Hood by Air, an anarchic, pan-racial, gender-bending burst of a brand shook up the New York fashion world in 2006. Born of the club scene, founded by Shayne Oliver and Raul Lopez, it foreshadowed the rise of luxury streetwear and proved that the avant-garde could still exist even in the shadows of the garment district.
In 2017, however, HBA went on “hiatus,” plagued by personal and business issues. This month, it finally returns. Mr. Oliver, 32, reveals what to expect.
Vanessa Friedman: Since you went on hiatus, you’ve guest-designed Helmut Lang, guest-designed Diesel and started a creative studio called Anonymous Club. Why are you bringing Hood by Air back now?
Shayne Oliver: For the same reasons we began Hood by Air in the first place. We all admire fashion, but it wasn’t really catering to where we were at in the world. At the time, it was really about my generation’s voice, and it has become a fashion voice that needs to be there, essentially. There’s nothing that speaks to us again.
Is this going to be the Hood by Air we remember? Or something entirely new?
When we started doing the shows, it was really about showing people that our walk of life could be associated with fashion. This time around it’s like, What is the conversation for the person that follows that ethos now? Before we were putting the dreams on the runway, and now it’s more about the wardrobe: How does this person live?
How do they live?
It’s a lot about protection. Last time we were so vulnerable because we were loving the fact that our conversation was being acknowledged, but no one was there to protect it. So now there are appendages that protect you and then zip off. Before we would do utilitarian details like zips and buckles as decoration, whereas this time a lot of it is meant for actual use, transforming into new silhouettes.
You’re calling the first drop “Prologue.” What does that mean?
Essentially this is us announcing that we’re going to have a show and this is our practice ground for moving back into ready-to-wear and having performative shows. The idea is in June. We broke it down into these acts: the wardrobe, which is ready-to-wear contemporary pricing; the street wear, which is semi-affordable but a little bit elevated; and then the merchandise. The merchandise is more like a fan-orientated collection where even if you’re just into the beauty of the show, you can take away an asset from it, as if the brand was a band.
I think that everyone before had a really good connection with the streetwear and the merchandise, but now we’re really focusing in on the wardrobe, or how this person lives in the real world outside of the fantasy. It is basically a uniform. This is for the consumer that actually follows us. A lot of people inform the brand, a lot of demographics inform the brand. It’s about the international language that’s being created all over.
The first collection was photographed entirely on Naomi Campbell. Why did you pick her?
In the process of coming back, I was mood-boarding a lot of things, and a lot of the work actually has to do with strong Black female entities. We are all young, Black, gay men, with all of these strong women in the families. So we were like, “OK, so if we’re going in that direction, we should talk to mother.”
We had worked on a Naomi merch piece for the TV show “Empire,” and we were talking about the impact of that. We quote her, like, every other day. Her laughing and her looks just reminds us of the mother figures in our lives and how they interact with us in a loving but stern way.
What have you learned?
I think you really have to understand your own pace. Streetwear has been doing that, which is why I think streetwear is so modern now. It’s not about being absent, taking forever to do something. It’s, like, work on a bunch of stuff, get really proud of it, and just pace it out and really create a calendar for yourself. There’s a way to interact with the fashion world where you don’t put all of your work and all of your initiative behind the fashion machine, but you offer something that you think is missing.
This interview has been edited and condensed.