Yesterday it was announced that Pitti Uomo, the holy grail of men’s fashion and trade shows, invited Hood By Air to be their special guest for January’s show. For our readers unfamiliar with Pitti Uomo, it is the #menswear half of the Florence-based Pitti Imagine trade show. You know the endless stream of Tommy Ton pictures of the hyper-nattily dressed gentlemen, flaunting the most up-to-date in traditional mens clothing, often perched atop a curved stone wall? That's Pitti. And unlike other trade shows and fashion presentations that track each other around the globe, Pitti Uomo is famous for the sheer breadth of actual consumer goods put on display - and for a full four days! This means #menswear heaven for anyone with even a passing interest in the subject. To go along with their outstanding trade show, Pitti Uomo typically selects one “rising star” from the global fashion community to be it’s Special Guest each season. In its early years, Pitti hosted such heavyweights as Rick Owens and Raf Simons, turning the Special Guest invitation at Pitti into a sort of unofficial “menswear’s next big thing” pronouncement. And to their credit, they haven’t been far off. In the past decade, American labels Band of Outsiders and Thom Browne have both been chosen as Pitti’s Special Guest, just as those brands were transitioning from Niche to Lifestyle.
So, where does this leave us with Hood By Air? Well, it might not mean anything - depending on where you stand. In the past year, the Shayne Oliver-helmed label has received more [F]ashion Kudos than almost anyone else (save for Public School), having been nominated for the LVMH Prize (it won the Special Prize) and a CFDA Award, all the while being picked up by major retailers like Barneys.
With all this praise, Hood By Air should be resting firmly in the bosom of high [F]ashion’s comforting embrace, no? Well, not so much. Despite the high price tags, you are more likely to catch teenage youths saving up their allowance money to buy the newest Hood By Air t-shirts than the well-monied clients that high fashion brands are used to. This is because Hood By Air consciously and unapologetically caters to a younger and more urban demographic than any other high fashion label today; it is simply in the brand’s DNA. This is also what separates it from previous Special Guests like Thom Browne, whose clothes purposefully call out to the fashion community because, truthfully, they would have nowhere else to reside. Hood By Air on the other hand, doesn’t much need it. It is but one outgrowth of an entire movement that has been bubbling under the surface, in New York’s most disenfranchised neighborhoods, for years, and comes with a built-in client base. And likewise, those that subscribe to a pure (or outdated) ideal of high fashion are loathe to accept Hood By Air into their famously exclusive arena, where they’ll be judged alongside venerated designers like Karl Lagerfeld and John Galliano.
Like any influential figure in fashion, there’s always the chance that Hood By Air is still too ahead of its time. Thom Browne was near-universally mocked for his signature style when he debuted; Band of Outsiders was a staple tie-and-shirt company based out of furthest Los Angeles, and Rick Owens was, well, Rick Owens. But eventually time passed, the masses caught up to the avant-garde, they showed at Pitti, and now all three brands have transcended their humble, high fashion beginnings and have inundated our homes (Thom Browne stemware, Band of Outsiders coffee mugs, and Rick Owens furniture, anyone?). So, maybe this is another case of visionaries being visionaries while the masses schlep three paces behind. Or, it’s a changing of the guard in a world where the Old Guarde is very, very old; where like-minded groups anywhere in the world can birth their own fashion movements, rather than being dictated by fashion editors. Or maybe neither. Last year, most-exaulted party planner Marcelo Burlon showed his County of Milan t-shirt line to, not rave reviews, not poor reviews, but literally almost no reviews at all. Like, almost nobody noticed - and it had dirt bikes! How do you not notice dirt bikes?
So that’s where we are. Hood By Air is going to bring their “ghettogothic” aesthetic to Florence. And it will either be a huge turning point, nothing at all, or something in between. We’ll let you know after Pitti.