imitation hood by air is sweeping the street of mexico city
Following recent recognition in the form of an LMVH Prize and a particularly strong spring/summer 15 show this weekend, there’s no doubt that Shayne Oliver’s Hood By Air is bigger than ever and taking youth culture to luxury heights. But a strange...
Maria Fernanda Mollins
Shayne Oliver sees fashion as a way to connect with likeminded people; people who see gender as homogeneous rather than a division and who prioritise culture over economics as a way to create the perfect blend of art, music and fashion. The way in which he connects his circle of friends - mostly artists and musicians - with his vision of what fashion should represent, makes Hood By Air one of most exciting propositions in the American fashion industry. A typical show by HBA is likely to feature transgender models, androgynous boys and speckled Great Danes crossing paths with A$AP Rocky and Boychild on the catwalk. These are Shayne Oliver's warriors fighting for a new dawn of beauty and diversity.
It's a world that is difficult to replicate. Although high street stores have long been known to translate global trends into their own commercial style, the robust silhouettes of Hood By Air aren't something so easy to appropriate. Besides, printing classic shirts with a huge HBA would be entering a dangerous world of copyright. However, in the markets around Mexico City, copyright barely exists and is practically unenforceable. It was a Saturday in El Chopo when, amongst a pile of fake Vans and Eck? logos I found "Hood By Air" on a pair of leopard print tracksuit bottoms. It was so far away from the original concept of HBA yet such a perfectly Mexican translation that the discovery made me oddly happy.
It usually takes around a year for the impact of a global trend to move from the fashion classes to the masses by way of copy, pasted and manipulated versions. Most of the high end products available in central Mexico City's shopping districts have a similar incarnation at a significantly lower cost in the downtown markets: even a basic American Apparel t-shirt can be found in faux form on the streets of Correo Mayor at almost a tenth of the original price. Finding the fake version of Hood By Air felt like a symbol of the brand's acceptance - a sign that their aesthetic has well and truly reached the masses.
Across the fake clothes stands in the markets lay ideas taken from the high fashion street wear world that Shayne and HBA exist within. Drop crotch trousers, for example, are all over Tepito and Lagunilla, and are the most wanted fashion item for hip-hop fans across the city thanks to the likes of Drake, Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky and Kanye. It's a desire that tends to be more aspirational than conceptual.
Tepito is the place that supplies these types of businesses, so that is where I went to try and find out, first hand, the reason they've started stocking the styles of Hood By Air instead of other brands that could be considered as more established in street wear culture, like The Hundreds or Supreme. Nobody in the market knew what I was referring to. "H, double O, D?" I asked a confused stallholder. The search for the source was not very fruitful, and if it weren't for the picture I'd taken of the fake HBA I would've considered it a product of my imagination.
Although Shayne Oliver and his creative circle wish to maintain a level of exclusivity, the consequences of their popularity isn't something they can fully control. The 27-year-old designer believes that the success of Hood By Air resides in the fact that there is no saturation of the brand and that it's carefully sold. All of this is in order to perpetuate the concept that you are getting a part of its culture, an extension of its way of thinking without alterations. Whoever brought this fake merchandise to the streets of Mexico City may not faithfully represent a Hood By Air warrior, but wearing the logo now makes them part of a new audience, a different version that still follows Shayne Oliver's original ideology of the re-evaluation and the appropriation of urban culture. The logo worn by the kid that's selling fruit in a Mexico City ghetto like Colonia Obrera, gives a different meaning and a new type of beauty around HBA that even Shayne Oliver couldn't have imagined.
Text Cheryl Santos
Photography Maria Fernanda Mollins