A., a capsule collection of knitwear for Selfridges in London, and a concept showroom in Paris during the menswear shows. Next up? A VFiles retail project in New York and an event in Asia, called “Yohood.” So how does it feel to be told by the The New York Times that he’s entered “the fashion big leagues?” “It means that I have a platform,” he says, “which is what I’ve been wanting. Now it’s time to perform.”