NEW YORK — “I feel like I’ve been on a world tour, like we’re part of a band,” said Shayne Oliver of his line, Hood by Air. “Like we were promoting an album in a way.”
This story first appeared in the November 3, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
If the album were his spring collection — which was based off of Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche — the three parts of the series are his hit singles: the “Ego,” shown on the runways of New York; “Superego,” presented in an installation in Paris, and finally, the “Id,” which was shown last week at an art and music celebration at the Museum of Modern Art.
The presentation Thursday, open to the public at the MoMA’s PopRally, masqueraded as a party, with performances by Oliver’s androgynous muse Boychild, Mykki Blanco and a “human-nequin” installation with dancers scattered among the crowd.
“This is our world and we will be bringing people into that commercial performance space,” Oliver said. While New York and Paris were shows that played by the rules of the fashion world, “Id” was in a space where Oliver could showcase who they really are.
The collaboration came about mere days after the brand’s fall show, when MoMA approached HBA.
“We were fascinated with the different mediums with fashion, music and film that Hood by Air used and thought it was a perfect way to display new work,” said Ashley Young, manager of the department of performance art and PopRally cochair.
“What we love about HBA is they are artists foremost,” said Chloe Wayne, senior manager of finance at MoMA and PopRally cochair.
“If Shayne wasn’t a designer he’d be expressing himself in a different medium. It’s how we look at art and think of art. We think fashion is contemporary art and it’s interesting to explore that.”
Wayne said that although this was the first time the museum has collaborated with a fashion designer, it would be the launchpad of future events in the space.
The night showcased a mix between Oliver’s ready-to-wear pieces with original costuming created for the night.
“People think about us as flamboyant with these embellishments that are feminine, excessive and not masculine,” he said. “In this last part it’s not about women’s wear, or men’s wear, it’s this world where these elements coexist. I want the brand to be able to breathe.
“It’s like when you hear a great Lady Gaga song and some people may not have the same values or even interests in her but because the song’s so catchy it will become a part of their lives,” he said. “We are always happy when people are taking the part of the brand they want to take for it, but next season we’re going to rethink the direction.”
Oliver said in the coming year, his team has adopted a “streamlined thinking” approach with boutiques and retailers, cutting stores to become “more focused.”
“That will be the new beginning and a new way of thinking moving forward,” he said.
Thanks to the LVMH Young Fashion Designers prize, which awarded Oliver with one of two special prizes that consisted of 100,000 euros, or $1,260 at current exchange, the designer was able to secure a few mentors.
“They give us sit-downs and meetings and sort of literally mentoring, talking us through everything from which direction to take, business structure, to brand elevation,” he said.
For the New York show, Oliver said he took a more business-minded approach to his pieces; for instance, eschewing from presenting his popular T-shirts in a one-dimensional manner.
“I wanted them to buy into the collection in a different way,” he said. “In New York we went away from showing that it was just a T-shirt for that purpose. We included men’s wovens to show we could have men wear our pieces in a more formal way as opposed to a pop piece. People have responded to the direction and it was better this season for it.”
The runway also showcased a move toward accessories, from handbags to shoes, which Oliver said would be a major focus next season. Last week it was revealed that HBA would be Pitti Uomo’s guest designer in January. “Pitti is going to be where we play with elevated elements for the brand,” he said. “That’s where we’ll use our prize money from LVMH.”
And growing pains attract notoriety — good and bad. Recently, the rapper A$AP Rocky, a friend of Hood by Air’s — and one of the first celebrities to endorse the brand — took a jab at Oliver in the single, “Multiply.”
“HBA s–t is weak, you can keep that,” the artist raps.
“I don’t know about that,” Oliver said when asked about it. “I know Rocky personally, I saw him and we were fine. I haven’t brought it up, even. But for me it’s how I deal with a friend. I’ll be like, ‘what’s up,’ and if they want breathing room. I’ll give them that.
“I grow and get over things. Things change. Seasons change.”