It’s Legit OK To Wear Knock-Offs Now
The Debrief: Muddying the line between artisanal and bootleg, there’s a new breed of artists out there making a mockery of high fashion
Ever heard of the expression ‘100% real fake’? It was the war cry of the brand Shirt NYC, which this past weekend in New York debuted the ultimate sportswear label mash-up. Something akin to what Duchamp might have done if he was around today and into fashion, Shirt NYC sold tops and slides decorated in Nike and adidas’ logos. Between Gucci’s branded tees and everyone hot footing it to Ebay to buy J’Adore Dior tees, logomania has gone to the style sets heads. And, this is case in point. That said, it was a baller move, one that was irreverent and downright suable to sell a collection that was branded with these powerhouse labels’ logos without their permission. Ironically though, it wasn’t even a particularly original move either.
Cheeky Sydney-born creative Ava Nirui has made ripping off designers into an art form. By day she is a writer and photographer, but on Instagram, she is famous for creating arresting bootleg creations. She pokes fun at the sacred, untouchable aura that surrounds high fashion. Familiar brands are her trigger, but her work is conceptual. She makes Dickies mom jeans encrusted with crystals that spell out ‘Just Don’t’ with a tick and riffs on Anya Hindmarch’s crisp packet clutches by transforming a pack of Lays into a shoulder bag with a gold chain. She's refashioned Diadora’s logo to spell Christian Dior on sweatshirts and decorated an inhaler with gemstones and a Prada emblem. No brand is too precious, and no item is too mundane to be reimagined by Ava. Her handmade copies honour the brands and their heritage while mocking their precious nature.
‘It’s so interesting how a tag, logo or design can change the way you view an object, garment or product (even if it isn’t authentic). To me, a bootleg can be just as rare, desirable and sought after as the real thing. I don’t necessarily seek out knock-offs (most of the objects on my Instagram are those I have created) but if I do see an interesting or unique bootleg, I’ll buy it.’ She told Dazed.
She uses heritage brands as they are most familiar and recognisable in their design and iconography. She said: ‘luxury fashion is sterile, expensive and exclusive so to create luxury versions of cheap everyday objects is unrealistic therefore humorous. It’s the dramatic contrast between the high-end and the low-end. Most of the branded products I’m repurposing are completely valueless until they appear in a different context.
Ava isn’t the only one making waves with her copycat concepts. The menswear designer Alexandria Louise Champion Hackett has been fashioning her own clothing out of recognisable packing. She’s made Ikea bags into a dress and bucket hat and recoded a McDonald's takeout bag into a handbag. Alexandra’s most famous piece, the one that shot her to Instagram fame and placed her image on Nike’s homepage, is a pair of made-to-order dungarees tailored out of a single Nike duffle bag and gym sack. The finishings are so slick that a quick glance and you’d just assume the sportswear brand themselves made it. But no, this is a 100% real fake and sits on the precipice between DIY art and fashion.
While high-end designers still take copycat makers to court over small infractions, they have taken kindly in recent years to the eruption of cheap(ish) parody items. Remember the rise of the ‘Comme Des Fuckdown’ beanies or the t-shirt riffing on the Hermes logo that spelt out 'Homies'? The popularity of these spoof pieces and the lack of cease and desist letters questions whether they fuels or sets fire to the pedestal that keeps these high-end lines untouchable. After all, labels like Gucci, Vetements and even to some extent Louis Vuitton and Hermes are banking buck off the back of this DIY culture.
In the 1980s, Dapper Dan was a Harlem-based couturier to some of the hip-hop and the sports world's biggest hustlers. People like LL Cool J would drop by looking to invest in Dapper Dan’s brand of designer, which was flashy and statement-making not least because it was tailored out of leathers that he’d printed with fake designer logos. He hates the term ‘knock-offs’ and prefers to call his designs ‘knock-ups!’, he told Dazed. Dapper Dan may have made fakes, but they filled a logo-tastic gap that European designers weren’t catering to.
When Vetements showed in spring 2016 a yellow t-shirt emblazoned with the DHL logo no-one cried fake. In fact, the t-shirt became the star of the collection and was famously worn by the shipping company’s CEO Ken Allen. While copying a brands silhouette, fabrication and concept is still conscribed as liable, in the right hands, artists and designers are now able to recontextualise logos. They are swimming through the murky waters of branding to creating a new ideology. The axis of marketing has turned and a new slate where DIY remodelling and dream designer collaborations can occur.
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