Fashion insiders have come to remember Hood By Air, which went on hiatus in 2017, as a savior of New York fashion that was way ahead of its time, with a vision that the rest of the world has finally caught up to. After cofounder Shayne Oliver announced the hiatus, he declared plans to relaunch in winter of 2019. Earlier this month, Essence asked former Hood By Air creative director Ian Isiah whether he could reveal anything about the future of the defunct brand.
“We went on break, but we’ve been working,” Isiah said cryptically. “Again, we’ll collectively group with everybody who’s Black. That’s it. That’s all.”
Today, a fuller picture of that plan has been revealed: Hood By Air is returning, a press release and new social media accounts announced this morning, with a suite of multidisciplinary initiatives intended to carve out a radical alternative to the corporatized American fashion system.
Perhaps one of contemporary New York’s most beloved brands, Hood By Air was launched in 2006 by Oliver and Raul López (who now designs his own line, Luar), and thrilled New York with a fusion of streetwear and high fashion animated by club-kid attitude. HBA trafficked in firsts: Its collective approach to fashion, driven by an LGBT chosen-family community of artists and nightlife denizens; aggressive sexuality; unorthodox runway casting; anointment of the T-shirt as a $600 luxury item; and skeptical eye toward the workings of the fashion industry are all now table stakes in advanced fashion. And the brand’s achievements were more than theoretical: You can see the imprint of HBA in the work of designers from Virgil Abloh to Demna Gvasalia. After struggling to achieve financial stability, Oliver hit pause on the company, and subsequently popped up as a guest designer at brands like Helmut Lang and Diesel. He announced in February of 2019 that the brand would return; those plans, it seems, were stalled or even scrapped.
This new announcement arrives with more urgency than last winter’s, with a slate of concrete plans and a sweeping mission. “Even now gentrification leaves no physical spaces for new, influential ideas to exist or reside,” Oliver said in the release. “So Hood By Air will be a place for these ideas to have a home.” The Instagram announcement and new website call it “The New Institution.”
The renewed Hood By Air kicks into gear on Thursday, with a charity T-shirt drop and the launch of a Cash Card designed by Oliver in partnership with Cash App. (The Cash Card perhaps echoes the American Express card released in 2004 by Alexander McQueen—another of fashion’s most beloved dark princes.) The proceeds from the shirt and card will be donated to organizations that support Black and LGBTQ communities: Black Trans Femmes in the Arts, Emergency Release Fund, and Gays & Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society.
The reformed brand will consist of four “distinct entities,” as the press release describes it, that position Hood By Air as a boundary-pushing collaborative platform that promotes creatives of color and the LGBTQ community. First, Hood By Air proper will set an agenda for each year through an activation or event that launches “collectible fashion products,” the release says. Second, HBA will be a direct-to-consumer brand that will produce clothing outside of fashion’s seasonal, market-driven, wholesale-oriented system. Third, a new concept called MUSEUM will serve as a working archive for the brand’s original collections, which a designer-in-residence (“young BIPOC creatives,” the release specifies) will occasionally reinterpret.
Last, and perhaps most exciting, the brand is introducing something called ANONYMOUS CLUB to cultivate emerging artists, musicians, and businesses that will collaborate with Hood By Air. “There is another world that still needs to be created,” the release reads. “It’s about tearing the old one down while figuring out a way to build a new one up, and in the midst of all of that, amplifying the ideas and conversations that we feel are important. 13-years-ago Hood By Air was birthed out of young, black and POC creatives performing at the highest level. This was the contemporary output because no one else was doing it. Hood By Air resides here to allow risk and be vanguards for where it’s going next.” More details on ANONYMOUS CLUB will be announced soon, though an Instagram video teases something gritty and totally freaky.