Gucci and Dapper Dan: It's Complicated
Gucci fell under fire this past May when it presented a mink jacket featuring puffed logo sleeves in their Cruise 2018 collection. The internet exploded, instantly recognizing the jacket as a ripoff of storied Harlem designer Dapper Dan who created the style in 1989 for Olympian Diane Dixon.
Gucci issued an explanation via Instagram, citing 80s hip-hop fashion and the influence of Dapper Dan as inspo for the mink jacket. Although they acknowledged that the piece was supposed to play homage to the Harlem designer, they never involved him in the process and made no apology for creating a near-carbon copy of the 80s original. Yet another instance of black creatives being robbed of their credit and influence, it contributes to the erasure of their narrative.
There are several layers of irony at play here because Gucci could have never incorporated (or even appropriated) elements of hip-hop fashion had this narrative never existed. In the 80s and 90s, Dapper Dan repurposed logo fabrics from houses like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Fendi at his Harlem boutique on 125th Street. He created looks for hip-hop power players, inviting them into the luxury scene long before fashion houses were reaching out.
These same brands shut down his creative operation in the early 90s with a lawsuit predicated on the basis that he was using their logos for pieces they hadn’t commissioned and weren’t profiting from. And so, history repeats itself — Gucci used Dapper Dan’s silhouette and attribution was an afterthought, which is almost indefensible for a company of Gucci’s size. What was there for Gucci to gain from this blatant bootleg?
We’ll never know if it was premeditated, but the debacle put Dapper Dan and Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele in contact. This week, the fashion house announced that Dapper Dan would be the face of their Autumn/Winter 2017 Menswear Campaign, set in Harlem where his boutique made waves 25 years ago.
This may be a way for Gucci to pay their dues to the designer, but it’s apparent that there are no hard feelings. In an interview with the New York Times, Dapper Dan said, “The public was more up in arms than me,” and that he and Michele were able to connect through similar experiences.
The next step? Gucci will be powering the reboot of Dapper Dan’s Harlem boutique, and a collaborative Gucci capsule collection is on the horizon. “I think that would be doing a disservice to the culture that I am a part of to accept anything less than what Alessandro has offered me,” Dapper Dan said to the Times. “What I’m most excited about is being able to work in the open.”
Images via Gucci, Complex, and The Cut
Stay tuned to Milk for more Dapper Dan x Gucci updates.