Great things never come from comfort zones.
The raw attitude of the unconventional Hood by Air show at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) could not better exemplify the motto to be so daringly off the beaten path. Called “Handkerchief”, it flaunted attitude, sex and metaphors, the brand blurred the fusion of art, fashion, music, nightlife and visuals to a psychedelic level of avant-garde dressing in a post-genderless world.
Founded in 2006 by Shayne Oliver, the brand grew a cult following amongst those looking to utilize fashion as a way to communicate a liberal sense of living and an independent, individual definition of the meaning of life. Utilizing the body as a medium, the brand used technology and atypical structures as a construction mechanism and styling technique. And that too, as an early entrant into the now common gender neutral and unisex game of fashion. The epic street style continues to be a hit with rappers, musicians, and artists of the world, who tune into its darker aesthetic, deconstructed and dismantled appeal, and overall unisexuality.
An eclectic ensemble of mixed race models wore their most over-the-top outfits, sometimes seeming like an overworked banker but with unexpected twists on their crisp white shirts, or in workwear overalls, exuding the metaphor of working jobs and uniforms in the industrial age. At other times, the models were simply a series of underground clubbers. Embracing diversity and bashing any conformation towards gender clothing, it all spoke of the brand’s purpose.
Evidently a business minded decision, many models even sported the brands packed clothing on top of their apparel, showcasing how it would play out in catalogs and commerce. The ample skin show, sometimes unintentional, added to the sex appeal. The trousers were often ripped, the shirts undone, and the jackets a tad too long. There were more casual styles, like rugby polos in red or simpler oxford shirts, evidently marked with the brand’s imagery to add some oomph.
The dismantled tailoring with zippers, plastic, metal and applique lettering on blazers, shirts, polos, tanks and broadly placed “tops” ensured that onlookers lingered with their gazes to feel the full force of the clothing and message. PVC, chains, metal and other less utilized fabrics showed up in unexpected points of the bodies.
The apparel was glistening with warnings, taboos and signage like “Never Trust a Church Girl”, “Not Suitable for Children”, “Do You Know Where Your Children Are”, which hinted at a loss of innocence in a free, but scrutinized world. Or very simply “Wench” and “Hustler”, as provocative adjectives. Some topcoats and parkas swept past with at least one worn backwards, adorned with the HBA logo.
With Pornhub being an official sponsor of the show, screaming off of the accessories and tanktops with its not-so-discrete logo, it ensured the show was Rated R, much to the fancy of its target millennial and affluent teenage crowd. Perhaps that explained the overdose of Vaseline that was characteristically smeared on the faces and foreheads of the models in the name of makeup?
The eyewear collaboration was with large, flat lens sunglasses maker Gentle Monster Eyewear, adding to the street flavor and facial designs in lighter and almost transparent frames. Total Freedom sprung an electric soundtrack in the background, enabling models to strut with irked expressions on the runway (likely owing to the Vaseline substitute story!).
And so ended a season of creative, bold, modern and twisted scenography by Hood by Air. While the clothes were poised to be a success, the brand’s non-conformist message resonated the most.