The cult New York label Hood by Air is back, again. Launched in 2006 by the designer Shayne Oliver, Hood by Air quickly became the torchbearer for a new generation of Black, POC and queer creatives emerging out of the melting pot of the Big Apple. Swallowed up and spit out by the commercial mechanics of American fashion, the progressive label disappeared in 2017. Then, after a three year hiatus, Oliver returned with a fresh proposition. Today, Hood by Air have revealed the next chapter.
From the Been Trill x HBA collaboration t-shirts which Shayne Oliver and Virgil Abloh devotees still scour Grailed for, to the street cast, performative runway shows which came way before their time, Hood by Air holds a special place in fashion history; specifically in the dawning of streetwear and hype culture, as SHOWstudio captured in projects such as Hood by Air: Trans and Hood by Air. The brand won the LVMH Special Prize in 2014 and the CFDA Menswear Designer Award in 2015, and yet the system seemed to be against Hood by Air. Together with the weakening American fashion system, the Business of Fashion (BoF) highlighted in their interview with the designer at the end of last year, that an 'Overemphasis on Hood By Air’s more avant-garde runway line, with too little volume in more accessible streetwear pieces, hindered growth and created a mismatch between the label’s pricing and its fanbase.'
While he's been away, Oliver has found a new business partner in Edison Chen, the CLOT streetwear designer who was originally a pop star, and told the BoF that he plans to focus Hood by Air on a direct to consumer approach, which will be more accessible and affordable.
'I needed someone who understood what the base of the brand was about. I think a lot of times, when people come into brands that have this aesthetic, they completely pivot towards only streetwear and they don't understand there's a nuance to dealing with contemporary clothing and sportswear', Oliver told BoF of his decision to bring Chen in as an investor.
Returning in July 2020 with a new plan of action, Hood by Air unveiled a collection raising funds for the trans community, hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon after, Oliver announced four new Hood By Air lines; HBA (direct to consumer), Museum (archival), Anonymous Club, and Hood By Air (including mainline and classics). Launching the first Museum collection 'H13A' across two drops, featuring re-editions of iconic Hood by Air moments, the fashion world ended 2020 wanting more.
Unveiled today alongside an in-depth interview with Vanessa Friedman at The New York Times, Prologue teases the first part of a collection which Oliver hopes to present in a show format as early as June. The designer clearly has plans to return to his showmanship roots, whilst maintaining direct lines of communication with his digital audience, all the whilst bypassing the fashion system which never had his back in the first place.
Oliver breaks down the four lines of HBA, Museum, Anonymous Club and Hood by Air as follows; a direct to consumer platform specialising in project based merchandise, archival reiterations, and an independent creative studio, with Hood By Air hosting an event or activation once a year to set the agenda for the collective. Oliver revealingly tells Friedman: 'Before we were putting the dreams on the runway, and now it’s more about the wardrobe: How does this person live?'
The new ready-to-wear offering has been photographed by Luis Alberto Rodriguez on the iconic supermodel Naomi Campbell, who Oliver highlights is the adopted 'Mother' for many of their Black peers. This is Oliver's vision for a new era of streetwear. 'It’s not about being absent, taking forever to do something. It’s, like, work on a bunch of stuff, get really proud of it, and just pace it out and really create a calendar for yourself' he says. Styled by Carlos Nazario, Prologue was designed in collaboration with the Anonymous Club for Hood By Air team, who describe the collection as 'character costumes of wardrobe'.
The black and white images feature garments which appear to be Oliver's distinct, hard-edged and futuristic take on motocross leathers, complete with zip details. Another photograph features a backpack held together by metal D rings and belt buckles. Straddling the duel approaches to the logo we're seeing designers birthed from streetwear taking as they grow into a more contemporary and luxury design practice, Hood by Air re-establish their logo both subtly through hardware, and right in your face, with letters plastered across a duffle bag. If this is a taste of what's to come, June can't come fast enough.