Shayne Oliver may not be a point of reference when jumping on the bandwagon of dressing like a street goth, like many famous rappers today, but it's important to know where the style came from, and at the very least give Shayne some credit for a silhouette he's been wearing on the streets of New York for years. Since the first season of his cult line, Hood By Air, Oliver has been perfecting a look all his own: the perfect blend of '90s streetwear staples like oversized tees, bold logos and graphics, mixed with a bit a of bondage (jeans made to look like chaps, and shorts with a detachable skirt). It might not sound like the most wearable clothing, but A$AP Rocky seems to think his T-shirts are the best, and we've even named him one of the 10 People About To Change The Style Game. In this interview he talks everything from DJing as half of Ghe20 G0TH1K, how the business of fashion can ruin your money, and why Cam'ron should be considered a style icon. 

Interview by Matthew Henson (@matthematics)

For the people who don’t know anything about you or the line, can you give us a little background on how you first started Hood By Air and the idea behind it?

Shayne:  It basically started out as just T-shirts for friends. Then in ’07, aNYthing picked it up. They bought a few pieces. With the resources from that, I kind of made a few cut and sew pieces. That’s around the time that I met Raul. Raul knew about production and all that stuff. So once Raul came into the picture as far as production manager, like, we were able to make full on collections. Basically, we just kept flipping what we had. You know, make bigger collections and stuff like that.

You took over the brand, and it just became solely your vision and your idea?

Shayne: Yeah.

So now it’s just you doing everything?

Shayne: Yeah.

That’s kind of amazing. How is that for you? Is it easier? Do you feel like you have more control?

Shayne: Um, I feel like, it feels better because I know what’s going on. I know what’s getting done and what’s not getting done. So I don’t have a feeling like, waking up in the middle of the night thinking, “What’s going on with this?” It’s really controlled. I still have a team of people that are there for me in the ways that I need them. Leilah (Shayne's close friend, Leilah Weinraub who is a film and video directorhelps me out a lot. Basically, I feel more confident because I know exactly what’s going on.

Everybody knows Hood By Air Classics because that’s the T-shirt line. Are you going to be doing the full ready-to-wear collection again in the future?

Shayne: Yes. Well you know, I felt like, in the break, I guess a lot of... you want me to go off?

Go Off! 

Shayne: I felt like a lot of the concepts that I had been working on and building were being used. I felt like building an actual structure for the company. So when I do something, people are paying attention and they get the full vision. I think like, maybe by this upcoming September or February, I’m definitely going to do something. I’m going to start easing back into the collection. I’m going to start mixing the ready to wear pieces with the classics, to build a lifestyle that way.

I remember when you had a huge show at one of those now-closed clubs on the West Side. Even from early on, you had a really strong vision as far how you thought men should be dressing. Without naming names, there’s a big fashion house in Paris whose current collections almost mirror things you did back then. How do you go on from there? 

Shayne: I feel like it’s all about mastering the look.

Because it’s something that you created?

Shayne: Yeah. Doing it the best way possible with the resources that I have.  I feel like, that’s the most important thing for me right now. Having the resources so I can master this look. To the point where it doesn’t even matter. I feel like houses go in and out of trends. They're gradually going to be moving out of it, and I’m still going to be there doing what I do.

Leila: I think the fucked up thing about copying or when a huge label copies, is that they’re going to use that idea once. So they don’t know where that come from. You can’t reproduce that season over season. You can’t focus on it, and develop it and then turn those ideas out over and over and over again. They’re going to play that style out and that’ll be it. 

Where are you from originally because I have no idea, you never talk about that?

Shayne:  I was born in Minnesota. I grew up in the Caribbean, in Trinidad. Then when I was like 11, I moved to East New York.

That’s where the bangy comes from?

Shayne: Right!

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