Shayne Oliver: “Streetwear is for old people”

We haven’t heard much from Shayne Oliver lately, but he hasn’t disappeared altogether. Determined to contemplate a new way to think about, create, and use fashion, the Hood by Air founder and designer has partnered with the Italian brand Colmar for a capsule collection called “A.G.E.” Reinterpreting Comar’s craftsmanship and legacy, Shayne Oliver puts a brilliant twist on so-called outdoor clothing and brings it to the next level. We met Shayne, not only to talk about this new partnership, but also to ask him his opinion on various topics related to the fashion industry. Here's what he has to say...

Shayne Oliver. Photo: Courtesy of PR.

On the slowing-down of the streetwear trend:

“The majority of streetwear that we wear today actually has nothing to do with the street, and that’s very frustrating. Major brands manufacturing a pair of sneakers at outrageous prices do a lot of harm to the fashion industry, particularly to independent brands and young designers. They distort the balance between the street and luxury and they break down the social hierarchy that maintains this balance, creating tension between these two worlds which are both full of creative potential. It's almost like it's ‘fake streetwear.’ Besides, I’m tired of being thought of as a streetwear designer. When I started exploring the idea with Hood by Air, I was quickly put into a box. Now, years later, any brands claiming to be streetwear do so as luxury brands. I think that today, the world of streetwear needs to stand out by making itself more vulnerable, more tangible, and more connected to the realities of the street, and less focused on the logos of major brands or other capitalist retailers.”


On fashion that pretends “to be gangsta”:

“Today, everyone wants to look like a rapper from the 90s or 2000s, but they go to the luxury brands in order to dress that way. This kind of streetwear is for older people – for people who have some sort of false nostalgia for a past where they didn’t dress like a rapper because it was too urban for their taste, but they want to do it now because the big luxury brands are endorsing the trend and it makes them feel young again when they dress this way. It's a type of stay-young fashion, and it's quite strange.”


On ideas and identity theft within the luxury industry:

“Instead of reinventing oneself and moving forward, luxury brands are copying and pasting the ideas of young designers, which they later sell at outrageous prices. If you can remember back about 5 years ago, everyone was excited about the fact that more and more independent brands were making it into the official fashion show schedules. Where did they all go? Apart from a few brands whose designers often have a second job in an established luxury brand, the majority cracked under the pressure of the industry – and the ones who are still here had to adapt and evolve to survive. I’m thinking of Jacquemus in particular, who had a really unique style when he first started out. His vision of femininity was incredibly original and interesting before his brand turned into a machine for making millions – now he's making sexy eveningwear. I think that's why there are fewer and fewer young designers trying to launch their own brand; they fear that their ideas will be taken over by a luxury group or their creativity will be stifled for the sake of money. They want to protect themselves as well as their creativity. But, suddenly, deprived of fresh young creative minds, the luxury industry is no longer able to deliver authentic fashion designs and so it turns to the street – or to Africa, which often happens as well – in order to copy and paste ideas when it’s in need of excitement.”


Colmar A.G.E. capsule collection in collaboration with Shayne Oliver. Photos: Courtesy of PR.

On his collaboration with Colmar:

“It's interesting to work with a brand that has a genuine expertise in outdoor sports equipment. Many pieces from my own Hood by Air brand are inspired by sportswear, especially skiwear which has been a major influencer for my designs. Colmar gave me a lot of room to experiment and bring my own expertise to this challenge. The unisex silhouettes and colors of this capsule collection are very powerful and represent a sort of renewal ... I wanted to explore every facet of mountain clothing, of a rural style aspiring to be deeply urban.”


On his future as a designer:

“I'm trying to understand what it means to be a designer today. I think that fashion has been going through an existential crisis for some time, and that's why you have to start to make your own rules. I've been questioning myself for a while. I'm trying to build new creative spaces, a new way of interacting with the garment. I hope to limit my production to a single workshop and not make countless collections every year just because that’s the pace dictated by the industry. I would rather be represented by 10 stores in the next 5 years than 120 in the next two years. I want to protect myself by limiting the eyes that will be looking in, to avoid the kind of voyeurism that often ends up turning into idea theft. In short, I want to reestablish a more intimate control over my own brand, more elitist. Not elitist from a financial point of view, but elitist in the sense of a new way of thinking and communicating your art to the people that are interested in what you do.”


On music taking credit for fashion ideas:

“I’m under the impression that in this day and age, pop stars, especially rappers and their entourage, have more influence over a fashion brand than the creative director of a company. But all too often, they take credit for the ideas of the designers in question. How long are we going to let them do this? We are slaves to our own industry while these celebrities take over our ideas. In the early days of Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto, artists were more than happy just to be able to attend a fashion show, or to get some free clothes. Today, a front row full of celebrities is often more important to the brands and audience than the fashion show itself, and gifting has become a daily ritual. When I start doing fashion shows again, I will make sure to go back to the strong foundations of fashion back in the day, not because I have anything against celebrities, but because I do not feel respected by them as a creative individual.”

Colmar A.G.E. capsule collection in collaboration with Shayne Oliver. Photos: Courtesy of PR.

On his relationship with rap music:

“A lot of artists lose their potential by trying to be fashionable and cool all the time. They rather should go back in a studio to record some music and make money with it, instead of sporting a total look of this or that brand in order to pay their bills! Who in the rap world has released a good album in recent years, besides Kendrick Lamar? Everyone is so concerned about being cool on Instagram that we often forget to do things that are real. Rappers are too busy trying to be influencers. I have a weird relationship with rap at the moment; I feel like rappers are sucking the blood out of fashion, but it's not really beneficial to them in the long term.”


On his "love" for Kanye West:

“Right now, I'm listening to house-punk and French beatnik. I'm moving away from rap because when I think about rap and triplet flow, all the auto-tuned flows of these rappers that I love – like Future, Lil Uzi Vert, and Travis Scott – are exactly the same. Even if at their core they’re great artists and even if I respect them a lot, I’m under the impression that rappers have become fashion victims and do not have enough time or perspective to make good music anymore. I'm not saying that it’s necessarily negative, but let's just say it's a very contemporary phenomenon that reflects the pop culture of our time. All the rappers hold up Kanye West as a reference, while the guy is 40 years old and has reinvented himself 20 times already. Young rappers should be surpassing him in creativity. How come no one is making better albums than he is? How come no one has taken over his throne? It's crazy. Is rap dead? I don't know.”