Editor’s note: This season the Hood by Air collection will be presented in three parts. Each is reviewed separately below.
Part 1, New York, September 7, 2014
Best to address the elephant in the room. What was up with those Plexi stockade chokers at today’s Hood by Air show? Given the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., it was hard not to read a political critique into these accessories, which manacled several models’ hands up by their heads. Hard, but not impossible, because if you know HBA honcho Shayne Oliver even a little, you know he’s more interested in self-expression as a means of challenging norms than he is in conventional forms of protest. Institutional oppression isn’t his thing. So it wasn’t a total surprise that Oliver pointed to the chokers in his show—and the gussied-up crutches—as part of a commentary on the breakdown of machismo. A key theme of this show, he explained, was an interrogation of what it means to be a man. Hence the deconstructed blazers and fatigues, the riff on the three-piece suit, the very on-trend and very appealing reinterpretations of traditional shirting, for both girls and boys. And for people who refuse to identify with any one particular gender. This was a Hood by Air show, after all.
The chokers were arresting, but the most interesting thing on the Hood by Air catwalk today was the emphasis on relatable, wearable clothes. Hood by Air was a finalist for the LVMH prize, and Oliver noted that the experience shaped his thinking about what it means to be a brand; he was galvanized to approach his collections somewhat less as a challenge to push himself as a creator and a great deal more as a chance to entice people into his world. Merely thinking that way would represent a leap forward, but Oliver had the goods right on the runway. This season’s denim was pretty much an engraved invitation to join the cult of HBA—the jeans came distressed, painted, zippered, and, in a standout version, shredded to within an inch of their lives and emblazoned with the “HBA” logo over the kneecaps. The aforementioned shirting ought to make the brand some new friends, too, as will those “HBA”-embossed black leather bombers. Indeed, for this reviewer’s money, the nerviest move at the show wasn’t the moment Boychild sallied down the runway in a choker with a giant dog. It was when Oliver sent four models in a row out in identical looks: black embossed bombers and “HBA”-logoed black jeans. Again? Another one? One more? That’s exactly how it will feel when you start to see this look everywhere on the street.
Part 2, Paris, September 23, 2014
It’s been said that it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. Tonight’s Hood by Air presentation in Paris managed to simultaneously conjure both. The second part of a planned three-part exploration of the male self—id, superego, ego—the HBA presentation took place on what appeared to be an abandoned floor of an office tower, the kind of place where you could easily imagine dudes in suits divvying up corporate spoils. Instead, a gang of languid models had seemingly taken up squatters’ rights, not just of the space but of those hypothetical businessmen’s clothes, as well. The looks here came off as refashioned versions of men’s tailoring, meant for a world where the codes transmitted by a traditional suit no longer exist.
Shayne Oliver thinks big, even if post-hypercapitalist aesthetics wasn’t what he was thinking about, exactly. Rather, in this “superego” HBA collection, he was exploring “peacocking,” dandified masculinity unafraid of cutouts and (Swarovski) crystal embellishment. Most of the clothes were shown on female models, and it was easy to envision girls—in this world—glomming onto pieces such as a pleated midi skirt with zippers, or a one-sleeve leather jacket open at the shoulder. More daring women (or particularly daring men) should also like the barely there shirting, all strapped through at the sides and backs. The most interesting proposition here, though, was Oliver’s take on the suit itself, in which he imagined jackets and pants as a kind of contiguous piece, not unlike a dress. The Hood by Air version of that idea was very directional, but you could see a more reserved suit/jumpsuit mash-up coming into vogue. Why not? Even the corporate guys could get into that.