History

Bulletgimp

History

Rick Owens

Who?

     Rick Owens is an American-born designer living in Paris, known for his abstract, yet approachable avant-garde designs. Born Richard Saturnino Owens, he began his label in California in 1994 and now oversees a veritable fashion empire from a five-story compound in Paris. If there's one characteristic that has defined his life, it has been Owens' fierce independence. His eccentric brutalist approach is evident in his fashion, his furniture and even his personal life.

     After decades in business, the important thing about Rick Owens fans is that, more often than not: if they’re devoted, they don’t just own a single piece, but an entire wardrobe of his designs. Much like Owens’ own commitment to his unique aesthetic and silhouette, his now-global group of supporters are brand loyal and—more importantly—embody and spread Owens' luxurious gothic grunge lifestyle worldwide (and trust us, it’s a lifestyle).

 

The Beginning

     The story of Owens' ascension in the fashion ranks is an unlikely one. Like every good success story, it starts with humble beginnings. Rick Owens dropped out of Otis College of Art and Design to take a course in pattern making. This led him to a position cutting patterns that illegally knocked-off designer clothing. This was an ironic start to his career in fashion seeing that he's now one of the most imitated designers of his generation. Owens himself described his start in fashion this way:

     "I had always lived in Southern California. I grew up in Porterville, which is next to Bakersfield. I went to L.A. to go to college at Parsons, but I didn't graduate. I was an art school dropout. I studied fine arts there for two years, but it was too expensive and I didn't really see a job ahead, a real job. So I went to a two-year program at a trade college learning how to pattern-make with all these Korean ladies—not glamorous. I didn't grow up in the industry, like Marc Jacobs at Halston. I ended up working for knock-off companies in L.A. I just knocked off patterns for years."

     In 1994, Rick began his own label selling exclusively to Charles Gallay. Gallay operated what was the most avant garde boutique in L.A. at the time, becoming the first in the city to carry Versace, Mugler and Margiela. Rick commented on Gallay saying, "He was the biggest buyer in the world of Margiela's first season. I showed my clothes to him first. He bought them. And he prepaid."

 

Michèle Lamy

     No profile of Rick Owens would be complete without discussing his relationship with his wife, collaborator and muse, Michèle Lamy. The two met in the late '80s through Owens’ then-boyfriend when she hired him as a pattern-maker for her own line, Lamy. Predating his own brand, he began working on the design team for the Lamy brand in 1990.

     At the time she was living in Los Angeles and running Les Deux Café, one of Hollywood's true insider spots, located behind an unmarked door in a car park. Owens worked for two years at Lamy's company before they began an affair. Owens ended up leaving his boyfriend and Lamy left her husband, Richard Newton.

     They enjoyed a self-described rock'n'roll lifestyle. A 2008 profile in The New Yorker described the early part of their relationship as follows:

     "Owens and Lamy drank and used drugs prolifically, inspired in part by the rock musicians they admired—Iggy Pop, Keith Richards, and David Bowie. 'It's also Baudelaire and Tennessee Williams,' Owens said. 'It's just the whole idea of excess and the phrase 'A candle that burns at both ends might burn shorter, but it burns brighter.' 'Lamy,' Owens says, was 'an enthusiastic drinker,' but, he adds, 'she never went as deep as I did and was the one to call the private nurses when I got too bad.'"

     The two have since been sober for over a decade and have intertwined their personal and business dealings. In 2001, Rick Owens sought international expansion and agreed to a distribution deal with Eo Bocci Associati and, as a result, the designer's production relocated to Italy. After a mugging incident at gunpoint in Los Angeles, the pair moved into the Chateau Marmot and lived in residence for a year. As for LA, Owens notes, [After the robbery] “We were never comfortable there again.” The couple soon followed the business to Europe, moving to Paris in 2003, where they still reside.

 

Gaining Momentum

     Owens rose to prominence within the fashion industry following French Vogue’s publication of an image of Kate Moss wearing one of his signature leather jackets. Owens was able to utilize the momentum, with assistance from Anna Wintour and Vogue, which sponsored his first runway show, Spring/Summer 2002, at New York Fashion Week. That same year saw the beginning of his ongoing collaboration with with notable stylist Panos Yiapanis.

     In 2002 Owens began branching out into menswear, seen prominently in his Spring/Summer 2003 collection. While this was early days for the modern man falling under the spell of Owens’ cultish appeal, soon-to-be-signatures (seen in gauzy bomber jackets, sharp shouldered blazers and predecessors to the Pod Short) were clearly taking shape.

     While Owens’ runway collections have earned him justified fame among fans and casual followers alike, its his footwear that has added to his wider cultural appeal. One of his most iconic pieces—the Dustulator Dunk (named for the Spring/Summer 2006 collection of the same name—began what would become a series of highly coveted (and highly controversial) Rick Owens sneakers. After rumored beef with and a potential lawsuit from Nike, changes were made to the silhouette over the years, resulting in the Rick Owens mainstay sneaker: the Geobasket.

     From 2002 to 2007, Owens reigned as the artistic director of Revillon, a luxury fur company. It was here that Owens would begin working with Gareth Pugh—ultimately taking the Central Saint Martins graduate under his wing. Fans of Owens will see Owens’ influence within Pugh’s work.

     Spring/Summer 2008’s “Creatch” collection spawned another Owen’s icon, the aptly named “Creatch” cargo pant. While reproduced and reimagined for several seasons thereafter, this particular iteration helped create another cult Owens item, introducing more people to the brand with this abstract-yet-accessible twist on a menswear staple. (Don’t believe us? Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and even Virgil Abloh have all been seen in the pant at one point or another.)

 

Furniture, adidas Footwear and Fashion

     Perhaps the most impressive element of Rick Owens' career has been his ability to meld commercial success and creative freedom. Since the opening of his first flagship store in Paris, the retail footprint of the brand has spread to over 10 locations, ranging from Hong Kong to Los Angeles. Unique to the industry, the expansion of the brand has come through increased demand, not external financing.

     The brand also grew laterally through the creation of a furniture line in 2010 and a fur collection that are handled by Lamy. The decision to make furniture came about when it came time for the pair to furnish their Paris home. The furniture collection made an initial splash in Berlin in 2010, tapping into the work of Eileen Gray and the brutal concrete of California skateparks for inspiration. His “Prehistoric” furniture collection debuted at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery in London, unveiling a brief-but-brutalist seven piece offering. As to be expected, the color palette was confined to one of two options: white or black. With materials like ox bone and alabaster contrasting deep, dark petrified wood, the selection was another Italian-made extension of Owens runway looks into the lifestyle space.

     The Business of Fashion reported on the financial state of Owens' brand stating:

     "In 2010, Owenscorp revenue was around $40 million. In 2012, that number was closer to $70 million; in 2013 it exceeded $100 million and, this year, it’s projected to surpass $120 million. And, though he once flirted with the idea of selling to an unnamed conglomerate, Owens has grown his house without any outside help."

     The independence of Owens business is exactly what has allowed Owens to work on projects that advance his perspective and add to his overall vision—something that has, over the years, expanded to represent something akin to a complete Rick Owens-esque lifestyle (intended or otherwise). Owens has openly vowed to never sell his brand; as Dazed notes, as of 2017 “80 percent of the Owenscorp company is owned by himself, and the other 20 percent by Owens’ commercial director and CEO, Luca Ruggeri and Elsa Lanzo.”

     Owens major crossover success appeared in 2013, heralding the beginning of a seasons-long partnership with German sneaker giant adidas. Like Yohji Yamamoto and Raf Simons, Owens designed seasonal sneakers, creating new models, reimagining adidas classics and incorporating then-new sneaker technology (see: adidas’ interesting but ill-fated Springblade sole) in his footwear that intersected with the themes for his own seasonal runway collections. The collaboration line came to a close in August of 2017.

     Owens' runway shows have since grown in spectacle, subversiveness and notoriety over the years. Of particular note is his Spring/Summer 2014 “Vicious” women’s collection, which featured American step dancers in lieu of traditional models.

     In January 2015, his controversial Fall/Winter 2015 men's show, titled “Sphinx”, drew headlines in Paris after carefully-placed and carefully-draped garments (intentionally) revealed frontal male nudity.

     For recent collections, including the Spring/Summer 2018 and Spring/Summer 2019 shows, Owens has shown a consistent ability to take command over the Palais de Tokyo, staging collections that show his penchant for brutalist construction against the beauty of the Parisian landmark location—sometimes literally.

     There are several collections and countless iconic garments in his archive, but the ultimate takeaway is that Owens’ influence is not be dismissed. Celebrated 20 years of artistic achievement, Owens was the center of an exhibit at the Triennale di Milano in 2017. As Owens described his work in the exhibition pamphlet:

     “‘I would lay a black glittering turd on the white landscape of conformity.’ I wrote this shamelessly bombastic line over 20 years ago and it’s a very simplistic summary of what I initially set out to do. Over the years, this defiance softened into a more tender expression. If I could ever so slightly blur the rigid parameters of what is considered beautiful or aesthetically acceptable I will have fulfilled any potential I had to make a positive contribution in this world.”

     Outside of the art and fashion spaces, Rick Owens was also able to expand his core audience through the streetwear oriented DRKSHDW label, a diffusion line started in 2005, which focuses on denim and lower priced staples like hoodies and sweats. Often riffing on and reinterpreting his own runway collections, it stands as an excellent way for newcomers (or those looking to round out their wardrobe) to experience Owens’ aesthetic vision. Sneakers—including the popular, Converse-like Ramone model—are often found within this secondary line, earning cult status all on their own.

     Owens' deadpan sense of humor belies his shrewd business sense. In his own words, "It would take me ten years to burn this whole thing down. Even if I were to go insane for five years, there is still enough in the archive that they could sell. It would take another five years before people caught on and it all came crumbling down." Even if Owens did burn it all down, we feel pretty confident: No matter what you think of the clothes on the runway, that’d be one hell of a beautiful, brutal, weird party.

 

 

 

 

 

Martin Margiela

The Margiela Label

    Maison Margiela is one of the rare labels in fashion that has achieved both massive commercial success and enduring cultural relevancy, earning the reputation as one of the most secretive organizations in the industry. This is the direct legacy of its namesake founder who notoriously rejected the limelight, Martin Margiela. To this day, most outsiders do not even know what the designer looks like. Since his departure from the label in 2009, Margiela's legacy lives on through Maison Margiela's design approach, marketing techniques and brand philosophy.

    I can really only scratch the surface of a label with as massive an influence as Maison Margiela so this should be considered a primer on some of the key aspects that define the ethos and history of the house, shedding light on the culture and history of the legendary maison.

 

About Margiela

    For such a high-profile designer like Martin Margiela, relatively little is known about the man’s private life: He is notoriously press shy and there isn’t even a "proper" public photo of him. To char his history is however is a timeline that marks the major points in his design career.

    Martin Margiela got his start by studying in the fashion department at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, where he began making a name for himself amongst the faculty and his peers. A common misconception is that Margiela was a member of the famous "Antwerp Six", but he was actually already employed with Jean-Paul Gaultier by the time the de facto Beligian student group was displaying its designs in London.

    His design career, post-university, is the stuff of legend. Prior to starting Maison Martin Margiela, he served as a design assistant for Gaultier from 1984 to 1987, with Maison Martin Margiela established in 1988 by Margiela himself and Belgian retailer Jenny Meirens. Initial collections featured only women’s ready-to-wear, with the first runway show taking place in Paris in 1989. From the outset, Margiela received critical acclaim, being awarded the inaugural National Association for the Development of the Fashion Arts Award, now commonly known as ANDAM.

    Less than a decade later, in 1997, Margiela was appointed the artistic director of the Hermès women’s collections, holding his first show for its Fall/Winter 1998 collection.

    Margiela’s menswear line was introduced in 1998, with the debut collection launching for Spring/Summer 1999.

    In May 2006, Maison Martin Margiela showed its first haute couture collection under its "Artisanal" Line, a practice that continues to this day.

    A major turning point for the brand came in 2006, when a majority stake in the company was acquired by Diesel founder/president Renzo Rosso through Rosso's Italian holding group, Only the Brave. This acquisition proved to be a defining moment in the label's history, as it would set the stage for Margiela's eventual departure from the company he founded, in 2009. Following Margiela's exit, it was announced that no designer would be appointed as an immediate replacement. Instead, the existing design team would take the reins and design the seasonal collections.

    Since leaving the Maison, Martin Margiela, the man, has maintained his press silence and has shown absolutely no interest in returning to the world of fashion.

 

The Numbers

    Maison Margiela pieces, as a general rule, lack any external branding elements. The only clearly branded feature is a removable tag, which features a sequence of printed numbers. One of the most frequently asked questions is what these numbers mean. Each circled number indicates what Maison Margiela line the piece belongs to. The numbering system is broken down as such:

1: The collection for women. "1 is the collection in which Maison Martin Margiela expresses its love for concept, design and process, for creativity and the avant-garde" [Est. 1988].

2: Fragrance, in association with L'Oreal's Luxury Products Division [Mar. 2008 announced, Jan. 2010 released].

4: A wardrobe for women, essentially basics.

6/mm6: Diffusion line including clothes, shoes and accessories [Est. Oct. 1997, rebranded mm6 in Jun. 2004].

8: Eyewear collection [Est. Oct. 2007 for Spring/Summer 2008].

10: The collection for men, equivalent of women's Line 1 [Est. Oct. 1998 for Spring/Summer 1999].

11: A collection of accessories for women and men; "bags, belts, small leather goods and a few items of jewelry" [Est. Jan. 2005].

12: Fine jewelry collection made in collaboration with the Damiani group [Est. Jul. 2008].

13: Objects and publications [Est. Oct. 1998].

14: A wardrobe for men, essentially basics, equivalent of women's Line 4 [Est. Jul. 2004 for Spring/Summer 2005].

15: Mail order [Est. April 1999].

22: A collection of shoes for women and men [Est. Fall/Winter 2005].

Sartorial: A capsule collection part of Line 14, identifiable with a gold embroidered cursive "Maison Martin Margiela" in the lining by the jacket pocket [Est. Fall/Winter 2008].

Replica: "Every season since 1994, Maison Martin Margiela has introduced a capsule collection within its men's and women's lines, including around thirty pieces of staple garments and accessories, called 'Replica.'"

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Antwerp Six

Intro

    In terms of so-called “fashion collectives,” there may be no more influential group than the Antwerp Six. The bastion of six Belgian designers who graduated from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts between 1980 and 1981 have become synonymous with modern day fashion, and given the small European nation a stellar reputation in an industry typically dominated by the likes of more well-known Italian, French and Japanese designers.

    Not only that, but the influences and aesthetics within the group of six are so wide-ranging that it’s a wonder they all came from the same country and studied at the same institution. Consider that the profound elegance of Dries van Noten, black-heavy palette of Ann Demeulemeester, eccentric patterns and colors of Walter van Beirendonck and deconstructed tailoring of honorary member Martin Margiela all call the Royal Academy of Fine Arts their alma mater and graduated within three years of one another, along with the likes of lesser-known, but still accomplished, Dirk van Saene and Marina Yee. Their initial breakthrough came when they showed at fashion week in London in 1987, sparking an interest in designers outside the usual cities.

    The diverse styles and eventual global reputation of the group helped the institution recruit students from around the world, turning out the likes of Raf Simons, Haider Ackermann, Kris Van Assche and Demna Gvasalia in following years.

    Here, we take a look at the fabled Antwerp Six collective, dissecting their lives, careers, and styles that made them part of such a unique piece of fashion history.

 

Walter Van Beirendonck

    Bio: The oldest member of the Antwerp Six, Van Beirendonck graduated in 1980 alongside Martin Margiela and has been designing his own collections since 1983. That same year, he returned to the academy as a professor and has held a position there ever since, eventually leading fashion education there in 2006. He personally taught both Simons and Van Assche when they attended the academy, while Craig Green once interned for him. Van Beirendonck also regularly contributes to galleries and art installations, creating lavish materials for his artful materials for his clothing collections and even designed costumes for U2’s 1997 PopMart tour and created a capsule for IKEA.

    Style: To say “wild” would be an understatement. Van Beirendonck is most definitely out there and often likes to make a statement with his collections. Whether that statement is more seriously about the state of our world, as with his Fall 2015 collection, or if it’s a bunch of sexual fetishes, you can count on Walter.

    Legacy: It’s clear that many influential designers have called the bald-headed, bushy-bearded Van Beirendonck a mentor in some capacity somewhere along the way. His eccentric and over-the-top design styles notwithstanding, his work and expertise has already helped established some of the best designers of the modern era and will continue to be felt in the future.

 

Ann Demeulemeester

    Bio: After graduating in 1981, Ann Demeulemeester found success almost immediately, winning the inaugural Golden Spindle award in 1982 for promising young Belgian designers, which was created by the Belgian government to strengthen the country’s textile industry. As you’ll see later on, two other members of the Antwerp Six also took home the award. Three years later, she founded her eponymous label and showed in Paris in 1992. While the Ann Demeulemeester label found success behind its Japanese-influenced, punk aesthetic, the designer always worked to stay independent and even though she was approached by larger houses for creative director positions, Demeulemeester always turned them down. Years later, in 2013, haven gotten sick of the fashion cycle, Demeulemeester abruptly quit her namesake label via a handwritten PDF letter she sent to her company. Ever since, she’s been completely absent from fashion.

    Style: Minimalist, but detailed. Pieces often come with unique, signifying silhouettes and cuts, often in black and white, but occasionally with splashes of vibrant color. Demeulemeester has a gothic, unorthodox style all her own, though she is often compared to other avant garde designers like Rick Owens, Boris Bidjan Saberi and early Helmut Lang.

    Legacy: Zigging when others zagged. As trends became powerful forces that determined the success of young designers in the early days of mainstream fashion, Demeulemeester stuck to her own aesthetic, establishing and honing it over the years to reflect herself, not the industry around her. In the process, she created a label that speaks to a devoted following to this very day, even without her at the helm.

 

Dries Van Noten

    Bio: A designer who needs no introduction, though he is often peculiarly absent from the press and mainstream fashion media, Dries Van Noten is, undoubtedly, the most commercially successful of the Antwerp Six. The son of a menswear shop owner and grandson to a tailor, Van Noten was born into the garment world and took right to it. He is a quiet, cerebral designer, but quite brilliant, offering only ready-to-wear collections, no pre-fall, pre-spring or haute couture work, as he doesn’t like creating something he can’t make available in a store. Van Noten still operates out of Antwerp, shows in Paris and opened his first store in his hometown in 1989, and, in 2008, won the CFDA’s International Designer of the Year award. He’s repeatedly stated in interviews that big name conglomerates like LVMH and Kering have approached the brand, but he’s always strived to remain independent and rebuffed their offers, often emphasizing the responsibility he has toward everyone who works for him. That strict mantra has helped keep the brand relevant for decades, just recently celebrating his 100th runway show with a myriad of greatest hits sent down the runway. In this author's opinion, Van Noten's Fall 2015 menswear collection may be his most memorable.

    Style: Understated elegance. A Dries Van Noten collection is filled with memorable pieces that often include not only ornate embroidery or embellishment, but classic, everyday pieces as well. Sticking to a familiar palette for multiple seasons in a row, it’s easy to pick a Van Noten look out of a lineup.

    Legacy: When all is said and done, Van Noten will go down as one of the greats. One of the best designers working today, his designs are undoubtedly destined for museums.

 

Dirk Bikkembergs

    Bio: Of the Antwerp Six, Dirk Bikkembergs is perhaps the one that embraced the cycle of fashion hardest. The only member of the group who graduated in 1982, Bikkembergs eventually also won the Golden Spindle in 1985. His profile first rose based on his footwear work, launching a line in 1987, and later behind his forward-looking menswear collection that launched a year later. His obsession with soccer eventually became his calling card, separating him from the more technical-minded members of the collective and focusing on more athletic designs with commercial success rather than high-fashion intrigue. He often employed soccer players as models and launched Bikkembergs Sport in 2000. He went so far as to acquire lower-league Italian team F.C. Fossombrone in 2005 as a test lab for his designs—though he would eventually sell the team in 2010—and got to show a 2005 collection at F.C. Barcelona’s iconic stadium, Camp Nou. As for today, the Bikkembergs name is still around, recently relaunching its menswear collection, helmed by British designer Lee Wood. But while his brand still most definitely has a place in the sneakers/underwear world, Bikkembergs the man has taken some steps back.

    Style: Sportswear before luxury sportswear really found its groove. Think Polo's RLX, Tisci’s Givenchy menswear or even the greased-up, Tom Ford-era Gucci.

    Legacy: As a soccer lover myself, it’s great to see some of the sport’s impact on fashion. Bikkembergs may have actually paved the way for athletic's eventual massive influence on the industry. I think that’s worth remembering.

 

Dirk Van Saene

    Bio: Functioning far outside the realm of the fashion system—after graduating in 1981 with van Noten, Yee and Demeuelemeester—Van Saene opened his own boutique, Beauties and Heroes, that same year. Ever since, he’s focused on small scale production rather than larger commercial success, producing clothing and works of art such as ceramics and other home goods. In 1983, he won the Golden Spindle, an award given to young Belgian designers. Sometimes described as the most artistic of the Six, Van Saene’s clothing designs, which he initially showed in Paris in 1990, lack their own distinct aesthetic. An interesting note of contention was a controversial collage Van Saene supposedly created around 1992 named "Bambi," that poked fun at the group, especially Demeuelemeester, causing a rift between him and the other members.

    Style: Most of Van Saene’s designs feature all-over print, which often make out a distinct scene or feature someone’s visage draped across the entire garment and take inspiration from his background as a painter, having screen-printed his work on pieces throughout his collections. But other pieces, such as his black bow dresses, show an avant garde ability that is quite impressive.

    Legacy: While he may be remembered more as a true artist when all is said and done, Van Saene’s abilities as a designer should be admired.

 

Marina Yee

    Bio: As one of the more forgotten members of the Six, Yee rose to fame with the rest of the roster, graduating from the Royal Academy in 1981 alongside van Noten, Demeuelemeester and Van Saene. Yee’s work centered on leather for men and women, along with clothes that she often found at flea markets, which she then reconstructed in an effort to battle the materialistic wastefulness often associated with fashion. Though she did not show at the now famous London shows, she started her own label, Marie, to solid success. Yee wanted to avoid the pitfalls of running a larger, more commercial label and, ever since, her presence in fashion has been felt less and less, though she collaborated with fellow Six member Bikkembergs on the brand Lena Lena, worked in theater costume design and, word has it, still runs her own workshop in Antwerp where she creates repurposed pieces made from vintage garments.

    Style: Early visions of reconstructed garments, repurposed vintage pieces and a general oeuvre of recycled, eco-friendly fashion.

    Legacy: Before the issue of eco-consciousness really hit the mainstream in fashion, Yee was there, putting it at the forefront of her designs and, in the process, inspiring many similarly concerned designers along the way. That’s a legacy to be proud of, even if it doesn’t qualify as commercial success.

 

 

 

 

Shayne Oliver

Pre-Anonymous

    A pioneering multi-hyphenate creative; designer, artist, musician and DJ, Oliver’s career has seen him undertake a long list of projects: gritty small-run streetwear, high-end runway fashion, albums and more. Most famous among them is Hood by Air, but his most recent projects are already garnering significant attention: Anonymous Club, which encompasses his music, art and cultural projects and an eponymous label. They’re likely to tap into, if not shape, the zeitgeist of the coming decade, unsurprisingly, as it seems like Oliver is always a step or two ahead of everybody else.

 

History

    In the early 2010s, New York City was home to a richly creative sub-cultural scene that attracted the likes of Virgil Abloh and Matthew Williams to A$AP Rocky and the rest of the Mob, to Telfar Clemens and LUAR designer and Hood By Air co-founder Raul Lopez. These would-be tastemakers would go on to reshape the broader cultural landscape of New York City and abroad, with Oliver as the connective tissue between the people and places that defined this moment in time. Increasingly synonymous with the underground scene, he became a pillar and resident DJ of Venus X’s famed GHE20G0TH1K underground and experimental parties. The scene introduced him to artists like Arca, with whom he’d eventually create WENCH in the late 2010s, and produce dozens of tracks.

 

Hood by Air

    Oliver started working on Hood by Air in 2006. His earliest designs were provocative and subversive, themes that would come to define Hood by Air as it grew. Realizing, along with co-founder Raul Lopez, that he not only wanted to pursue the brand but that there was demand for it, Oliver dropped out of the Fashion Institute of Technology. Hood by Air’s designs were inspired by the circles Oliver ran in and the people he knew—informed by sexuality, nightlife, performance art, gender identity and being Black—a retort to the predominantly white skate-centric streetwear that was blossoming in the late aughts. The graphics remained edgy, silhouettes were oversized and baggy, there was a liberal use of zippers and bondage elements and many of the garments took on a conceptual edge that harkened back to Oliver’s performance art roots.

    Hood by Air quickly gained a cult following and, by the early 2010s, became a mainstay of the VFILES and Opening Ceremony crowds—people familiar with Oliver’s DJing or frequented the same clubs as him. Eventually, it became the standard-bearer for the rise of conceptual streetwear despite Oliver and Lopez learning on the fly, neither having any prior experience in running a fashion label. A raft of collaborations ensued, reflecting the things, people and subcultures that Oliver interacted with and observed: Been Trill, PornHub, Gentle Monster, Forfex and Kangol. By 2013, A$AP Rocky was walking the brand’s fashion shows—so, too, would Telfar Clemens and Wolfgang Tillmans.

 

Expansion

    It didn’t take long for Hood by Air and Oliver to become familiar names within fashion circles outside of New York City. The array of designs covered the spectrum from the wearable, graphic button-down shirts and oversized tees, to the conceptual; double boots and hoodies; tops and backpacks with built-in du rags; deconstructed club staples, like the Forfex Avalanche boots and other pieces with bondage details.

    Rocky had an undeniable effect on the brand's mainstream popularity, with the rapper going so far as to take credit on "Angels.” By 2014, though, he released “Multiply,” solidifying his exit from Oliver’s inner circle and in turn, caused a rippling effect that would eventually stall the momentum of the brand. Even still, Oliver went on to receive many accolades and opportunities. He was awarded the LVMH Special Prize in 2014 and Hood by Air was invited to show its S/S ‘15 collection at Pitti Uomo 87 as the season’s guest designer. The brand was regularly shown in Paris, too. In 2015, Hood by Air was also awarded the CFDA Swarovski Award for menswear, recognition, in a way, for the role Oliver and Hood by Air played in the rise of the decidedly American high-end streetwear movement.

 

Post-Hood by Air

    With so much momentum behind the brand and no shortage of willing investors, Oliver and Lopez announced that Hood by Air would be going on hiatus in 2017. Many speculate that Rocky’s not-so-subtle dissuasion from the brand had a real cultural impact on its perception, despite its unprecedented success.

    Even with Hood by Air indefinitely on hold, Oliver was now a recognizable name among designers and creative directors. He had numerous suitors eager to tap into his cult following and an aesthetic that was increasingly in vogue. Over a few years, Oliver would design capsule collections or collaborations with Longchamp, Colmar, Ugg, Diesel and Helmut Lang. The latter two were the most significant, with both companies turning to Oliver to help relaunch their brands.

    Oliver was also integral to the YZY Season 9 2022 Paris show. The connection between Oliver and Ye extends back to the former’s early fashion days when he ran in the same circles as fellow Kanye collaborators Virgil Abloh and Matthew Williams.

    A New American Fashion Conglomerate
In 2023, Oliver launched the Shayne Oliver Group, which comprises Anonymous Club, Shayne Oliver and ASSO (As Seen by Shayne Oliver). Each of the brands is dedicated to a different aspect of Oliver’s creative oeuvre. Oliver created a shopping mall to house an immersive exhibition of the three brands at Berlin’s Schinkel Pavillon before showing Anonymous Club’s S/S ‘24 collection, “Headless,” at Berlin Fashion Week. In theory, Anonymous Club is the overarching creative studio, Shayne Oliver, the eponymous label, is the high-end fashion label and ASSO offers a line of more affordable essentials.

    Despite the relative youth of the project, several pieces have already entrenched themselves as classics of Oliver’s new chapter. Designs are informed by similar codes of his early work, starting with the Shaft Boots, the padded shoulder Uniform Track Jacket, and the performance art-adjacent Dunce Cap, famously worn by Ecco2K and Playboi Carti. There is something fantastical about his latest projects. They feel at once, inspired by his experiences and a snapshot of the future he envisions, not dissimilar to the way one might describe Walter van Beirendonck’s approach. It could be argued that both Anonymous Club and Hood by Air cater to the same demographic—disparate groups that find resonance and expression through his creations; a universe where various subcultures are seamlessly unified.

 

The Impact of Shayne Oliver

    It’s all par for the course for Oliver. His vision has proved, time and again, to be prescient. Without necessarily trying, things seem to gravitate around him and towards him. He was at the forefront of the high-end streetwear movement, helped usher in the idea of guest creative directors, and tapped into the aesthetic of the 2000s before anyone else did. The resurgence and continued popularity of Oliver’s years-old Hood by Air designs is a testament to his enduring vision. And, luckily for fans of his work, it appears as though there’s plenty more in store.