reinventing the fashion show, hood by air perform their greatest hits for la
Shayne Oliver presented his autumn/winter 16 men's collection during the inaugural Made LA fashion festival, with a characteristically boundary-breaking live event.
Photography Andrew Boyle
On a rooftop patio across from the Staples Center, amidst a parade of pop-ups and lawn chairs, the first-ever MADE LA fashion festival was as far as could be from the seedy underground bars and clubs of downtown New York, where Hood By Air originated a decade ago. But it was here that the brand chose to show its men's autumn/winter 16 collection.
Not long after arriving, guests were ushered into a small tent, where an 8-foot-tall mound of dirt was overflowing with smoke. The house lights began to strobe. The music blared. And the crowd circled the mound, unsure what to make of the peculiar installation — until, suddenly, models pushed through the crowd, and began to climb the mountain, gyrating wildly. Hood By Air was here, and a typical catwalk this was not.
Few things are ever typical when it comes to Hood By Air. Hallways, a collaboration with musician and producer Yves Tumor, was less a fashion show than a piece of immersive performance art. Designer Shayne Oliver presented us with a king of the hill style showdown, in which models competed to control that large dirt pile. Tumor, who produced the soundtrack, stood on top of the hill first, with a microphone in hand, seemingly inciting a riot as models fought amongst one another and with the crowd.
"It's inspired by the anger and angst kids have in the hallways in schools," said Oliver. While the brand also staged a high school-themed show in New York last year, the approach in Los Angeles was drastically different. Clad in everything from red PVC rave pants to braided leather body restraints, these were the kids you steered clear of freshman year.
The coolest of the bunch, Tumor — dressed in destroyed denim shorts, a high-riding jock strap, and metallic Cuban heels slash moon boots — screamed inaudible taunts and dared other models to dethrone him. A lanky white model — in those red rave pants and a graphic tee — took a brief turn on the hill, as did another in billowing crotchless denim and a shirt with sleeves so long they trailed nearly a foot behind him on the ground.
"The HBA person is created by the model," Oliver said after the show. Diverse as ever, the group was entirely street cast in LA. "That felt the most genuine. It seemed like the obvious choice, that LA kids would feel the most comfortable and have the best attitude during the presentation since it was their turf," said Walter Pearce, who oversaw the casting. Hood By Air is as much about swagger as it is about clothing, and Saturday's show was about reaffirming those cultural roots — while also acknowledging that LA was the models' and fans' turf, not the brand's own.
As the models took turns on top of the hill, occasionally scuffling with each other, it became clear that the orchestrated chaos was evocative of a very non-HBA related pastime: monster truck rallies. "Yves Tumor is like the new hardcore for me, and when we heard Ford was involved [in MADE LA], we knew we had to do monster trucks," said Oliver. Ever one to push the envelope, Oliver imagined each model as a truck, with Yves leading the pack and assistant designer Ian Isiah acting as the announcer, chanting, "HBA" and "this is fucking life" repeatedly.
For Oliver, Hood By Air is a reflection of life. The brand recently decided to adopt a see-now-buy-now model, to better create moments with its audience, and allow fans to live those moments almost instantly by immediately purchasing collections. While many brands — Tom Ford, Vetements, and Burberry among them — are moving towards a similar system, for HBA the change is not simply a new business model, it's a new way to speak to their consumer.
There's a complex history of parties, personas, and music that defines HBA, and Oliver hoped to bring just a taste of that lifestyle to LA. "I don't want to have to keep selling people clothes and not show the background that it's coming from… I want people to know exactly what it is that they are buying," he said.
This season reintroduced many iconic Hood By Air tropes — reworked sweats, logos, and zippers — along with some new additions, including four-sleeve hoodies, camouflage coats with fractured sleeves, and a particularly enticing yellow-and-black leather moto jacket, reminiscent of a standard issue North Face puffer. "The show is archival," explained Oliver, "this was a greatest hits of HBA." And a long-sleeve t-shirt emblazoned with the word "REMASTERED" captured the essence of what he had accomplished: a definitive reclamation of his roots.
Text Asaf Rotman
Photography Andrew Boyle and Andy J Scott