Hood By Air isn’t a brand understood by many. Hell, I’m even perplexed by their conceptual design narratives sometimes, and I graduated with a BFA in experimental film studies. But what is uniformly known about HBA is that it’s not simply a brand; in NYC, the brand’s namesake has become associated with a certain lifestyle and carries perhaps one of the most loyal (and brazen) cult followings over any contemporary fashion house around.

When Shayne Oliver first launched the label back in the early 2010s, it became an instant favorite among fashion fans and industry professionals all over the globe. It had the just the right dose of loud branding and oversized cuts to satiate the street-minded tastes of fuccbois and rappers, while its dark aesthetic, deconstructive flair and gender-annihilating ethos piqued the interest of seasoned editors, writers and art types.

HBA may no longer be a top-player in the street style circuit (that title belongs to someone else now), yet its clout over avant-minded dressers, thinkers and creatives remains stronger than ever.

As with every season, HBA’s SS17 show summoned forth an eclectic cluster of stylish denizens that flaunted their most eye-grabbing getups. Shayne’s posse of underground club kids and nocturnal weirdos pulled up with smeared glitter make-up left on from the night prior. Buyers from some of the world’s leading concept stores flexed head-to-toe HBA. Chains, chokers, Demonia boots and black PVC popped up left and right.

A number of high-profile attendees were also spotted, including Jaden Smith, Juicy J, YEEZY Season 4 model Teyana Taylor and her NBA player husband (and “Fade” video counterpart) Iman Shumpert, Naomi Campbell (one of VFILES’ runway mentors this year), will.i.am, Rick Ross and Whoopi Goldberg (?).

I suppose the label’s celebrity endorsement is still kind of a big deal – after all, it has been worn in some of the most talked-about moments in pop culture this year (Beyoncé’s Lemonade video saga and Rihanna’s VMAs performance a few weeks back).

Before rushing to my seat, I wanted to quickly peep all of the shenanigans happening backstage (this is Hood By Air we’re talking about, so you know there was going to be some kind of scene going on back there).

I approached one of the most recognizable faces in the HBA cult – brand ambassador Ian Isiah, a rather intimidating creature at nearly 6-foot with electric blue hair extensions, hyper-arched eyebrows and bulky biceps covered in tattoos – to see if I could hear about this season’s theme. “Wench, wench, wench, wench, wench, wench! Wenchday! Wenchday! Wenchday, wenchday, wenchday!” is what he replied. (In case you were wondering, “wench” is an old British term that commonly refers to a female consort, aka a prostitute. It’s also the name of Shayne Oliver’s experimental musical outfit with London-based producer Arca.)

Included in this season’s offbeat cast was lauded German artist Wolfgang Tillmans, who recently photographed the stylized cover of Frank Ocean’s latest album, Blonde – a fitting addition given Tillmans’ decades-long relationship with avant-garde music and fashion.

Each model was completely glazed over with gobs of transparent goo over their faces and hair (wonder how much money was spent on Vaseline this season). To avoid writing out a metaphor too explicit, I’m just going to say that X-rated video-sharing site PornHub was one of the show’s sponsors this season.

Familiar Hood By Air touchstones including gratuitous zippers, bold logos and dismantled tailoring came out full force. Slogans like “Realness,” “Hustle,” “Never Trust A Church Girl” and “Wench” (I think I got it now, Ian) were emblazoned over hooded blazers, oxford shirts and rugby polos. Pants were slit-open on the sides, suit jackets were whimsically long and baggy and waxy latex came in the form of overcoats and anoraks. Think of something American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman might have worn to a vogue competition held in a shady gang hangout seen in Boyz n the Hood.

Total Freedom provided the show’s otherworldly soundtrack that combined everything from shattering IDM to ratchet club rap tunes to housey disco, which models stomped down the catwalk to in these two-sided mutant cowboy boots.

Another season of complex sexual identity, shameless ratchetry and head-scratching storylines for Hood By Air, and we loved every bit of it. Except for the make-up, that was kind of gross.

Be sure to follow SS17 to stay au courant with all of this season’s Fashion Week happenings. 

Words by Nico Amarca
Fashion Editor, North America
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