Appropriate style or style appropriation

by Sid Feddema

A preview of upcoming fashion conversation panel "Clothing & Race" at Junior High

Harlem fashion pioneer Dapper Dan—whose many devotees during the 80s included LL Cool J and Mike Tyson—was sued out of business by big name fashion houses in 1992 for designing pieces like a jacket with Michelin Man-esque sleeves emblazoned with Louis Vuitton’s trademark brown and tan logo pattern, copyright be damned.

But fashion is cyclical and life is ironic. Last week Gucci provoked a viral backlash  with a jacket from their 2018 cruise collection that looks practically identical to Dapper Dan’s 1989 piece, but with the Gucci logo in place of that famed LV. 

A day later, Gucci declared that the piece was “an homage” to the fearless designer, and Dapper Dan announced that he is “at the table” on a collaboration with the brand. Nonetheless, this is not the first time that a fashion brand has evoked a problematic conversation about race and appropriation.

These important nuances and recent events will almost certainly be discussed at “Clothing & Race,” part one of a three-part summer panel series on clothing and its social complexities at East Hollywood community art space Junior High. The June 11th event will put Rikki Byrd, fashion and African American studies scholar and Art Basel-featured researcher, and Charles Harbison, gender dichotomy-blurring designer whose clothes have graced the backs of Beyoncé and Solange, in conversation with each other. No doubt the two will have plenty of things to chat about.

Written by Kylie Obermeier