What Hood by Air does best is build an otherworldly narrative, and one that’s ambiguous enough to make way for complex interpretation. Today’s production was armed with impressive depth, allowing the soundtrack to push its storyline along, featuring sonic lulls and manic climaxes that felt as though Founder Shayne Oliver was unveiling a tale of triumph and liberation, determination and rebellion. Luggage claim tags hung on clothes, subtly printed with the word, “Pilgrimage,” alluding to why models looked as if they were escaping tradition and eagerly seeking something new—taking flight, while subverting the past and looking to the future.
As a pillar of NYC’s underground scene, it’s exciting to see HBA growing in esteem and outreach, this season showing at NYFW’s most central venue, The Art Skylight, with a noticeably influential front row, from Vogue’s Anna Wintour to Business of Fashion’s Tim Blanks. Oliver’s brand has certainly crossed into the upper echelons of fashion, infiltrating the untouchables with an unapologetically queer, punk approach to his brand. When the lights dropped and the music erupted, it blared through the speakers so painfully loud that a select few in the front row plugged their ears. This room-shaking intro, however, seemed intentional—we were supposed to feel slightly uncomfortable, our heartbeats anxiously aligning with the sentiments of someone embarking on a pilgrimage.
The hair was styled like 18th century powdered wigs, offering an immediate reference to European affluence and imbued with an underlying sense of romanticism. Crisp, white button-ups were pulled over models’ heads, disguising their faces, again as a subtle rejection of convention. This felt like aristocracy from a distant future, or perhaps a population rejecting said aristocracy on some uncharted planet.
Dramatically oversized black outerwear—some lined with luxe fur—provided total protection from the elements, while HBA’s electric blue vinyl pieces looked almost like liquid, styled with tall waterproof wellies. The presentation took a dramatic turn mid-show, when the sci-fi, string-laden soundtrack intensified and models began entering in a more confrontational, cherry red palette—the crescendo of HBA’s pilgrimage.
High-heeled boots, perfect for Los Angeles’ Red-light district, were worn by male models, though not as a contrived lunge toward the “genderless” crave so many designers are still desperately latching onto this season. HBA’s always played with gender, shattering the oft heteronormative streetwear scene with pieces like this season’s skintight bodysuits labeled, “Bitch.” Models began manically running off the runway and into the bleachers, breaking the third wall and making the audience a piece of the production. Though slightly uncomfortable and visibly unnerving for attendees, this is when HBA’s crew quite literally took flight and escaped the confines of a standard runway—standard thinking.
Beyond clothes, HBA, the brand, represents revolution by elevating marginalized experiences and putting those at the forefront of high fashion. This season in particular was laden with feelings of emancipation—an emotional deliverance that deeply resonated with today’s cultural plagues, where socially neglected masses are rightfully seeking an escape from old thinking, old values.