With 2016 coming to an end a couple of weeks ago, trend-spotters have turned back and attempted to find the year’s ultimate look. Fendi gave us bold coloured stripes in a classic fur. Givenchy revived the leopard print on oversized coats. Saint Laurent and Moschino brought back the pleather and satin ruching of the eighties in must-have cocktail dresses. 2016 revealed some interesting trends, but there was not one particular handbag, shoe or bomber jacket that could represent the fashionable year. One item that did stand out was the ever-faithful simple t-shirt. This year t-shirts were the backdrops to brand labels, band names and bold icons, and bootleg fashion became the new obsession. Instantly spreading across the fashion community, with a little help from social media, designers brought this classic street-wear look to the runway, some labels representing the brand itself, whilst others re-used iconic graphic designs and subverted them under their own brand names.
Fashion can be very exclusive. We know it has run on the undemocratic and elitist distinction of what some people can afford and what others cannot. It fuels certain trends, brands and the industry as a whole. There has often been a clear distinction from what comes from central London’s department stores and what’s from the East end’s thrift markets. But today, the distinction is in constant flux. Lines are being crossed, trends borrowed and different customers are accepting these re-invented labels.
It is impossible to talk about bootleg fashion without mentioning the popular French brand Vetements. Essentially one of the first brands that sported this look, the Parisian label has challenged our conceptions of what it means to be a sportswear brand and its place in not only a fashion world, but also in the arts industry and its connections to graphic design and popular culture. Remember that DHL t-shirt that was sprawled across social media, celebrity looks and fashion editorials? The one you loved to hate and hated to love? Vetements expanded the dimensions of fashion by transforming a famous everyday company’s uniform into a staple t-shirt. It was quickly recognised for its connections to Vetements rather than DHL itself. Thus, the fashion world made way for the bootleg baby boomers.
Dover Street Market was the next to follow. The high-end retail store started stocking a brand called Bootleg is Better, which included pop culture followings such as Seinfeld. Gucci then decided to jump on the bandwagon by collaborating with graffiti artist GucciGhost who spray painted purses and handbags with the word ‘real’ across them. The Italian brand released logo loaded t-shirts which paralleled to more popular findings from various market stalls. After this many fast fashion retailers continued to spread bootleg tees, from designer brands to celebrity merchandise. Kanye, Bieber and Drake, got involved and self-marketed through the bootleg trend.
Bootleg seems to makes luxury brands more accessible to everyone. But is that the message these labels were aiming for? Does wearing DHL really scream high-fashion? Or is it simply an ironic twist on what the fashion industry has become? And is their a loss of originality and authenticity when fashion houses recycle each other’s images? Either way, we do not see this popular trend ending here. The rapid spread of these adorable t-shirts create a more integrated view of fashion and a sense of a spreading and accepting youth culture. It seems as if fashion for the first time is encouraging reproduction and the sharing of styles. The possibility for these t-shirts to be easily copied and multiplied in various markets to a wide customer basis, bootleg is opening fashion to new horizons and is letting the consumer re-imagine the clothes in anyway they want. Speed is of the essence in bootleg fashion. Bored buyers will quickly turn to the next logo and proudly sport it across their chest.
Bootleg does have the underline message that everyone can have it. It appears equal and democratic; maybe this is modification to the line that separates high-end fashion from the rest. Underlining this trend though is the idea that logos inevitably aims to promote the brand, whether you are advertising your Florentine luxury label or your international express delivery surface. There is something slightly sinister about this which balances itself out in the bold colours and humorous irony of making the everyday a fashion statement. So what’s next for bootleg fashion? Balenciaga’s Autumn/Winter menswear collection recently shown in Paris, displayed long sleeve tees re-branding Bernie Sanders’ logo with the eponymous “Balenciaga 2017”, assuring us that the end of 2016 did not mean the end of bootleg fashion.
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