In a statement to the press, it was noted Oliver was focused on developing a capsule collection for Helmut Lang and Weinraub was working on direction of the film Shakedown (“an examination of Los Angeles’s black lesbian strip club culture”), which will debut at the Whitney Museum on May 20, 2017.
The first public sign of troubled waters for the brand arose during the lead up to Paris Fashion Week’s fall presentations when it was announced HBA was canceling its planned presentation. Even at that time, the label’s webstore wasn’t operational and there hadn’t been any activity on its Instagram in five weeks.
Hood by Air began with Oliver making t-shirts and sweatshirts for his friends, an endeavor he took up not long after dropping out of Fashion Institute of Technology in the mid-aughts. However, it wasn’t until February 2013 the label held its first fashion show at Milk Studios in New York. A big supporter of the brand, A$AP Rocky walked the show (we were there, it was amazing) though within less than two years, he turned his back on the brand, describing it as “weak” in the single “Multiply.”
Much more important than celebrity co-sign, Hood by Air was widely admired for its embrace of the subversive, expressed through its futuristic bdsm, goth and streetwear-influenced designs. In terms of its runways, campaigns, and collaborations, the brand laid down a modern foundation for creating drama-fueled presentations, and also can be credited with boldly expanding the concept of what constitutes runway diversity.
And even as it retained its underground credentials, the brand received its share of mainstream recognition, taking home CFDA’s Swarovski Award for menswear in 2015, and it was a runner-up for the inaugural LVMH Prize in 2014.
While Hood by Air had groundbreaking design ideas, as time went on they were picked off and co-opted by a range of labels, diluting their appeal. As well, the brand seemed to struggle to expand its audience beyond a super edgy, cult customer, and on the floor of Barney’s, its offerings often seemed too fast for the chain’s target customer.
As well, it’s simply not easy to be a medium-sized fashion company. Enormous bills come at you fast and retail accounts never pay on time much less play fair. It’s one thing to cobble together some items and sell them through a Shopify account, but it’s an entirely different matter to pay for a staff, rent and production.
Even though the writing has been on the wall for Hood by Air for a while, it’s somehow painful to watch it fall now, symbolic as it always has been of an open and expansive mindset that as of late seems like part of an era now slipping into the past.
The founders say the label isn’t gone for good and that seems plausible. When the news broke, it was trending on Twitter for several hours, meaning the brand is appreciated and not insignificant. Certainly, there would be room for the brand to return in a smaller way, perhaps in collaboration with a bigger, better-funded fish. And at some point, we’re not going to just want Hood by Air back, we’re going to need it to return, if nothing else as a way to remind us all of better days.