The Gender-Bending Fashion Show That Has Everyone Talking

Photo: Courtesy of Hood by Air.
“I want to show you a faggot really can run this company.”  That was the phrase, muttered in repetition over classical tunes, that echoed throughout the minimalistic, warehouse location of the Hood by Air show Sunday morning. And, whether you knew it was a reference to the new hit television show Empire or not, it made you stop and think — like everything Shayne Oliver does. Over the past year, the young designer has gained increased recognition for his gender-bending, streetwear-meets-fashion line, which has become a favorite of A$AP Rocky and Kanye West. Oliver was nominated for the CFDA's Swarovski Award for Menswear and was a runner-up for the LVMH Prize, which recognizes budding design talent. Perhaps it was the more formal industry attention he has received, but the label's fall/winter 2015 collection had a more serious tone than its predecessors.  There was no Boychild marching down the runway with a Great Dane. There were no shirtless dancers vogueing across the stage. Instead, there were models — cast by Bronx-born and -raised photographer Kevin Amato — whose faces were obstructed by stockings featuring doodles of eyebrows, sideburns, and the like. Could the audience tell which were male and which were female? No — and nor did that really matter. What has distinguished Oliver's line, for multiple seasons now, is that it's completely unsurprising to see men sporting dresses with Angelina Jolie-style slits and women rocking boxy, oversized parkas and khakis (which, we have to admit, looked awfully comfy in this New York weather).  No, it wasn't as much of a theatrical performance as we've come to expect. But, it also wasn't the kind of crazy, 'Who could ever wear that besides Kanye West?' type of collection of seasons past. It was a mature step toward refining an inherently streetwear label without having to abandon its roots in androgynous forms. Oliver's obvious focus here was the structure and precision of the clothing; he admitted to WWD that the audience's appreciation for the pieces was his "primary intention." The fact that he can do that and still tackle gender norms? Well, that's a talent you simply can't teach.

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