Gucci delivered a buzzworthy Cruise 2018 show over the weekend, but one look in particular stood out.
Fans of hip-hop and hip-hop history might recognized Gucci’s Cruise 2018 mixed leather and fur jacket with statement puff sleeves as being a direct copy of an iconic creation by Dapper Dan. Vogue called the look an “ode to copycat culture,” but is this tribute minimizing the creativity and contributions of artists like Dapper Dan?
Dapper Dan aka Daniel Day was a Harlem-based outfitter who dressed some of rap music’s biggest stars in the 80s and early 90s. If you’ve ever come across an old school photo of LL Cool J or Big Daddy Kane, odds are, you were also looking at a Dapper Dan creation.
While Day was trained as a furrier and custom tailor, some of his best known creations were custom jackets, shirts, and two-piece outfits bearing designer logos from brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and MCM.
In 1992, Day was forced to shut down his shop after labels began taking legal action against him and he was raided by U.S. Marshals. Today, Day still creates custom work, his most notable client is Floyd Mayweather.
In a 2014 interview with Dazed Digital, Day asserted his place in fashion history, and even claimed that luxury brands were copying him.
Unsurprisingly, Day was right. In the years since his shop was shut down, luxury brands, which were traditionally very selective about where they placed their logos (reserving them mostly for leather goods), have released distinctively logoed items, from t-shirts, to outerwear, to sporting goods. Designer labels are even collaborating with street artists and streetwear brands for ironic takes on their iconic logos — most recently Gucci teamed up with artist Trevor Andrew, aka Trouble Andrew, and Louis Vuitton joined forces to cult streetwear brand Supreme. Knockoff t-shirts from the 80s and 90s are hot property in vintage stores and auction sites like Ebay, Gucci even embraced the fakery by creating t-shirts that riff off of those copycat pieces. The Louis Vuitton x Supreme collaboration comes 17 years after Louis Vuitton sued Supreme for using its logo without authorization on a set of skate decks beanies, beanies, and t-shirts.
Copyright aside, there’s also the looming issue of race. Dapper Dan was appropriating logos that were often associated with a white, wealthy crowd and transforming them into streetwear for his mostly black clientele — which likely troubled many European heritage brands. Since then (some) luxury labels have made efforts to appear progressive and embrace hip-hop music and African-American culture. In 2009, Kanye West collaborated with Louis Vuitton. West. The self-proclaimed “The Louis Vuitton Don,” often sported the brand and rapped about it in the early years of his career. Beyoncé, who maintains a partnership with Gucci, featured looks from the label in her 2016 music video for “Formation.” Her entire family is also regularly outfitted in Gucci for red carpets and other public appearances.
Over the past few seasons, under recently appointed creative director Alessandro Michele, Gucci has forged a bold new design direction and embraced diversity. For the Pre-Fall 2017 season, Gucci even cast an all-black campaign, drawing inspiraton from the black British soul scene of the 1970s.
Despite Gucci’s best efforts, it’s important to remember that representation is not the be-all and end-all of the diversity conversation. Black creators and fashion pioneers like Dapper Dan are still fighting for the credit that they deserve.