When Gucci allegedly ‘sponged’ a design from Harlem imitation artist Dapper Dan, on its coast catwalk, critics were quick to point it out. But is it possible to bootleg a bootleg?

Homage or copy? Why fashion (especially Gucci) loves Dapper Dan

Gucci Voyage 2018 – Runway
FLORENCE, ITALY – MAY 29: A model treads the runway at the Gucci Cruise 2018 show at Palazzo Pitti on May 29, 2017 in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Pietro D’Aprano/Getty Icons)
Photograph: Pietro D’Aprano/Getty Images

Tribute or copy? Why fashion (especially Gucci) loves Dapper Dan

When Gucci allegedly ‘drew’ a design from Harlem imitation artist Dapper Dan, on its journey catwalk, critics were quick to point it out. But is it possible to bootleg a bootleg?

There were 115 looks in Gucci’s retreat show this week, but skip to No 33 for the top-line facts. Model Alana Henry is wearing skinny jeans, gold enormous heels, a turban and 70s-style sunglasses. It is her jacket that is generating controversy – with its fur body and super-sized leg-o’-mutton sleeves made of lambent fabric covered with Gucci’s famous double-G monogram. On beginning viewing, it looked like luxe bordering on the absurd – AKA model in creative director Alessandro Michele’s world – but a closer look, ground on social media, showed it to be remarkably similar to another originator, one more known for his cult appeal than catwalk plays: Dapper Dan.

Salt-N-Pepa in Dapper Dan.

Salt-N-Pepa in Dapper Dan. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Materializations

Dubbed a “natural born hustler” by Dazed & Confused and a “population artist” by Pharrell Williams, Dapper Dan – or Daniel Day, to give him his true name – served hip-hop stars and the Harlem community with togging throughout the 80s, with heavily monogrammed designs using the bootlegged logos of splendour brands including Louis Vuitton, Fendi and – here’s the bond – Gucci. Clients included Mike Tyson, Nelly, LL Unwelcoming J, former drug dealer Alberto Martinez and Eric B & Rakim, who wore complementary Dapper Dan jackets on the cover of their classic 1987 album Pay up in Full. Henry’s jacket has been compared to a Day design hinted with Louis Vuitton fabric for Olympic runner Diane Dixon in 1989 by Dixon herself. On Instagram, she legged an image of herself in her jacket with the Gucci design next to it, script: “‘Bish’ stole my look! Give credit to @dapperdanharlem He did it At the start in 1989!”

The influence on the Louis Vuitton autumn/winter 2017catwalk.

The influence on the Louis Vuitton autumn/winter 2017catwalk. Photograph: Winner Boyko/Getty Images

You have to see that Dixon has a application – logo aside, the two jackets look strikingly similar. Gucci has since acknowledged the occurrence. In a statement, the move was described as part of a collection that is “a continuation of Alessandro Michele’s reconnaissance of faux-real culture with a series of pieces playing on the Gucci logo and monogram” Mediocre play when you look at the theme of this collection, which also take ins the “Guccy” T-shirt that has gone viral. Michele credits Spruce Dan as an essential influence. The jacket in question is described as “an homage to the knead of the renowned Harlem tailor Daniel ‘Dapper Dan’ Day and in celebration of the sophistication of that era in Harlem”.

That era – from 1982 until the closure of Snazzy Dan’s Boutique in 1992 owing to the inevitable lawsuits by luxury varieties – saw Day make tens of thousands of dollars at the peak of the business. This was throughout a style that could most easily be described as rococo – those logos, lots of fur and sharp suits – resourceful and enterprising. The clothes were often made using garment beasts from Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Fendi stores, continually spliced together with customised fur coats. At one point, Day offered a navy to brand cars with the Gucci or Fendi logo. This look sued to hip-hop stars, and also to what the New Yorker described in 2013 as “a new times of kingpins and mini-kingpins” of the 80s crack boom. In a feature about Day, the arsenal quoted former drug dealer Azie Faison on the invite of Day: luxurious symbols of wealth tweaked for a customer who might tone alienated from the ‘real’ thing found in uptown boutiques in typically drained neighbourhoods. It was expensive, too. “You had to pay on the same level as if it was from Gucci,” he believed. “So it is Gucci, to us.” Rapper Fat Joe later commented on people’s reactions to him enervate a Dapper Dan suit to a club before he was famous. “They were looking at me, with, ‘Who is this? He gotta be somebody.’”

Fast forward to 2017, and the authentic Gucci is getting in touch with Day – and not to serve him papers this beforehand. In the house’s statement, it was revealed that Michele had approached Day to join forces, but without success – probably becauseMichele would have had to be with an orderly queue of others wanting to do the same.

Marc Jacobs is a fan of Day, as is David LaChapelle, who was positively influenced by him when creating an image of Lil Kim naked except for the Louis Vuitton monogram in 2004. Louis Vuitton’s menswear creator Kim Jones most recently cited Day as an influence for his autumn/winter 2017 garnering, which included a logo-heavy, internet-breaking collaboration with Outstanding. This all makes sense: Day’s work chimes with Michele, but also with a wider new preoccupation in make for overt logos and branding, seen at Louis Vuitton but also Balenciaga, Christian Dior and Vetements. Now in his near the start 70s, Day could well enjoy a second coming in style this year. Preordained his design sensibility, a collaboration with one of the logos he bootlegged so yearn ago can’t be far away.