Imitation Is Flattering, But a Collaboration is Better: Gucci Partners with Dapper Dan
In the streets of New York City in the 1980s, there were drugs; there was hip-hop; and, there was fashion. Hip-hop artists emerged into the media sporting vibrant outfits such as on Eric B and Rakim’s 1988 album, “Follow the Leader” and Salt-N-Pepa’s iconic varsity-jacket-jumpsuit duo in the music video, “Push It.”1 Although hip-hop’s fashion may have come from various sources, the primary designer of choice was Daniel Day, better known as Dapper Dan.
At the age of 43, Dapper Dan opened up a 24-hour shop in his own name on East 125th.2 In the heart of Harlem, Dapper Dan sold his own innovative designs of furs, silks, and leather clothing using luxury-brand logos.3 In an interview with The Cut in 2015, Day explained that providing clothing with designer logos at a lower price gave the purchaser, who may not have the money to purchase the brand at retail value, a higher status in the community.4
What the fashion industry considered to be knock-off designs, he proclaimed as “knock-ups.”5 Despite Day’s spin, luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Fendi all reportedly filed lawsuits against him for the copyright infringements present in his designs. 6 Unfortunately, due to these lawsuits, Day was forced to close shop in 1992.7
However, with the emergence of Gucci’s 2018 Cruise line, things seem to have come full circle for Dapper Dan. At the spring fashion show for this new Gucci line, onlookers took note of the puffy sleeve jacket made of linen with the Gucci label of two interlocked G’s and a brown base.8 This piece in particular sparked social media outrage, charging the creative director, Alessandro Michele, with plagiarism, because the piece was a blatant replica of a Dapper Dan puffy leather jacket using the Louis Vuitton famous LV logo instead, designed for the Olympic track start Diane Dixon.9 Furthermore, Dixon contributed to the online uproar by posting a side-by-side comparison of the Gucci replica and the 1989 original on Instagram, pushing for credit to be given. 10 In response to the backlash, Gucci revealed that they are planning to partner with Dapper Dan in a capsule collections set for next spring. 11 In addition, Dapper Dan stars in Gucci’s Autumn/Winter menswear tailoring campaign.12 The photo shoot is set in the streets of Harlem, New York, Day’s stomping ground and home to his former shop.
The joint venture between Gucci and Dapper Dan is an unexpected conclusion to their controversial history. However, such a partnership opens up a box of questions. Will Louis Vuitton and Fendi also offer Dapper Dan partnership opportunities? Is there a benefit to a successful counterfeit business? What other partnerships may result from the assumed success of Dapper Dan and Gucci? Much is left to be answer in the next coming seasons of fashion.
Barry Michael Cooper, The Fashion Outlaw Dapper Dan, N.Y. Times (Jun. 3, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/03/fashion/dapper-dan-harlem-gucci.html [https://perma.cc/J4XU-FK7N].↩
Julie Zerbo, ARCHIVE: Dapper Dan, Fashion Legend, Fashion Outlaw, The Fashion Law (May 19, 2017), http://www.thefashionlaw.com/home/dapper-dan-fashion-legend-fashion-outlaw [https://perma.cc/W4UF-RFCD].↩
Zerbo, supra note 2.↩
Tamara Abraham, Gucci Launches Dapper Dan Collaboration After Copycat Controversy, The Business of Fashion (Sept. 11, 2017), https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/news-bites/dapper-dan-stars-in-guccis-new-menswear-tailoring-campaign [https://perma.cc/8UAV-C86Q].↩
Cooper, supra note 1.↩
Zerbo, supra note 2.↩
Abraham, supra note 4.↩