Gucci is found Appropriating New York Fashion Legend Dapper Dan

Last week Gucci unveiled its Cruise 2018 collection at the Palatina Gallery in Florence, Italy. The new collection, inspired by antique garments from the 1960s and 1970s, has sparked controversy for all the wrong reasons. A women’s jacket features an extreme likeness to a Dapper Dan original design.

Dapper Dan was known in the 80’s and 90’s for creating custom apparel for world-famous entertainers. His designs were often donned on with different high-end fabrics and brands. Dapper Dan influenced a generation of stylists and fashionistas.

Regarded as a pioneer in the fashion world, the Harlem native was one of the first stylists to ever work with hip-hop artists, creating custom pieces for the likes of Eric B. and Rakim, LL Cool J, and even sports athletes such as Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather Jr., among others.

The Gucci jacket received plenty of flack online due to its similar look to a Dapper Dan piece people were quick to call out Gucci’s creative designer, Alessandro Michele, for copying a jacket Dan created back in the days for Olympic medalist Diane Dixon.

Original Dapper Dan design (to the right) and 2018 Gucci Cruise design (to the left)

Gucci responded with a representative telling the New York Times that the collection was a continuation of creative director Alessandro Michele’s exploration of popular culture and that the look was an homage rather than re-appropriation. As for whether the brand has spoken to the original designer, they are waiting to hear back. “Alessandro is interested in a collaboration with Daniel Day that would celebrate the influence his creations had on fashion and hip hop culture in the 80s.”

But, there is a stark difference between appreciation and appropriation. Appreciation means you have taken the time to have a dialogue with that culture, have researched it, maybe worked with them. The end result should always be a win win for all parties, you should walk away having enlightened yourself and enlightened the other party. Appreciation would mean to get on flight and meet Dapper Dan, research his archives maybe co-design something. Or flying him in and sit him on the front row as you are paying homage to his work. Appropriation is surface, shallow and copy paste something in the hope that it adds to your street cred and sucking the life out of what you are representing.

Jelani Arthur Williamson

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