hood by air’s revolutionary take on school days for spring/summer 16
Shayne Oliver can’t stop, won’t stop innovating in the name of downtown New York creativity.
If the New York fashion scene can feel a bit like high school at times, the Hood By Air kids are the ones in the back of the class, sleeping off the night before in imaginative, sexy getups they found who knows where. Then they raise their hand and say something insanely insightful, and you wonder if they've been one step ahead of everyone the whole time. Shayne Oliver's spring/summer 16 collection, a searingly imaginative meditation on school days, brings these kids to the front of the class to school the rest of us on thinking like individuals.
From the first look, a dove grey jumpsuit completely open to bare buttocks at the back, it was clear that this was not the Convent of the Sacred Heart. Exposure and slashing of classic uniform staples (white shirts, pleated skirts) were consistent throughout the show. White shirts were deconstructed in dozens of ways - and we thought that Yohji and Rei had exhausted all the possibilities! Although the DIY mish-mashing of school uniforms is not new territory, HBA put its own ultra-subversive and surprising spin on the theme.
Shayne's own Trinidad adolescence provided the inspiration. As he explained backstage: "Basically the idea of growing up in the Caribbean and having a really high education and low living quarters. It's very third-world even if you have money there. So I was kind of doing that."
The collective's commitment to gender-exploratory, hyper-diverse casting is well chronicled, and must be partly responsible for the rise of unusual "nodels" at shows like Eckhaus Latta, Gypsy Sport, and more mainstream brands. But it shows the brand's restless approach that they don't lean on the same faces season after season. Each time, you wonder how the hell casting director Kevin Amato finds these kids. As to the men in women's clothes and the women in men's clothes, and the lack of men/women labels altogether, Shayne said, "At this point I've sort of dealt with gender issues within my perspective and now I think it's just part of the DNA of the brand."
Beauty-wise, 90s school styles like the zig-zag part and ironic pigtails were paired with absurdist splashes of white and beige makeup. Possibly an ode to this year's viral craze, clown contouring? If so, Shayne is showing that his brand is inspired as much by the streets as by the dark corridors of YouTube. As all creative kids are, these days.
For me, the highlight of a Hood By Air show is the sizeable standing section, with its club kids and brand devotees dressed to the nines, dancing, and singing along to the music. If these characters are any indication of the line's hold on youth culture, this is just the beginning for a brand once written off as simple logowear.
Text Rory Satran
Photography Jason Lloyd-Evans