hood by air autumn/winter 15

Shayne Oliver reimagines the Florentine underground for their show at Pitti Immagine.

by Anders Christian Madsen
|
Jan 15 2015, 12:45pm

These days at Pitti, we always ask the young guest designers if the splendour of Florence inspired them to be more grown-up in their work—well, essentially. Around the Fortezza da Basso where the Pitti menswear fair takes place, sartorial fops peacock the streets in flamboyant tailoring and little ankle socks, big beards, and hats that would make Pharrell Williams roll his eyes. It's an all-consuming streetscape, which has ended up giving a city that's historically far from well-behaved a very formal, bourgeois image. If you'd asked the Medici dukes of the 1500s and the other great dynastical families of Florence, however, this city was never about good behaviour and nice tailoring, but rather a playground for lavish parties, sex, and a certain bohemian spirit, which filtered through to the political agenda. In other words, the debauchery of the Florentine elite pretty much ran the place. With their subcultural irreverence and pungent youth vibes, Hood by Air - this season's guest designer along with Marni - fit old Florence perfectly. Set on the terrace of a Renaissance villa atop a hillside some twenty minutes out of town, Shayne Oliver's autumn/winter 15 men's show was testament to the fact that everything looks better in Florence, and that anything goes in the City of Lilies.

"It has to do with being at Pitti," Oliver admitted backstage, surrounded by a steady stream of the half-naked, somewhat gothy-looking scenesters, who walked his show. "Since it's going to be a special project," Hood by Air had thought, "let's just do what we normally ignore and deal with that first and then work backwards and deal with us." It was a procedure, which meant that the tailoring so inescapably connected with Pitti was in the high seat, but with all the rebellious deconstruction you'd expect from Hood by Air. Working from that popular notion of tailoring as something that makes men look and feel smarter, Oliver and his team began to look at what made them feel that same way. "What silhouette makes us feel sexy? What makes us feel attractive? And what we need and don't need from menswear. I'm okay with my sleeves being warmer than my chest and don't necessarily cover it," he said, essentially explaining the very spirit of youth dressing. In preparation for their Pitti takeover, Hood by Air had used some of that €100,000 granted to them as a 'Special Prize' by LVMH last year to open a studio in Milan.

The move was indicative of the label's luxury ambitions, but as things happen in the world of Hood by Air, Oliver quickly realised that Milan could easily serve as the same dark muse as his native New York, if not darker. "It's very extreme here. Milan is so dark. New York is not as dark as Milan. Trust me." As David Lynch and Stephen King have taught us time and again, small-town people are famously fucked up, and the hidden provincial obscenity of Italy's cities - which, compared to places like New York and London, are basically suburbs - gave new motivation for the core ideas of Hood by Air. "You see no young people and you feel like there should be some youth energy going on," Oliver said of his initial visit to Florence. And in many ways his show reflected an idea of what the Florentine underground could look like, if indeed it exists. The really very wrong plastic tent he'd put up on that beautiful hillside terrace with its lion statues and pretty little fountains was something of a what-lies-beneath statement in itself. And if there was ever a city that could take it, Florence is it.

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Text Anders Christian Madsen