Hood By Air’s Brand New Dark

There was plenty to grab our attention at the Hood By Air runway show on Sunday—most notably, the inclusions of performance artist Boychild (who popped into the show several times to perform short, tweaky, barely controlled freakouts at the end of the runway between models’ walks) and of rapper A$AP Rocky, who closed the show with a walk so natural we’d swear he was a graduate of the Handsome Boy Modeling School. Add to all that a somewhat distracting front row that included Terence Koh, Waka Flocka Flame, Theophilus London, Nicola Formichetti, and Formichetti’s pair of Pomeranians, Tank and Bambi, and you’d be forgiven for missing the clothes altogether.

But even among all that sensory stimulation, designer Shayne Oliver‘s creations shone brightest. He showed a variety of gender-defying, shapeshifting garments: a cropped hoodie that obscured half its model’s face but left little about his abs to the imagination; shorts slit by suggestive zippers; a hood/cape composed in part of long, silky—could it be human?—hair. We were also rather taken with dozens of glittery ankhs that showed up on necklaces and earrings, and proved a welcome divergence from all the culty Illuminati imagery we’ve seen designers riff on for the last few seasons.

“We felt like it’s kind of time to be dark in a new way,” Oliver explained backstage after the show. “Tons of what’s available for the man of today tries to overtly reference things, like, religion and all this stuff—I love it, of course, that’s how my work started in ways—but now, especially with this new season and new vibe, I wanted to find a new center, and that’s what the ankh represented to me. A sense of open beliefs, as opposed to it being rigid and so overtly sacred.”

The ink has just dried on a production and distribution deal that will send Oliver to Hong Kong for two weeks in March. He’s eager to get going. “What we’re doing here is basically built off of working so hard to get these intricate designs out here,” he said. “But now I can expand and actually make what I want to make.”