It’s hard to consider Shayne Oliver’s Hood By Air without first hat-tipping Raf Simons, the current creative director at Christian Dior whose own line screams sartorial propaganda only quieted by its street-ready silhouettes and amiable colorways. Oliver, who said to hell with NYU and FIT at age 26, founded HBA (these three letters, stylized as such and boxed, would become his signature, not unlike streetwear-mainstay Supreme’s red logo). Skrillex once said, and I’m paraphrasing, that he doesn’t see music in genres, compartmentalized so we can better articulate what we’re listening to. I’m confident to admit Oliver, likely against his will, into that school of philosophy, the only difference being that he probably doesn’t give a fuck who — or what — a “Skrillex” is.
Where Oliver deviates from Simons, though, is in his desire to hold prisoner the wearer, not only by the shapeless dread of the uniforms but, even more explicit, by the inmate-like “HBA” square that stamps the chest, subbed in for a straitjacket. During his F15 show Oliver virtually suffocated his demonstrators with pantyhose over their heads, an apparent subordination tactic to his cult, or just a cool way to make your models look like undead gothic mannequins. Or he’s playing diametrics here, as his flowy — sometimes ballooning — silhouettes get deflated by the facial asphyxiation, creating an uneasy aesthetic sadism in me.
The noise from his curations hurt both eye and ear, but only at first blush. Oliver wants to be heard. And when he ignores gender binaries, subsumes ’90s staples into his own, makes you feel real emotion and reaps nods from both CFDA and LVMH before 30, all while sending a dude down the runway in a khaki medieval hooded vest-jacket with a draping garter over his naked legs. You won’t just be heard, you’ll have attention, universal and undivided.