As designer bootlegs find mass appeal, the boundary between high and low fashion blurs.
Designer bootlegs are wreaking havoc on our public perception of authenticity; Trevor Andrew’s big play on Gucci; Isabel B. Slone investigates the market for faux designer bags.
When I was a kid, every time my family went on vacation, my mother would break out her fabulously fake Louis Vuitton fanny pack. We have photo albums filled with her posing in New York, Boston, L.A. and Quebec City, a white tee tucked into faded mom jeans and the fanny pack around her waist. She didn’t care that it was so blatantly fake. It was a gift from her girlfriends (before she moved to Canada from South Korea in 1975), and although she did own an authentic LV Speedy, she was more interested in the hands-free practicality of her “travel bag” than the inauthenticity of a perfectly fine and damn-fly-looking fanny.
Clearly my mom was ahead of her time, because fakes have gone from fashion faux pas to must-have, thanks primarily to the high-end bootlegging ways of Demna Gvasalia at Vetements and Alessandro Michele at Gucci. Gvasalia was the first to turn the fake on its head with his high-end appropriations of brands like Thrasher, Champion and Canada Goose. (Legit collabs with Champion and Canada Goose would follow.) He took his logo-subverting skills to Balenciaga via his cheeky flip on the Bernie Sanders logo for Fall 2017. Michele began toying with luxury Gucci bootlegs last year when he showed “fake” Gucci tees (inspired by the popular ’80s Chinatown knock-offs) for Resort 2017. And this past May, he one-upped himself with a series of blatantly faketastic “Guccy” sweatshirts.
This tongue-in-cheek parodying of counterfeit culture has been directly influenced by the rise of streetwear—because, despite its four-figure price tags and posh clientele, Vetements is a streetwear brand. And if you squint really hard, Gucci is starting to look like one, too. “The boundary between high and low fashion has blurred so much that it has almost disappeared,” says Hannah Watkins, senior editor of prints and graphics for global trend-forecasting agency WGSN. “Street culture has been so influential on the catwalk and vice versa. There is no line anymore.”
Harlem couturier Daniel Day (better known as “Dapper Dan” of Dapper Dan’s Boutique) was one of the first to blur that line. Day became famous in the ’80s for co-opting luxury logos for his over-thetop, hip hop-inspired designs. The idea first came to him in 1983, when a customer in his shop was bragging about his new Louis Vuitton clutch. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, if he’s so excited about that little pouch, imagine if he had a whole outfit made out of logos?’” Day began custom-making his own all-over-print “Gucci” bombers, “LV” sweaters and “Fendi” track suits for clients like Run DMC, LL Cool J, Bobby Brown and Salt-N-Pepa. “I didn’t do knock-offs…I did knock-ups,” says Day. “The original styles were drab and boring. I created something that was more exciting than what the brands themselves were doing.” In the end, litigation forced Day to shutter his shop in 1992.