With each release, Hood By Air attracts a lot of attention and criticism with its endless reappropriation of big HBA logos, emblazoned on baggy tees and sweatshirts, representing nothing more than a youth culture that seemingly struggles to find an identity. In a recent in-depth editorial by New York Magazine, the label’s founder, Shayne Oliver, uncovers the essence behind the brand, the ambiguity behind its stance on sex and race, and how it has evolved into an entity that extends beyond fashion. Check out the excerpts below and head over to New York Magazine for the full article.
“It was just this crazy mix,” says Leilah Weinraub, who is now the brand’s CEO. “It was, like, bisexual,” says Oliver, by which he doesn’t mean interested in both sexes, he means open to whatever comes next. “It was just about losing your mind,” Weinraub says.
The driving idea behind HBA is something he [Shayne Oliver] calls “youth excellence.” Creativity may be the province of youth, but “a lot of ideas that young kids have take so long. And then, by that time, it’s old and people have to do everything in a museum way.” The challenge was to try to mainline the crazy energy of the parties they used to throw directly into consumer culture. “What we feel is so current, and we’re making it so people are able to buy it right now,” Oliver continues. “You’re buying into the whole idea … When you’re putting on that T-shirt, it’s almost like a band tee. You’re coveting the energy behind these performers, this moment, this feeling.”
Weinraub has a very masculine style—with her close-cropped hair and tinted aviators, she bears a passing resemblance to Smokey Robinson. But nothing is ever purely one way or another in the world of HBA. “There’s the element of femininity, the element of masculinity, the element of both, and the element of celebrating, and also breaking down all these elements within the same conversation, you know?” says Oliver.
“Not to be so cheesy,” she says, “but I think you learn everything important at night, in nightclubs. You learn how to perform for people, you learn how to give looks, give these looks that are legendary and last forever. You know how to make people lose their minds, you know how to ask people to, like, be free.”