Arts and Entertainment

New York Fashion Week SS16: Hood by Air

Annie Schwartz

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Founded in 2006 by Shayne Oliver, Hood by Air is a “luxury streetwear brand,” making its name through its cult followers and celebrities such as Rihanna and A$AP Rocky. Oliver has always set out to create a brand that is the antithesis of high fashion. Embracing the atypical, he strives for unconventional beauty. In this way, Oliver has defied the standards of the fashion industry in which discussions of gender and race have been systematically ignored. With social change acting as the backbone of the brand, Hood by Air is not just a collection of clothing, but a social movement.

Incorporating these themes, Hood by Air’s Spring/Summer 2016 presentation “Galvanize” provided a social commentary on beauty ideals and alterations of the self. The show took place in what was staged similar to a high school cafeteria. With fluorescent lighting, exposed pipes, and bench seating, guests were made to feel like they were at the lunch table. For this collection Oliver was inspired by his education in the Caribbean. As an underprivileged youth at a wealthy school, Oliver recalls altering his uniform to better reflect his personality. This collection focuses on just that, deconstructing the 90s’ uniform to reflect today’s street style.

Most talked about at this season’s show was Hood by Air’s beauty look consisting of unblended contour makeup, bandaged fingers, and zigzag hair parts. A satire on the Kardashian obsession and society’s focus on beauty, Oliver made cultural beauty standards look alien and creature-like, mocking the artificiality of makeup and emphasizing the actual results self-transformation.

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Hood by Air modeled at New York Fashion Week. Photo courtesy of Google Images.

Oliver’s growing dominance in the world of fashion proves that the rigid boundaries of the fashion community are slowly being broken. However, there is still plenty of improvement to be done. More activism is needed on the runway, as well as more designers like Oliver who are willing to make such bold statements. Bethann Hardison, founder of Balance Diversity, stated this best at a panel discussion at New York Fashion Week headquarters: “…a creative industry like fashion should reflect our society. Have we made a difference? Yes, but in order to be an activist you have to stay active…I’m concerned about the runways because that’s where the ideas are introduced…it all happens there first.”

Whether defying gender norms, systemic racism, or beauty ideals, the Hood by Air brand remains a vital proponent to achieving these goals. As Oliver continues to address these social constructs in his collections, we can only hope that this will inspire fashion newcomers in the production of more avant-garde and diversified brands.


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