Hood By Air lived up to the implied luxury embedded in latter part of its name when they showed a special collection designed for venerable menswear tradeshow Pitti Uomo 87 last night. The irony wasn't lost on HBA Fashion Director Paul Cupo, who noted that “It feels kind of jarring for HBA to be the featured guest at Pitti Uomo, here at this villa.” Taking over the historic Villa di Maiano in Florence—a sprawling complex more used to hosting weddings and royalty than one of fashion's most buzzed l'enfant terribles—the entire affair was an exercise in nouveau riche excess, #newrules in The Old World.
Being the featured designer at a tradeshow that prides itself in Italian tailoring traditions provided designer Shayne Oliver with the opportunity to elevate his label far beyond the logo-oriented knits, tees, and jeans that are all but ubiquitous in global street culture hubs like Paris, Tokyo, London, and New York. While Hood By Air had shown some suited looks during their Spring/Summer 2015 show, this special collection (to be followed by a full Fall/Winter 2015 collection that will be presented in New York) was all about experimentation and playing.
“It’s sort of like dipping our foot in the pool,” says Shayne Oliver, overlooking the vast expanse of Tuscan countryside within the gates of Villa di Maiano. The timing was perfect for HBA, since they recently moved all their production to Milan. "It’s also an experimentation," continues Oliver. "To see how to play around with the things within our grasp in Milan. You can play around with tailoring, fur, and all these fabrications that we never had access to at such a high level."
The collection included accents of rabbit and fox fur on elegantly cut pieces of outerwear. Color stories veered towards the conservative, sending models down the runway in looks that played heavily on classic menswear colors like navy and camel, the latter making the aesthetic skew more towards trill Tusken Raider than Tuscan sprezzatura. Oliver took natty peak lapel topcoats and lopped them off at the shoulders, substituting straps. Suit jackets were given exaggerated side vents and self-belted velcro straps.
"I try to add a sort of lounge attitude into the suit," says Oliver. "That’s why we showed those overcoats with no tops. For me, I want to feel like I’m a bit snuggled in it. It’s oversized and it feels oversized." In true Hood By Air fashion, Oliver's menswear is all about attitude. "What I’m interested in is adding a swag to it," continues Oliver. "Not just in the sense of color, but also how you feel when you put it on."
In a fashion world increasingly interested in appropriating from street culture (though street culture is equally guilty of aping the luxury market at times), Hood By Air's collection at Pitti is one giant flex on an industry that has historically not empowered people like Shayne Oliver. It's a statement about Hood By Air's ascent, made literal by the fact that the show was set atop of a giant hill.
“We’re not showing in an industrial space with lights flashing, we’re showing at the top of a mountain," says Cupo. "Like, eat it. We’re showing in an olive garden, but of course we turned the olive garden into a club.”