Musician, producer and Björk/FKA twigs/Kanye collaborator Arca has another string to add to his bow: runway model. For Hood By Air’s SS16 show, the Venezuelan (aka Alejandro Ghersi) joined close friend and HBA founder Shayne Oliver’s gang on the catwalk outside the blazingly modern Philharmonie de Paris. Walking in a jacket that was cut into three, composing of a blazer, shirt and pair of denim trousers all zipped together, his mouth was held open by a metal guard, created by grill maestro Dolly Cohen. As he marched, DJ Total Freedom blasted out a set featuring his own hypnotic compositions.
Backstage, Oliver explained the reason for casting his partner in crime to Dazed Editor-in-Chief Isabella Burley: “I’ve been in Europe a lot and being here I got to spend more time with Alejandro,” he said. “I feel like this show is just a representation of that world.” While Riccardo Tisci may have broken a fashion record this week being the first to put a fellow designer in a campaign (Donatella Versace is starring for AW15) Oliver also showed he isn’t about rivalries – inviting fellow New York designer Telfar Clemens to take part in the show.
If HBA explored the loaded idea of Daddies in their last collection, where models’ mouths were padlocked and their arms pinned by their sides, this season (dubbed GALVANIZE) was the other side of the coin. In flowing pastel silhouettes, boys sported childlike hair clips (including ones that said ‘HBA’ and ‘69’) and bows in their faux fringes, with the words ‘coy’ and ‘top’ spelled out on their foreheads in stick on crystals. Oliver, playing with “being sick and being coy and being bashful” – concepts he admitted were unfamiliar territory – described the look as “infantile glamour”. The elements also referenced his friendship with Arca – “We’re like little kids,” he admitted. “We play around so much. It’s just infantile, and about that and that curiosity – when you’re a child, what’s so beautiful about this and that.”
“(Arca and I are) like little kids, we play around so much. It’s just infantile, and about that and that curiosity” – Shayne Oliver
Toying with taboos, a sense of fetishism and sexuality remained – models’ mouths were both plugged with pacifiers (complete with ghoulish fake teeth) or held open with devices that veered between S&M dungeon and dentist’s office, as Oliver explored how to imply the idea of a voice on the runway. “We did pacifiers, and we just sort of wanted to consider this idea of how when you’re being vocal, you’re being very open,” he explained – “This is a voice, physically you can see it, but this person is trying to say something to you even though they are silent.”
The pacifiers also signified a sense of comfort – as did the codeine bottle invitations, warning guests not to take more than the recommended dose. “That actually came from me coming back to America and seeing all these boys sucking on these codeine bottles,” Oliver said. “The idea of having to always drink something, it’s like a pacifier in a way – it’s just a comfort thing.” Similarly, the show itself veered between opposing concepts of comfort and threat, precisely spliced and severed garments contrasting the babyish accessories. As the designer put it, “It was these silhouettes that could be really intimidating, but when you put into this context…they’re meant to be beautiful and appealing and alluring.”
The invitation to HBA SS16:
Follow Emma Hope Allwood on Twitter here @emmahopeall