Usually, a mannequin is simply a tool for showcasing clothing—an inanimate dummy produced en masse. In collaboration with Hood By Air, though, our newly revealed Madison Avenue windows take this concept and flip it around by showcasing six hauntingly accurate replicas of actual people, custom-made to capture even the most minute details of their appearance. These “mannequins” take center stage, breathing life into the clothes they’re wearing—in this case, six looks from HBA’s SS16 collection.
So who are the six figures occupying the Madison Avenue windows? Meet Golo, Roman, Brandon, Sunny, Chucky, and Hirakish. All six men are muses for the brand, and most walked in the Paris Spring/Summer 2016 show that featured HBA’s signature take on modern streetwear elevated by baroque elements of embellishment, gender-bending accessories, and radical mouthpieces. And true to the DNA of the brand, these guys aren’t traditional high fashion models, but rather real people cast by HBA and now part of the brand’s creative family. “These guys are people who actually live the look or attitude of the clothes,” explains Shayne Oliver, HBA’s founder and creative director.
The life-like sculptures were made in collaboration with artist and custom fabricator Yuji Yoshimoto of Studio UG, and each took months to complete. The process began with each model sitting for a 3D body scan and the initial casting, which used plaster over silicon to create a negative mold, in a process that only lasted about an hour and was the only step that required them to be there in person. Later, a positive mold was created using plaster, which became the master mold. From there, Yuji’s team hand sculpted the plaster to refine any details before creating the final model using tinted silicon in the exact flesh tone of the model it was replicating.
Once the models were crafted, details were added to further bring them to life, including real hair eyebrows that were applied one by one, customized dentures, and glass eyeballs. Tattoos were painted on in painstaking detail, wigs were styled by Jeff Francis in exact likeness to the looks Yusef Williams created at the HBA SS16 show in Paris, and—last but not least—the custom mouthpieces created by Dolly Cohen were affixed. “From coordinating logistics with the models to the physical execution of molding and casting the forms, the whole thing took six months,” explains Barneys VP of Windows and Exteriors, Matt Mazzucca. “Truly, the process was just as inspiring as the final results.”
In their completed form, the dressed models are making quite an impact as they stare blankly out at those walking down Madison Avenue. With their real hair, distorting mouthpieces, detailed tattoos, and glimpses of personality, the six men can’t help but challenge passersby to reconsider traditional notions of beauty. Below, we discuss both the nuances of the collection and the impact of the windows with Oliver, a designer who has proven to be a true visionary who’s been keeping American fashion on its toes over the past few years.
The Window: Tell us about the concept behind the SS16 show. You used the term infantile glamour—what does that mean to you?
Shayne Oliver: It was really just my way of commenting on situations that people project onto me, and sort of making fun of that by pushing them back out. I was exploring things in a very naive way and having that commentary of other people’s perceptions play into it. I was also playing with new cuts and dealing with garments outside the idea of ready-to-wear, so there was a sense of a learning process. Trying new things out is very empowering for me. There’s an ongoing play with silhouettes, like all the sleeves are very long. It all comes down to what I think is interesting at the time, like my actual experience as a designer, with this sort of backhanded retort as well.
The pastel colors, pearl and crystal embellishments, and little girl barrettes all played with gender perceptions. Was there a commentary or dialogue you were suggesting?
A lot of silhouettes come from that L.A. culture that was heavily influenced by guys wearing barrettes and people wearing baby accessories as fashion. It was happening in the ‘90s in L.A. I don’t think it’s a commentary; it’s more so a part of the DNA of what I do. It’s just that this is my point of view: Some days I feel more masculine than others; some days I feel more feminine than others. It just depends on what makes me get out of bed to feel my best.
The mouthpieces conjured up an odd mix of children, dentistry, and S&M. Why did you choose to use them the way that you did?
I was thinking about the basic idea of pacifiers as fetishizing. The orthodonture comes into play from the idea of holding the mouth open. It has a lot to do with willingness and naivety—always having your mouth open; always being accepting.
Are you portraying that as a negative or positive thing?
I think it’s positive. I think people can take what they want from it. For me, I did this because it was something I needed to express and showcase. Whether it’s bad or good is up to how people feel. I do what feels natural.
The show, and now our Madison Avenue windows, have a diverse mix of models. How important is the casting process for you?
We have a casting director named Walter Pearce. We have it in-house because it is such an important part of the creative process for me. I need to know exactly who is going to be wearing what I’m making. I’m making these things specifically for people who I think are out there, and these guys help me know that they exist. I think casting is less reliant on the hot person of the moment—which is still something I like to engage in and do find interesting—but I’m also manipulating that world and flipping it around a bit. The casting for the windows were people that we found who embody the energy that the brand evokes. These guys are people who actually live the look or attitude of the clothes. They are all real characters and are what, to me, supermodels back in the day used to be—people with charisma, personality, and who know how to make clothes look good.
What drew you to these six guys in particular?
None of these guys come from a super fashion background. They are people that Walter found, whom I then fell in love with. I do like to keep a distance form them, so that they can be themselves and not be influenced by my process. I want them to be able to observe what I’m doing and not assume. I find that’s a better way of working with talent than just forcing yourself onto them and making them your puppet. I give them space to observe me so that they can get what it’s about and choose how they want to engage. They can choose how much of themselves to give to HBA, and how much they want to keep for themselves.
What does it mean that they’ve been recreated in this way, in the windows?
I think it’s genius. For me, a lot of these guys are the new versions of beauty. I think it’s appropriate for them to be on pedestals in this way, and it’s really cool that Barneys took time to appreciate and expose these individuals in this way and to this extent through this replication. It’s truly groundbreaking.
You helped create the music for the Windows—tell us about that process.
Alejandro [Ghersi] and I took all of our favorite mixes from this project that we are working on as Wench, and chose what felt appropriate. We wanted to engage people as they walked by, so we wanted it to sound enchanting rather than annoying when played in a loop. We wanted to transport people from being on the street to being entranced. We are always working with music; it’s therapeutic.
Self-expression is clearly extremely important to you—were you always comfortable expressing yourself?
I only ever vaguely paid attention to the idea of having to limit myself in terms of expression. I understood the concept of having manners early on, which is the only thing that really means anything. Having common sense and manners, beyond that—what’s the point of having boundaries on yourself? I think that you can get naked at a party and spill your drink everywhere, as long as you don’t get anyone wet. That’s how I’ve always felt, and how I was raised. In regards to the windows, it’s a great way to encapsulate self-expression, because it shows something can be beautiful, even if it’s something that is rare or wild or rude. It’s about elaborating on a concept at the highest level.
Each Hood By Air look is available for special order. Please contact Lisa Schultes on the 8th Floor or at 212-833-2121 with any inquiries.