Pin It
In my room by Eloise Parry and Akeem Smith, Dazed
Printed jacket by Ed Marler; vintage Miu Miu organza shirt from Albright NYC; corset from Angels The Costumiers; embellished trousers by Grace Wales BonnerPhotography Eloise Parry, styling Akeem Smith

See a new shoot styled by HBA’s Akeem Smith

Eloise Parry shoots George Hard in an editorial inspired by being sad and sappy in your bedroom, featuring Eckhaus Latta, Martine Rose and Grace Wales Bonner

As an integral part of Hood By Air’s unmistakable vision, over the last few years stylist Akeem Smith has been a vital figure crafting fashion’s zeitgeist. In this shoot, he put together images incorporating designers that are both classic (Maison MargielaVivienne Westwood) and soon-to-be classic (Martine RoseGrace Wales Bonner, and Eckhaus Latta), that let the viewer into one of the most sacred of spaces: someone’s bedroom. He spoke with us from Italy – where he was preparing for Hood By Air’s AW15 show – about how his inspiration stems from a dark place, the fact that there’s nothing new on the internet, and the creative process between him and HBA’s Shayne Oliver.

What’s the concept behind this shoot?

Akeem Smith: I was always fascinated by how women are so protective of their bedrooms. I wanted to try to capture that essence in a men’s editorial to see if it would come off the same. I feel like I’m so used to seeing photoshoots where they have women getting dressed in their boudoirs with their make-up table and shit like that. I wanted to try it with George Hard to capture this sense of being sad and sappy in your bedroom, feeling vulnerable, listening to Celine Dion. I know what that looks like.

What inspired your interest with bedrooms as a space?

I have a dancehall fashion exhibition coming out and I have all these old photos of people in dancehall from the 90s in Jamaica. There was this one reference photo that stuck out as a concept for a shoot. The shoot was really inspired by how some Caribbean and third world women are obsessed with their bedrooms; in Jamaica at least, the bedroom is like the most untouchable place – you cannot go on her bed and mess up her new bed spread; it was about capturing the essence of how comfortable people get in bedrooms or in other people's bedroom for that matter.

How did you get into dancehall culture?

Akeem Smith: I grew up in Jamaica and my family created their own dancehall atelier, they made clothes for a lot of dancehall celebrities and regular people that just wanted to dress nice, so I was around it a lot. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, dancehall – or Jamaica as a whole – had the nature of dressing more eccentrically than now, so I draw a lot from that. But all my inspirations really come from a gritty place... from my darkest twisted fantasies. They don’t come from a light place at all.

What was the casting process for the shoot like?

Akeem Smith: I cast George for the shoot because I thought his face, his vibe made the most sense. For me, casting comes from how I would want to look in this shoot. Like if I were to have plastic surgery and get this, this and that done for this season or for this editorial, what would I look like? And I think George was an example of that. I want to have freckles. I want big hair. I want glossy eyes. It all comes from a place of self where I want to look like this to wear these clothes.

Like the fantasy we were talking about?

Akeem Smith: Yeah exactly. It’s still based off a fantasy really similar to that show “The Swan,” all these plastic surgeries and then they had the reveal with the fashion runway. “Oh God you look amazing.” This dress and the new hair, the new nose and then she’s like “Oh I’m ready for my new life.” And that’s how I think of it every season. But for the most part it comes from seeing someone that’s really hot. Being like “Oh that’s what’s up.” 

So where did you meet Shayne?

Akeem Smith: We had a mutual friend and we met at this Dominican strip club called Nowhere in New York – it’s a bar but on Monday nights there are strippers – like only straight Dominican strippers. It used to be so fun. We didn’t start working together right away; we were friends first. My old boss Jason Farrer used to style Shayne's earlier shows, after him I kind of just took it over.

“All my inspirations really come from a gritty place... from my darkest twisted fantasies. They don’t come from a light place at all.” – Akeem Smith

When you’re working on the shows do you feel like your ideas are coming from that dark fantasy place you were talking about?

Akeem Smith: Yeah for sure. Me and Shayne, we grew up very similar. There’s a lot of common ground there, so we understand each other in that sense. I like our process. It works for us – it usually begins with casual conversation, but we are really into transforming our jokes into something serious or tangible. Shayne and I will send each other references, then closer to the show we will edit and the see the fruits of our labour.

How does the music for the Hood By Air shows come together?

Akeem Smith: It’s Shayne and Alejandro [Arca] or Total Freedom or Fatima [Al Qadiri]. Shayne usually has his ideas. He usually has soundbites and stuff that he likes and then he’ll send them those references, they’ll make something out of it then me and him will go over like “Girl you like this? You like this? You like that?” Say yay/nay. Sometimes you know with music it can really add to the experience of looking at the clothes. It’s so important. A whack song, or just some whack sound effect could really have an effect, even though the clothes might be beautiful you changes everything.

Are there any other youth culture scenes that are interesting you right now or when you go out anywhere to parties?

Akeem Smith: A lot of my friendships have started on the internet. It’s crazy – you know about things that are happening in all these different places now. I think it’s cool. I love how everyone "knows" everyone, but sometimes it’s annoying. For the most part I've gotten used to it, but it’s internationally like, “this one’s sleeping with that one.” I'm a gay boy. There’s no fresh meat anywhere! But that’s pretty much an analogy to references and the internet, where there are no fresh references at all. And that’s what I’m trying to make: great new references that people can look at and get their ideas from and shit like that. 

Photography Eloise Parry; styling Akeem Smith; make-up Daniel Sallstrom using Nars; model George Hard at FM London.