Fashion is cyclical. What’s hot now — 90s-inspired fashion — will likely be hot again in two decades. Because as the great poet Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones once rhymed, “no idea’s original” and “there’s nothing new under the sun.” But things get tricky when it’s a multi-billion dollar fashion house ripping off a style icon they once called the Feds on over copyright infringement.
That appears to be the case with Gucci and legendary hip-hop tailor to the stars, Dapper Dan. The designer made a name for himself in the 80s by creatively blending luxury and cool with his logo-heavy outfits at a time when luxury brands like Gucci paid the hip-hop culture dust. When Big Daddy Kane, Eric B & Rakim, and LL Cool J needed flashy duds that said, “I’m cool, and I’m rich,” Dapper Dan was the man. From his Harlem shop, the clothier created iconic one-off looks using bootleg Gucci, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton fabrics.
Fast forward to 2018, and Gucci is facing backlash for one of their Cruise 2018 designs that seemingly rips off a haute couture creation Dapper Dan made for Olympic gold medalist Diane Dixon in 1989. Dapper Dan’s jacket features puffy Louis Vuitton-monogrammed sleeves with a furry lining. Gucci’s iteration features Gucci-monogrammed sleeves with a furry lining. After comparison shots went viral, Gucci is now acknowledging the similarities by claiming they are simply paying homage to the tailor.
Inside the #GucciCruise18 collection by #AlessandroMichele, a look that celebrates an iconic style of hip-hop fashion culture from the 80s—a plush jacket featuring puffy sleeves monogrammed in GG motif. Legendary tailor Dapper Dan @dapperdanharlem influenced the trend by making such custom pieces for his rapper and athlete clients out of logos from famous fashion houses, including #Gucci. In a homage to Dapper Dan, this jacket worn with jeans and a lurex headpiece is flanked with a striped knit with cross-stitch embroidery, cotton shorts and a georgette gown with trompe l’oeil details.
The times have clearly changed. Back in the day, big brands fired off letters rather than reaching out to Dapper Dan and using the opportunity to work with him and to better understand the culture that was enamored with luxury items (or labels). Feds raided Dapper Dan’s shop so many times that in 1992 he had no choice but to shut down.
Obviously, a shoutout is cool and everything, but compensation is always better. It’s unknown whether Gucci reached out to Dapper Dan before the show or if they cut a check. Still, it’s nice to see the designer finally getting his love… 25 years later.
At the end of the day, Dapper Dan made luxury brands relevant to a generation that wasn’t looking at Vogue magazine for the latest, and even so, it didn’t reflect the style that made Dapper Dan’s clothes cool. Luxury fashion houses are popular today with trendsetters like Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, and Kanye West because of the lane Dapper Dan carved.