Did Gucci Copy ‘Dapper Dan’? Or Was It ‘Homage’?

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Did Gucci Copy ‘Dapper Dan’? Or Was It ‘Homage’?

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Who knocks off the knockers-off? Who bootlegs the bootleggers?

It is not quite as Juvenal, the great Roman satirist, once put it (“who watches the watchmen?”), but then, it was not quite Rome, either. It was in Florence, Italy, earlier this week, at a Gucci fashion show, that the question arose.

Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s magpie creative director, whose taste for mixing and mingling wildly disparate elements is his signature, was staging his cruise collection show, a hodgepodge of Renaissance, 1980s and street wear references, half gilded, half granny, half gamine. (That’s three halves, but more is more in Mr. Michele’s saturated world.)

Among the show’s 115 looks, one stood out to many observers: a fur-paneled bomber jacket with enormous balloon sleeves in the Gucci double-G logo.

It looked, as online pundits quickly pointed out, just like one designed by Daniel Day, better known as the imitation artist Dapper Dan, whose Harlem boutique was, in the 1980s and early ’90s, the go-to for rappers, gangsters, boxers and anyone else looking for even more Gucci, Fendi and Louis Vuitton than could be found at Gucci, Fendi or Louis Vuitton. His 125th Street shop and atelier was, at times, open 24 hours a day. (The original Dapper Dan jacket, made for the Olympic gold medalist Diane Dixon, in 1989, had LV-logo sleeves.)

With his jacket, Mr. Michele is effectively reappropriating the appropriation, with all the tangled politics and ethics that that would imply. Critics on social media voiced their displeasure; Ms. Dixon herself posted photographs of the two jackets side by side and asked that credit be given to Mr. Day.

Gucci does not dispute that the jacket, Look No. 33, is a homage.

In a statement, the company said, “Gucci’s ‘new Renaissance’ cruise 2018 fashion show included references to periods of revitalization spanning many different eras, in particular the European Renaissance, the ’70s and the ’80s. The collection also saw a continuation of Alessandro Michele’s exploration of faux-real culture with a series of pieces playing on the Gucci logo and monogram, including a puff-sleeved bomber jacket from the 1980s in an homage to the work of the renowned Harlem tailor Daniel ‘Dapper Dan’ Day and in celebration of the culture of that era in Harlem.”

A Gucci spokesman said that the brand has tried to contact Mr. Day, so far without success, and that Mr. Michele was interested in a collaboration with him that would celebrate the influence he had on fashion and hip-hop culture in the 1980s.

Interactive Feature | dapper dan

Mr. Day, and his son and brand manager, Jelani Day, declined to comment for this article.

In his career, Mr. Day, who magnified luxury brands’ logomania to larger-than-life proportions, essentially elevated the knockoff to an art unto itself: fashion as sampling.

He began by repurposing existing branded items, including garment bags, but eventually moved on to screen-printing brand logos himself, Gucci among them (see, for example, the cover of Eric B. and Rakim’s album “Paid in Full”). Some labels, unsurprisingly, objected; Mr. Day was sued, and the store was occasionally raided. The Dapper Dan boutique closed in 1992.

It may, in fact, be a case of fashion catching up to him. “I never designed anything” that the luxury houses would think of, he told New York magazine in 2015. “I was too cutting-edge for that.”

Interactive Feature | The Open Thread Fashion Newsletter A look from across The New York Times at the forces that shape the dress codes we share, with Vanessa Friedman as your personal shopper. Sent weekly.

While counterfeiting remains a thorn in the side of luxury brands, there has also increasingly been a more playful approach taken (in certain cases) by the industry. In January, Louis Vuitton unveiled a collaboration with the skate brand Supreme. Both sides had seemingly agreed to forget that, years earlier, Louis Vuitton had ordered Supreme to cease and desist from using a pattern similar to its monogram.

At Gucci, Mr. Michele has toggled between the real and the fake with aplomb. It is enough to scramble the minds of copyright lawyers and epistemologists alike. Several pieces in the cruise collection bore the label “GUCCY,” playing on the law-dodging misspellings sometimes used by knockoff artists: a faux real, for real.

And when Mr. Michele discovered Trevor Andrew, a New York artist, making and selling his own fake Gucci items as “GucciGhost,” he did not sue. He brought him into the fold.

GucciGhost became a successful capsule collection in 2016.

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