With NYFW just kicking off, fashion houses from all over have come together in NYC this week to showcase their Spring/Summer designs.
On Saturday, NYFW: The Shows partnered with Far Fetch to host a discussion panel entitled “The Talks: The Anatomy of Collaboration and Activism in Fashion”. The panel, moderated by Hot 97’s Miss Info, included Harlem designer Dapper Dan and Jon Caramanica of The New York Times.
The conversation explores the “creative forces and origin stories behind the most in-demand collections”. Dapper Dan, a fixture in the fashion community who is known for creating luxury streetwear for Hip-Hop artists throughout the 80’s, recently began working with Gucci to release a collection solely inspired by the designer’s popular “bootleg” trend that’s beginning to be incorporated in the designs of many fashion houses. However, when asked about his influence in the “bootleg” or “knock-off” trend, Dapper Dan made it a point to emphasize that his work has always been the latter and never the former.
“A bootleg is when you take something that looks exactly like the brand, basically imitation. A knock-off is recreating it in a way that not even the brand had the slightest idea of its potential,” he said.
Staying on the topic of collaboration, Dapper Dan also expressed his take on the importance of a symbolism not only in fashion but in branding, stating that “a symbol is much more important than a brand”. Big companies collaborate with public figures to make them the face of their brand all the time and those collaborations may not always be for a specific product. When asked about the risks and benefits of brand representation, Dapper Dan stressed how essential it is for a brand to withstand anything negative or positive that may become associated with it. Using Nike and Colin Kaepernick’s recent controversial partnership as a reference, Dapper Dan firmly believes that “you have to build a brand on integrity”.
In terms of collaboration, Dapper Dan revealed what he enjoys most about it. “It brings people together. It gives people an appreciation of each other to really bring another’s culture into a brand”.
Jon Caramanica, journalist and Pop music critic for The New York Times, also shared his opinion on the art of collaboration, touching on “the distinction between short-term collaborations and actually bringing people into the building. Sometimes, a lot of big companies think “well, we did a collaboration with a streetwear brand, or a young black designer, or creative and that’s the extent”. But there is way more meaning if you actually bring those people in to the building and make them a part of the project. That’s a real collaboration”.