In February 2013, Hood By Air presented their AW13 collection at New York Fashion Week. The first "proper" show by the fascinating, mysterious luxury streetwear brand, it was previewed with a performance by Boychild, a radical artist who said "gender doesn’t mean anything to me", and closed by A$AP Rocky, an old friend and supporter of the brand since its inception in 2007. By the end of the year, HBA had presented a gender-blurred, post-racial SS14 – and become the rap video brand of choice, proudly worn by Drake, Kanye and Juicy J. Shayne Oliver, the DIY brand's creative director, told us about the year he changed.
"My 2013 has been a year of growth as a person. The idea, along with myself, has been growing up and spreading my wings. I’m very introverted, so I guess I view the brand that way also. I only have a core group of friends, and to be honest I think that I communicate with people through my collection and the brand instead. It was more of a personal statement for me to communicate with people through Hood By Air, but when people started to communicate back, you know it’s become a different story. I tend to gravitate towards the elements that unify groups that I know and that’s where the brand energy begins at. Artists, thugs, transsexuals: all these individuals for me have the same qualities – I just try to concentrate on those qualities and unify them as much as possible.
"I tend to gravitate towards the elements that unify groups that I know. Artists, thugs, transsexuals: all these individuals for me have the same qualities"
The February collection was very much based on travelling and seeing how the world views American opinion. It was about what people hold important or relevant. From our viewpoint, which is just being like a nation, it was about trying to channel the opinion of the nation that affects world culture. It was kind of like dealing with it from my viewpoint, so going through the history of America, I think of it like this melting pot thing happened and instead of reflecting the American opinion, I tried to find a new language within it that reflects me. We have this like melting pot thing, but it comes out to like one opinion. Historically we’re about blurring the lines of race, but yet we can still have so many barriers with it, you know?
The show was called Boychild because I think that she represents this blurring, where it’s naïve but also extremely intelligent at the same time. Her presentation was the way I wanted the presentation to be – where in a sense it’s a fashion show, but it’s was dark, but having people step in to the light and create a performance which is like a new aspect of the individuals on the runway – I wanted this naïve version of refreshing where shows have been for a while.
It was only natural for Rocky to be involved in that way. It was also just very relevant to how people communicated with the brand, so to make that come full circle was a bit of a fine feeling. I think what he has is like stepping into a room and engaging with people in such a different way from a lot of known rappers: he kind of has that knowing attitude of “I’m a rapper that intentionally does not want to be portrayed as one”. That's where that came from – that whole pioneering ideology, with the upmost form of intelligence and thought.
What’s it like seeing my clothes endorsed by celebrities I don’t know? I suppose it's something to do with hip hop iconography – those clothes that are invested within a wider meaning. I’m thinking of North Face’s heaviness, for example. So I kind of am into the fact that it’s being like engulfed by celebrities in a way, not because I’m obsessed with that – just being noticed makes me nervous! But I like that it’s being viewed because it allows the younger kids to kind of start to see the ideas and their chance for expression. It’s all about the dream. This has been the year that I've started to have a dialogue with the world and the world has spoken back to the brand, almost. When things that go from just being fashion to this piece of clothing with huge resonance and stature in your mind, it becomes something with real, real communication. The clothes have a dialogue."
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