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Monday, 09 April 2018 14:09


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Fashion enthusiasts know that this is not anything new in the fashion. Bootleg fashion surfaced as early as 1982, becoming a popular street trend around 2016. It may not exactly have died as it continuously recurs, it also enjoyed some glory days being a hypebeast favorite. During the course of the years till present it has been there but mainly in underground fashion. Now its resurfaced slowly since December 2017, and in my opinion its back with a new twist and has caught attention  of high end fashion houses which are in-cooperating it in their new collection and recent campaigns.

By bootleg fashion i mean clothing that is creatively appropriated, with the logos slightly changed or popular phrases found on garments such as t-shirts, replaced with a new but similar phrase or a local phrase. Basically mimicking the original. Making it somewhat not illegal to distribute as it has a significant difference from the original but however still exhibits an illusion to make it seem as the original product. However some of the bootleg creators end up being slapped with MASSIVE lawsuits and seize and desist orders wiping them out of the picture. I am not talking about the bootleg that looks exactly as the original product, but manufactured by the black market and sold way cheaper to people who can not afford the original. The bootleg i am talking about is the bootleg that is made to purposely be characterized and seen as bootleg therefore leaving the buyer with the choice of whether to purchase it or not since they clearly know it's a bootleg.


No one really cared in the past. Only a few hypebeasts, fashion heads and the likes but never the mainstream or average person. Despite this, the person who i consider to have started with the bootlegging culture or rather one of the people to start it, was Dapper Dan


Dapper Dan's clients include Mike Tyson, Flloyd Money Mayweather Jr (who remains part of his private clientele up-to now), Eric B and Rakim, LL Cool J and more.

His popular boutique opened in Harlem in 1982, popular for making Louis Vuitton customs and bootleg Gucci logos and remixing luxury fashion in-cooperating his fly guy logomania. It was forced to close down in 1992 when most fashion houses whose logo he was ripping off began taking legal action resulting in raids to confiscate his bootleg creations. Shedding light on his opinion about this, Dapper Dan said, '' i didn't do knock offs, i did knock-ups ! ''

Some of the most popular bootleg fashion pieces to emerge from the street-wear world are the '' COMME des FUCKDOWN '' which was a creative appropriation derived from the high fashion house, Commes des Garcon.

Made extremely popular by ASAP Mob after wearing it in their 2012 VICE Shoot. ASAP Mob being highly influential rappers and fashion icons, them wearing it meant thousands of their followers seeking the same merch, hence building clientele for the bootleg street-wear. The same items, if hadn't been worn by Rocky and friends would likely been labelled corny and neglected. Christopher Shannon, menswear designer, also altered the Sports Direct logo to '' Lovers Direct '' and Timberland to '' Tumbleweed ''  Bootlegging in fashion has also been used to catch the attention of music merch lovers, through the creation of t-shirts such as the t-shirts printed THUGGER in the popular Thrasher font, produced by Honeymoon.  

Frank Ocean 'Nike' tees and also Death Row record tees by OKOKOK a Hong Kong street-wear brand. 

Africa also has popular bootleg clothing, created by Don Design, from South Africa by his brand Monday To Monday. He has received criticism by a lot of people in the earlier stages of his labels showcase, just like all the earlier bootleg fashion creators, but lately people are beginning to understand his creative direction which has caught the attention of many fashion lovers and was also featured in The Mail & Guardian. Here are some images of some of Don Designs creations, seen being worn by popular rapper AkA a lot. 


The current state of the whole bootlegging situation is a classic example of  'if you cant beat them join them '' Bootleg in fashion has surfaced into the mainstream and is not only known unto streetwear and the underground. Also termed 'Faux Fake' bootlegging since 2017 till now unlike in previous years, has caught  the attention of the most popular luxury brands. The whole bootlegging movement was made commercial and brought into the limelight and runway by Vetements founder and Balenciaga creative director: Demna Gvasalia, when he created the DHL bootleg t-shirts. 

Priced at a hefty GBP185, the Vetements x DHL, bootleg DHL t-shirt was first seen on 1 October 2015 on the Vetements Paris catwalk for SS16. DHL gave Demna the permission. In a few weeks these t-shirts were sold out and just like any other hyped item it was already being sold for higher profits by those who managed to get one for themselves, becoming a staple and must have for hypebeasts as street-wear pages on Instagram constantly flaunted them including street style model and blogger Margaret Zhang.

This marked the beginning of the current situation in the high fashion world in relation to this bootlegging trend.

Back in the day luxury fashion brands were quick to send 'cease and desist' letters to any bootleg suppliers and makers. Nowadays its different, they might work with you if they really love your 'bootlegging' designs, or rather use your ideas and wipe off your bootlegs off the market. For example Austin Butts, popularly known as @AssPizza on Instagram. Butts, a high-school dropout whom was 17 at that time and his friend Jonah Levine decided to sell fake Kanye West 'I Feel Like Pablo' merchandise outside the real pop up shop

which had a lot of kids present due to the hype that surrounds everything Kanye. Butts said the fake merch was USD20 a t-shirt but a bunch were given away in the line for free. T-shirts they had printed themselves by hand for fun. Kanye West's team found out and saw what was happening and loved the bootleg merch so much they offered Butts some authentic PABLO merch in-exchange for some bootleg gear, this bootleg gear was in turn sold alongside the real deal in the pop up. 


According to reports from Austin Butts, Kanye West loved it so much including the popular Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston.

Luxury brands lose billions of dollars to counterfeits and knock-offs. Luxury fashion brands have resorted to bootlegging themselves and creating bad versions of their own collections and logos which resemble fakes, only for SOME collections and campaigns. This means there is no more bootleg in theoretical sense because the original is now the bootleg lol. Its like hacking the fashion system. Don't get it twisted, the hefty price tags of the luxury brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuttion are not any lower because of them resembling bootlegs lol.  A classic example is how Alessandro Michele of Gucci evidently followed Demnas direction, creating a collection which is more of Gucci bootlegging itself, what Gucci describes as 'faux-real'. The Gucci logos on the t-shirts and hoodies from his Cruise 2017 loudly resembled bootleg Gucci logo prints that were popular  during the 1980s.

Even Dapper Dan said '' I was laughing and admiring what Gucci is doing now. Its so interesting. Its like, who's copying who ''? The Gucci Resort 2018 collection witnessed prints with Gucci spelt as 'GUCCY'.

A distinct bootleg trait which one would expect to see from a bootleg Gucci t-shirt which would have removed the 'i' inserting a 'y' to misspell the brand name in order to avoid lawsuits. Gucci also copied Dapper Dan's balloned sleeve jacket and put it on the runway for its cruise 2018 collection

Hence receiving heavy criticism and backlash as fashion enthusiasts who knew the design was originally a remix/bootleg created by Dapper Dan long ago using Louis Vuitton material instead as seen in the image below 

The only difference was this was not bootleg clothing, it was a real Gucci faux fake collection witnessed on the runway, if you cant beat them, join them. Gucci however replied to the backlash, saying it was not a rip-off, but instead 'homage' to Dapper Dan.

This in my opinion is a brilliant strategy, rather make money off the knock offs by creating the knock offs knock off yourself and selling it for a higher price. In this case one could say Gucci was knocking off Dapper Dan lol. What also shows the shift of tolerance and ways of dealing with bootlegs by luxury fashion brands, is that Gucci as reported in 2017, officially partnered up with Dapper Dan himself after the accusations of Gucci stealing his design. Dapper Dan was to reopen his boutique

This time with the permission and help of Gucci which would provide him with materials and the stuff he needs. Basically creating legal and authentic high end and limited Dapper Dan Gucci customs fit to customer specifications and needs. This to me seemed more like damage control than a legit partnership. I feel like due to the backlash Gucci had to take this gesture.

Another notable 2018 moment that highlighted the attention bootleg fashion has been getting from the biggest brands and the most bootlegged brands, is DIESEL's stunt. Like I said earlier, if you can't beat them, join them. Bootlegs and counterfeit markets affect any brand negatively, and like I mentioned earlier in this post, luxury brands obviously know that it's nearly impossible to stop the counterfeit market, so along side trying, applying the bootleg concept to the authentic products has surfaced from major fashion houses in the past months.

DIESEL recently opened a deceptive bootleg pop-up store in New York's SoHo

Selling bootlegs created by the brand itself. Yes, you read right. The clothing being sold in the store resembled the typical bootleg corner store selling all your favorite designer clothing at 5% of the original price lol. Hardly organized as the typical DIESEL store, boxes were placed in the store pilled with authentic bootleg clothing, SALE posters all over the store, signs written in handwriting stating " we sell jeans too " 

Something luxury brands would never dare do, t-shirts and jeans hanging from outside the store and considering it was New York Fashion week, one would swear that the store was straight up a bootleg DIESEL store. The only difference between the authentic DIESEL products was the tag, it was slightly misspelled, like the typical bootleg product, instead of DIESEL, the tag was written DEISEL.

The store raised a lot of red flags the moment it was launched, with hypebeasts and fashion enthusiasts obviously ignoring it. It was only until DIESEL itself confirmed the authenticity of the store which resulted in thousands of people lining outside the store trying to get a pieces of the authentic bootleg clothing which was going to go down as " rare/special " DIESEL clothing pieces as the store was only open for about two days only. Celebrities such as Gucci Mane made an appearance too.

Resellers have a good eye for spotting products that have potential to be most sought after a few days of retail release. According to Highsnobiety, DIESEL CEO Renzo Rosso expressed how surprised he was that some of the products were already being flipped by resellers on eBay for around USD500 whilst tshirts retailed at USD60 and hoodies USD20 at retail.

In my opinion this campaign by DIESEL was great, especially to have some attention shifted to the brand as a whole. Luxury brands tend to become household names, some even become boring, but they'll never go out of business because their brand has been set and built on a very strong foundation with ride or die consumers.


Bootleg clothing in the fashion world is something has this far proven itself to be a "trend" that will not completely die and has proven problematic. It HAS been around since Dapper Dan days, till now. Coming into the lime light from time to time. Like a dormant volcano which erupts from time to time. I personally feel like luxury brand creative directors, have began following in the path that Demna Gvasalia arguably paved in the fashion world (commercially and on the runway). Instead of focusing on only fighting counterfeits day and night, being innovative enough to derive ideas from counterfeits, the concept that impressed me most is luxury brands bootlegging their own clothing. It would be very interesting if people were to bootleg a bootleg lol. However it's obvious that even after all this, luxury brands won't necessarily stop the counterfeit and bootleg market anytime soon, because authentic bootlegs most of the time such as that in the case of Gucci, cost just as hefty as the typical Gucci clothing. As much as fashion brands lose billions of dollars in illegal bootlegs, at least now they are gaining something from it. Especially considering that we're within a time that has seen logos making their way to the runway stronger and more visible than ever.

Lastly authentic bootleg fashion might just become more and more acceptable the more it is put on the runway, and the more celebrities openly embrace it therefore showing some sort of " approval " to the masses,but only time will tell ! Because chances are just as high it may go back to being dormant.





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