Fashion’s the ultimate spectator sport. On the runway, the models are the players. Backstage, the designer’s coaching his brand to win. On the sidelines, editors and fans are critiquing. At Hood by Air, this was made plenty clear by the set, with its giant screens tracking the model walking down the runway, showing close-ups of their faces as they near the photography pit. And there will unlikely be another spectacle as riveting as Shayne Olivier’s brand.
HBA comes labeled as menswear but was that a guy or a girl? Who cares! It’s no wonder the fashion world’s seeing HBA as the most exciting thing since slice bread. Olivier and his cadre of close associates – he doesn’t ascribe to the monolithic, singular designer view of creation – took a “come as you want to be perceived” approach to design.
The garments themselves had no definitive gender to them. Above all, it’s elements being pulled together from a host of influences, from the street to traditional pieces, from fetish to sportswear, to become something that felt entirely new. Along the way, there was a little of the logomania that has made HBA readily identifiable, but to reduce it to this would be making the brand a great injustice. Streetwear influences were mashed up with clubby vibes, beautiful leatherwork matched with bondage-like details on denim. It was a more radical, less cerebral and therefore more street-ready variant in the vein of Rad Hourani’s gender neutrality. The collection and its cast of models – a variegated cast that doesn’t fit traditional bills – exude a raw power that captivates. It’s not punk, it’s not streetwear, it’s both and everything between. What-ever, the distinctions, the labels, they can all be shrugged away. Just let HBA be what it is without wanting to categorize it.
Dancers with long hair came last, their strong bodies moving gracefully down the runway, before they burst into movement, hair swirling around, part hair-tossing diva, part head-banging metal heads. “Psychological warfare, that’s what the name of the show should have been,” someone said as guests poured out, their ears ringing from the loud cacophony that ended the show. Call this what you will, HBA certainly doesn’t care for labels.