Since 2016, the rise of “bootleg” garments and their recognition, acceptance and integration by luxury brands has created a surreal new trend, blurring the lines of traditional fashion almost unrecognisably. The reverberation between a designer brands seasonal release and the production of ‘fakes’ is difficult to follow, with every style seeker wanting a arbitrary collaboration on their chest, alongside replicas produced in China. The term bootleg has taken on a new meaning as a fashion joke, the only difference being, everyone wants in.

Calvin Klein – Made in China

We’re not just talking about blatant copies of luxury logos anymore, a new wave of artistic flare and innovation is born through the acceptance and adoption of bootleg culture in high-end fashion. This is trickling down to young creatives and sparking alternative influence on the power of today’s big name brands and juxtaposing use of their traditional logos. Rather than attempting to copy and destroy the impact of a designer product or brand for profit, todays Instagram savvy youth add a creative twist to the power of the brand logo, reinventing its impact to the masses. 

Vetements Spring Summer 16

Instagram has been crucial to the evolution from direct ‘fakes’ to artistic and beautiful designs that capitalise on the branding of a luxury fashion house. Influencers such as Shayne Oliver of Hood By Air, Demna Gvasalia of Vetements, and Virgil Abloh of Off-White as well as Alessandro Michele of a newly reformed Gucci broaden the horizons of what stands as fashion, becoming less about the tradition of a brand image and instead about the influence of youth innovation and creativity. These young artists recognise a new wave of fashion culture, with Off-White as a brand born from streetwear influence and styling the likes of Kanye West, who similarly embraces the bootleg culture selling an integrated mixture of bootleg items at his Pablo Pop-Up Merch Stores.

“Luxury isn’t about price anymore,”

said Gvasalia.

“It’s about scarcity.”

Vetements similarly embraced this with their ‘Official Fakes’ Collection pre Seoul Fashion Week in 2016, launching a whole range of specific items in a garage sale environment to mock their own knock-off collections, in the location most commonly known for doing so. The brand continues its essence of satire with its SS18 Look Book using a brutally realistic interpretation of ‘streetwear’ with models of all variety living their ordinary life in the actual streets of Zurich. 

Vetements SS18 Look Book


At Gucci, Michele shows how inviting your rival ‘bootleggers’ inside the design team adds a whole new creative edge to the brand, and accepts how it is ok to take bottom-up influence from someone who admires the infamous branding but has little to do with the commercial aspect of a super-brand. Gucci’s 2018 Cruise collection saw Michele mocking the bootleg industry with the spelling of Guccy [sic] providing an ever-satirical view on the cloning of his brand.

Gucci Cruise Collection 2018

Michele uses the power of Instagram to source young creatives to be a part of the Gucci story, having recently commissioned illustrations by artist @alexmerryart in the run up to the launch of the latest Gucci Homewares collection.

He also used the channel to locate his Gucci Jewellery artist @phannapast, a thai illustrator who creates images used to juxtapose the traditional Gucci monogram print.

Alongside @troubleandrew, a snowboarder and graffiti artist who began by creating his own ‘Gucci Graffiti Ghosts’, later to be adopted across Gucci’s AW16 collection and as a major style amongst the Gucci accessories collection. Ironically his designs have now trickled back down to the Chinese bootleg market, showing how the influence of bootleg designs really have come full circle. 

made it® #guccighost

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Influencers such as @avanope, now globally recognised for her mock up designer collaborations, was recently praised for her innovative creative eye when hired by Helmet Lang.

@gucci ❤ @barbie

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Although she stands as an original in the innovative Insta-game many others are following suit, with the likes of @superkreep & @vandythepink, taking Louis & Gucci vintage monogram inspiration to the next level to create highly sought after and beautifully instagrammable bootleg items.

#SuperKreep HI-TOPS

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who ready for this friday =͟͟͞͞ ( ꒪౪꒪) #july7

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@frecustoms follows suit, creating Gucci & Off-White mash-up sliders amongst other limited edition footwear,

and in the sportswear market @miniswoosh / @a_l_c_h_ runs the game. A Nike fanatic, she recreates all manner of items to birth a new branch of sports-luxe streetwear, proving again that love for a brand doesn’t necessarily stay within the realms of what they provide you to work with and wear, resulting in her curating a YOUTH collaboration with the brand.


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With influence from high-end satire, it is apparent in the modern fashion sphere the trickle up is now just as powerful as the trickle down, with these young artists re-influencing designers to take a more innovative and humorous view of how their traditional prints and designs can be used.

With this postmodernist view on the severity of fashion, comes the birth of a wealth of creative minds, using Instagram as a platform to share their admiration and creative take on traditional luxury branding. Fashion’s cultured youth of today are taking design in to their own hands. Unfortunately fast fashion is still giving bootleggers a bad name, and powerhouse brands like Gucci somehow find themselves fighting a losing battle with the likes of ‘Forever 21′. But the shift by the luxury industry to embrace youth innovators is readjusting our views on fashion today and this continued evolving change can only be positive.

By Alex Neilson-Clark (@alexncxx)

Fashion Editor

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