hood by air's queerest moments

We already miss the brand's subversiveness.

by André-Naquian Wheeler
14 June 2017, 8:52pm

Two months after beloved New York collective Hood By Air announced its hiatus, the fashion community is still processing the news. After the spring/summer 17 season, the brand's sinister, street-smart take on luxury fashion will be missing from stores. The respite can hardly be called a surprise, however.

Rumblings about Hood By Air's future began circulating after the brand cancelled its scheduled appearance at Paris Fashion Week in March and Shayne Oliver revealed he would be joining Helmut Lang for a "special project." This September, a special capsule collection designed by Oliver for Helmut Lang will be released

In only a few years, Hood By Air has performed a steady stream of one, two punches. What other brand could send out forbidding, non-conventional models wearing shirts with ghoulish ankle-length sleeves? Or collab with Pornhub on a runway show covered in globs and globs of a certain sexual fluid? Or earn its gender-bending clothes serious street cred through cosigns from rappers like A$AP Rocky and Pretty Flocka?

To help us get over HBA's break, i-D is taking a look back at some of the brand's most innovative moments. 

Hood By Air teamed up with South African photographer Pieter Hugo to capture Jamaica's male porn stars and "Gully Queens" - a vilified gay community in Kingston who live in a gully (or drain) beneath the city.

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Galvanize Jamaica 

In 2016, Shayne Oliver teamed up with South African photographer Pieter Hugo to document the gay porn stars and drag queens of Jamaica. Keeping line with Hood By Air's bad kid aesthetic, the series was subversive not just because of its subjects, but also due to the fact homosexual acts are explicitly illegal in Jamaica (the act of sodomy is punishable by up to 10 years in prison).

Galvanize Jamaica was a commercial project with honest intentions. "I had been hearing about [the Gully Queens] through Akeem Smith, who's of Jamaican descent," Oliver told Vogue. "The story felt very similar to that of the kids who were living on Christopher Street in the mid-late 00s, some of whom were close friends of mine. The story and struggles were very familiar, and I wanted to expose the harmonious beauty of the kids opposed to the extreme view that is projected onto them regularly."

Pieter Hugo's sun-bathed portraits were published in a coffee table book entitled PH & HBA. Oliver then took the collaboration one step further by screen printing the photos onto long sleeved t-shirts, his ridiculously oversized proportions providing the shots with a bold, large canvas.

The series provided awareness to Jamaica's homophobia. Designers have frequently referenced rastafarian culture, emphasizing the "chill" vibes the country is known for, but here was Oliver illuminating a new side to Jamaica — no rasta colors involved. 

Read More: The Unlikely History of Rastafari on the Runway 

Photography Mitchell Sams

HBA X Pornhub

"Galvanize Jamaica" was not the brand's first time diving into the world of porn. HBA teamed up with Pornhub for its 2017 spring/summer show. Models (including Wolfgang Tillmans, pictured above) with hair covered in a white, oozy substance were paraded out — wearing shield sunglasses to protect their eyes during what can reasonably assumed to be the "money shot." "Wench" was the buzzword of the show, featured prominently on many of the clothes and labels. Pornhub is one of the most popular sites in the world — its videos receiving 92 billion views in 2016 —  yet when has the site been unabashedly celebrated? HBA bought the things we do behind closed doors to the brightly-lit runway. Yes, sex is everywhere in fashion, but it's not the real, gritty kind that actually takes place. HBA reminded us real-life sex is not that glamorous. It's actually pretty messy and dirty.

That Creepy Barneys Window Display

Hood By Air brought a touch of Harlem to Madison Avenue when the the brand created a chilling window display for Barneys. Created by Yuji Yoshimoto's Studio UG over a six-month period, six models from the spring/summer 16 "Galvanize" runway show were recreated with lifelike mannequins.

The hyper-realistic replicas possessed a disturbing eeriness. Each precise detail of the models' physical appearance — down to their fingernails — were recreated. The mannequins looked like they'd suddenly come to life. But the most frightening details were their blinged-out cheek retractors (which are typically used by dentists to take X-rays of patients' teeth). With their mouths spread wide open, the models looked like carnivorous, blood-hungry monsters. 

But for all its horror, there were touches of femme-leaning delicateness here and there. Some of the tatted-out mannequins had blinged-out pacifiers in their mouths, making it look like they were ready for a big gay rave. It created an intriguing mix of imposing hypermasculinity and flamboyant queerness.  

The window represented a high-end store allowing a new kind of beauty and fashion to be spotlighted — snaggletooths and all. It was a big deal for Barneys, which hasn't always been in the black community's good favor. The store was accused of racism after it believed a young black male stole a $350 belt. The Barneys employees wrongfully jumped to the conclusion he must have committed credit card fraud to be able to pay for the item. 


In 2016, openly-gay pop singer Arca and Shayne Oliver joined forces to create the musical entity Wench. As their first release the duo gifted the world with a grunged-out 15-minute playlist of chaotic remixes — featuring a hodgepodge of artists like Chemical Brothers, Lauryn Hill, Cher, and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. The duo's dark concoction was the soundtrack to the Galvanize spring/summer 16 show, the LES-club ready tracks pairing well with the NYC cool kids strutting down the runway. The two then followed the collab up with the release of "Sick," a dreamy, melodic track with lyrics like, "Repent repent, being with him is a sin."

Music has always been an integral part of HBA. In fact, Arca first collaborated with the brand in 2015 when he created an 11-song score for its Pitti Uomo show. For its runway shows, HBA has always paired its urban looks with authentically urban music forms. 


Text André-Naquian Wheeler
Photography Jason Lloyd-Evans

Hood By Air
Pieter Hugo