Gucci’s Fall 2017 Tailoring Campaign Stars Its Greatest Forger
As far as “fake it 'til you make it” stories go, Daniel Day's is tough to top.
Day, who's better known as Dapper Dan, is the star of the campaign for Gucci's fall/winter 2017 men's tailoring collection, which was launched earlier this week, September 10. In it, he wears the Italian fashion house's crisp new suits—which seem to have a motif of large windowpane checks, embroidered bee patterns, and accent piping—on the streets of Harlem.
But before Dapper Dan was a face of Gucci, he was downtown New York’s most well-known couturier, to whom celebrities, hip-hop artists, and athletes turned for custom designs with unauthorized luxury label logos. Dan would take Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Gucci logos, prints, and patterns, and use them to make his own jackets, tracksuits, and just about anything else that his clients would request, which were usually the popular silhouettes in hip-hop culture at the time. Decades ahead of an era when Supreme and Louis Vuitton would work on a collection together, Dapper Dan was already an intersection of high fashion and streetwear.
Of course, his use of other brands’ logos would eventually catch up with him. Dan ran his boutique for 10 years between 1982 and 1992 before the labels—including Gucci—sued him out of it for infringement. Since then, Dapper Dan ran a more low-key operation, servicing private clients including, according to The New York Times, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
But earlier this year, in a bizarre turn of events, Gucci referenced his work in its cruise 2018 collection. The puffy, printed sleeves that Gucci debuted on the runway were, as it turned out, similar to a piece that Dapper Dan made for Olympic track star Diane Dixon back in the ’80s, but using Louis Vuitton logos:
"Bish" stole my look! Give credit to @dapperdanharlem He did it FIRST in 1989! #gucci #GucciRipOff Now they get it! Long time overdue! @iamaprilwalker @tammyfordagency #DesignerWars #louisvuitton #LouisVuittonMinkJacket #dianedixonolympian @usmarothonmann @677flycreative @pam_boy @spaceodditykelly @i_am_audrey_ #dapperdanharlem @tom.prior @balleralert @theshaderoom
Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, even said that it was a way of paying homage to Dapper Dan's work. But of course the result, as always, was an angry Internet. Teen Vogue even called Gucci out for appropriating African-American culture, as in the allegory of Jordan Peele’s Get Out.
So Dapper Dan copied Gucci, and then decades later, Gucci copied Dapper Dan.
Now, months after, it appears that the two are working together.
Public opinion on the matter has been split between outrage that Gucci would legitimize a plagiarist who they once sued, and praise that after everything they’ve been through, Dapper Dan is finally getting the recognition he deserves. But perhaps that they’ve reached an amicable arrangement is itself something to be satisfied with. The lines between appropriation and referencing, homage and plagiarism, can sometimes be thin and easy to cross, and the fashion industry doesn’t need any more petty acrimony.