During its cruise show in May 2017, Gucci introduces a jacket that captures all the attention. On a (faux) fur base, huge puffed sleeves in monogrammed canvas are added… which is not unlike the model worn by Olympic medalist Diane Dixon in the 80s, this time in the colors of Louis Vuitton.
If it is difficult to miss the resemblance, the situation is more ironic than it seems… In 1989, the Champs-Élysées trunk-maker doesn’t offer a clothing line yet. Therefore, the American athlete’s jacket is simply a fake, designed by Harlem’s most famous tailor: Dapper Dan.
Could counterfeiting have inspired couture?
Dress to impress
For Daniel Day, known as Dapper Dan, fashion is not an immediate vocation. Born in 1950, he spends part of his twenties behind bars for a drug affair. Once released, he resumes his studies, then flies to Africa in search of his origins.
Back in New York, he opens his address in 1982. Open 24/7, he draws the clothes on site, then has them made to measure in his back shop. Using a screen printing technique, he applies the logos of luxury brands — Gucci, Louis Vuitton and MCM at the top of the list — on leather jackets, tracksuits, car seats… The monograms are twisted, coloured, treated like the motifs of the Zairian wax outfits he discovers during his travels.
Success is not long in coming. Relegated to a half-citizen status, clothing serves as a form of expression for African-Americans — a reminder of their presence, as much as a form of affirmation. Jewellery, furs, cars… they transform style into a weapon to impose a model of success. The logo is an outward sign of wealth, the designer’s creations then become the emblem of a fortune.
Bobby Brown, Salt-N-Pepa and Mike Tyson are among his most loyal clients. In the early 90s, the boxer is photographed in a Fendi jacket no one has ever seen. The House’s lawyer — who has since become a Supreme Court judge — hastens to bring Dapper Dan down. Following several other similar cases, he definitively closes down in 1992. The story suddenly ends here, before resuming 25 years later…
Gucci Gang, Gucci Gang, Gucci Gang!
Right after the show, accusations of plagiarism start to appear. Responding in a press release, the Italian label fully assumes the inspiration. A few weeks later, it even has the Harlem child posing for an advertising campaign, before opening an ephemeral boutique in the heart of his neighbourhood. The very first of its kind to be installed there.
The duo continues by designing together Beyoncé’s costumes for her On The Run II tour and, after long months of teasing, have just unveiled a whole Gucci x Dapper Dan collection that is already turning street style aces’s heads.
According to Alessandro Michele, genius behind Gucci:
It is the time to say that fashion is not just the windows of a Fifth Avenue store. It’s more. It’s about culture. It’s about self-expression. It’s about expression of a point of view.
More than that, it’s about recognizing the influence of a visionary. Before Dapper Dan, the idea of combining the street and luxury is absolutely inconceivable. More than 25 years ago, he imagined a style based on logomania, at a time when many Houses still consider it vulgar. His work prefigures the aesthetics of our time, already contemplating a wardrobe at the crossroads of genres. Streetwear chic is actually invented by a counterfeiter, and we thank him… •
The Gucci x Dapper Dan collection is available here.