In the fledgling days of hip-hop culture, rappers and fashion brands couldn’t be further apart. Legends like Slick Rick dropped lines about wearing Bally shoes, but he was never sponsored by the label. Fashion brands remained in the realm of high-class luxury, and the burgeoning emcees of the genre merely flexed that they made enough money to afford them, as opposed to being floated stuff for free.
Long before it was common to see rappers in fashion campaigns and fashion knowledge was a flex in the culture, seminal acts like Eric B. and Rakim appeared on the cover of their 1987 album Paid In Full in custom Gucci tracksuits, signifying the work of Harlem tailor Dapper Dan.
Dapper Dan was known for making custom kits out of fabrics from houses like Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Gucci. But unfortunately, he was eventually shut down in a raid by an anti-counterfeiting squad, who viewed his work as infringing on intellectual property, instead of what he was really doing–translating aspirational high-fashion into street-ready silhouettes.
One look in particular stood out in Alessandro Michele’s recent Gucci Cruise collection: A puffy-shouldered fur jacket with all-over monogrammed sleeves. It’s eerily similar to a jacket Dapper Dan once produced—albeit using Louis Vuitton’s signature monogram motif.
Stylist Jordan Page first pointed out the similarities between the two:
Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele is no stranger to toeing the line between bootleg fashion and legit products, so it’s not all that surprising. After all, the Italian fashion house did an entire collaboration with Gucci Ghost based around the uncanny valley between “real” Gucci and its bootleg counterparts. But in this particular instance, it’s unclear if Dapper Dan will reap the similar benefits of being legitimized by the house.
Considering Dapper Dan’s influence in distilling the essence of upscale fashion houses into pieces that turn heads in Harlem and beyond, it’s surprising that no fashion brand has tapped his legacy in an official capacity for a licensed collab. If there were ever a time to do it, it would be now. But Michele’s recent collection cuts a little too close to Dapper Dan’s work to be considered pure coincidence.
For more on the tenuous relationship between knockoffs and high fashion, check out this story on that time Louis Vuitton sued Supreme.