Is Hood by Air the most exciting young brand in New York? It's certainly the most out-of-the-box and compelling. All it took was a glance around the crowd at the HBA show today to affirm that budding maestro Shayne Oliver is speaking a different fashion dialect than any other designer putting clothes on a catwalk right now. Perhaps the best way to describe what Oliver is up to is to say that he's elevating streetwear into fashion, rather than merely absorbing it as a reference.

Most of the industry folks in attendance at today's show were probably expecting to see a lot of bulky sweatshirts and tees. What they got, though, was fashion, and of an acutely thoughtful variety. Oliver took on some big ideas here. There were many-zippered looks that could be adapted in both fit and functionality. There were Hollywood-inspired graphics commenting on American naïveté. There was an effort—very sincere—not just to gender-bend with the clothes, but to void gender categories entirely. And most dramatically, there were the looks inspired by Chinese paratrooper uniforms, which featured spinelike braids and tubular quilting that gave the pieces a menacing quality. Shayne Oliver has got a lot on his mind, plainly. The hype is well deserved.