Last week during the men’s shows in Paris, cult New York-based brand, Hood by Air, presented a classics collection. (Somewhat confusingly, it was a Pre-Fall 2014 collection while everyone else was showing Fall/Winter 2014). It was complete with 16 looks that strayed quite a bit from the t-shirts and sweatshirts with which we have come to associate the brand. The HBA logo still adorned half of the looks, which included the brand's first foray into denim and a footwear collaboration with Italian label Forfex. Coming on the heels of Business of Fashion’s piece regarding Paris’ place as the ultimate melting-pot of menswear, this move seems to make sense. After all, when Thom Browne decided he wanted to move into more experimental territory, he knew that he would find the most receptive fans in Paris. Of course, this was after years of showing in New York City and having an established brand name to take with him overseas.
But what of Hood by Air? The brand has only popped up on the international radar in the last 6 months or so, and with decidedly polarizing results. The runway shows are often wildly imaginative - a calling card of the Paris men's season if there was one. And just recently, the upstart label was picked up by the most venerable retailer of them all - Barneys - a sure sign that the brand is destined for great things.
The question remains though - does Hood by Air belong in Paris? If you concede that the brand is, at least for the moment, tethered to the streetwear world, then its spiritual home is and forever will be New York City, the same place that birthed numerous other countercultures, like hip-hop and skateboarding. In fact, it is New York’s melting pot of underground cultures that have allowed brands like Hood by Air to flourish. So, sure, the label might have something in common with the shows in Paris, but you can’t say it truly belongs when it is such a distinctly New York entity. If designers like Shayne Oliver of Hood by Air, and his fellow avant-leaning New York designers, like Siki Im, for example, (not to compare the two!) continue to show in New York, maybe, instead of Paris becoming the sole breeding ground for directional clothing, we can create a home in New York for innovative design as well.