topblog Ivoire blogs

09/08/2017

 'I was terrified of getting a letter from Gucci': the man who popularised the bootleg slogan T-shirt

 In late 2006, Brian Lichtenberg launched a line of subverted slogan-wear, including the famous Homies sweatshirt. But how did he get away with it?

  The only company that took legal action was Marlboro. Shortly after releasing a red-and-white sweatshirt with the words “Lichtenboro” in a Marlboro-esque typeface, designer Brian Lichtenberg was sent a cease and desist letter by the cigarette company. “I was like, you’re not even a fucking clothing brand – where’s your sense of humour?” he sighs. “It was so lame.” He destroyed the sweatshirts.

  You may not remember Lichtenberg’s name, but you’ll know his work: a playful oeuvre of sweatshirts with subverted designer (and sometimes cigarette company) logos, which enjoyed a robust period of popularity in the mid-00s before being copycatted and appearing on market stalls and Big Brother. The most popular was Homiés, a play on Hermès, although few designers were left unturned: Commes des Garçons, Chanel and Gucci all fell foul of Lichtenberg’s printer.

  It started in late 2006, when Lichtenberg brought out a sweatshirt emblazoned with Brianel no1. It was a play on Chanel – who, miraculously, didn’t sue. Buoyed, he tried out some more wordplay. Homiés, Bucci, Féline, Ballin – when riffing on the slogans of Hermès, Gucci, Céline and Balmain, he didn’t once ask for permission. By 2007, business was flying. Bellweather of posh fashion, Browns of London, started ordering boxes of Homiés to sit alongside its real designer pieces, and they all sold out. Rihanna requested a Homiés sweatshirt and posted a picture of it on Instagram. One day, Lichtenberg was walking down Rodeo Drive when he spotted a wealthy-looking woman dressed head to toe in Hermès except for an orange Homiés sweatshirt. She entered Hermés. Lichtenberg went in, too, and asked the staff what they thought? The lady, it transpired, wasn’t the first.

  This was to become his Kairos moment and, in fashion, signified that parodies were becoming a legitimate trend – “Back then, the easiest way to show your fashion cred was to mix an original with something bootlegged,” he says. It shows you are in on the joke. Cara Delevingne, Irina Shayk, Lily Collins, Paris Hilton and A$Ap Rocky have all worn them. A few years later, at a trade fair in Guangzhou, China, he spotted a girl in an Alexander Wang bodysuit with one of his slogans on it – “Like it was a bastardised monster!” says Lichtenberg. It had eaten itself.

  Ten years have passed since Lichtenberg, now in his late 30s, created his first sweater. But something seems to have stuck. “I never thought it would become as big as it did and I wouldn’t dare claim I started a trend but, yeah, but I suppose it did start something.” From Balenciaga playing on Bernie Sander’s look to Christopher Shannon turning Hugo Boss’s logo into “Loss International”, current menswear is fixated on parody with counterfeits having moved beyond eBay and Etsy to becoming legitimate style items. Homiés et al have kickstarted a movement.

  Daisy Hoppen of Dover Street Market says Lichtenberg’s sweatshirts are without doubt part of the reason bootlegs have entered the autumn/winter collections. Alongside Shannon and Balenciaga, there’s a surfeit of bootlegs in everyday fashion this season. See Expert Horror’s twist on the Al Jazeera logo and Junya Watanabe MAN’s use of The North Face branding on its jackets. This burst of renewed interest has naturally led buyers back to Lichtenberg. They are back on the Wavey Garms site, and last month saw an unexpected search surge on eBay.

   Of course Lichtenberg wasn’t the first designer to do this. But unlike cult figures like Dapper Dan, who dressed 90s Harlem hip hop starts in custom-built counterfeit Gucci, Lichtenberg’s stuff was affordable (under $100 for a sweatshirt), opening up the world of designer labels to people who couldn’t afford it. A few years earlier, Naomi Klein had published her takedown of the corporate brand world, No Logo, and anti-capitalist magazines such as AdBusters sat alongside The Face in WHSmiths. Logomania had bedded in to the extent that it was being analysed and unpacked in streetwear: “Adihash” hoodies and “Enjoy Cocaine” T-shirts that played on Coca Cola’s logo) were huge among teens and Lichtenberg’s Homiés sweatshirt sat on that much-coveted intersection between hipster subversion and fashion legitimacy.

  To Lichtenberg, recontextualising logos “was just quite fun. You know, a bit creative, too.” He describes his pieces as “bastardisations, or mutations. A spin on something, on pop culture, on something familiar.” Lichtenberg says his designs were never intended to be that sophisticated. But that didn’t stop his pieces becoming one of the most identifiable pieces of streetwear in the 00s, invigorating the bootleg scene and questioning the relationship between fashion and consumerism: “I love clever things, like I love humour in rap and brands I can spoof. I basically see a logo and think what I can do with it, aesthetically,” he says.

  The legal wrangles with copyrighting are clear – to legally do what Lichtenberg did required permission from the company – but, it transpires, loosely enforced. It seems dependent on the person. Beyoncé sued Texas clothing Feyoncé for using her name, while shop staff at Céline bulk-bought Lichtenberg’s Féline sweaters for fun. But it is nowadays becoming recognised as an art form. A Cold Wall* designer Samuel Ross cut his teeth making counterfeit sportswear, while sites such as Sportsbanger and Bowcut Garms’ brilliant, wilful logo mockery have both turned bootlegging in a creative form, by and large without trouble from the companies. “In a lot of cases, I think some of the bigger labels are able to rise above it” says Lichtenberg. “They see it as flattery. Some of them practically encourage it.”

  At 2.30am, Lichtenberg is plugging away on his laptop. He’s always preferred anti-social hours, but these days it is more work-related – tonight, he’s up sorting orders for his contemporary menswear line for Harvey Nichols in the UAE, so the time difference helps. “It’s nice to do something classic and contemporary,” he says. “But every day I was terrified of getting a letter from Gucci because of Bucci. It hasn’t happened yet, but it was my favourite thing.”

  Read more at: http://www.queeniebridesmaid.co.uk  http://www.queeniebridesmaid.co.uk

Les commentaires sont fermés.