Bootleg culture has historically existed within a legal gray area. But today, the boundaries that have traditionally separated brand, designer, and consumer have grown increasingly murky— thanks, in part, to the pervasive influence of Instagram. The social media app has created a democratic ecosystem across a variety of cultural sectors, in which interaction and community building are facilitated. Within fashion, this has allowed younger bootleg creators to express unprecedented levels of humor and wit, especially as applied to brand names and logos. In turn, mainstream fashion houses have embraced the quirks of these designs—often to surprising extents. Marc Jacobs and Ava Nirui’s collaboration exemplifies this phenomenon. The partnership grew out of Nirui’s popularity on Instagram, where she shared her bootleg Marc Jacobs hoodie, which the designer subsequently purchased. Since its inception, the well-known Instagram account Diet Prada has regularly critiqued fashion brands and their problematic behavior. More recently, Diet Prada has created merchandise that straddles the line between bootleg and self-referential parody. The products created by these and other actors openly flaunt counterfeit tropes, purposefully misspelling or combining brand iconography. These items raise questions directly related to definitions of authenticity and value. While the sweatshirt here may not be a real Comme des Garçons, it is an authentic Diet Prada design. Similarly, although a “Baeenciaga”-labeled hat may not have the monetary value of a designer product, it does upend fashion hierarchies—and display subversive wit—both on and off Instagram.
Diet Prada (American, founded 2014), Call it Out Sock, 2018, Cotton, nylon, and polyester Courtesy of Costume Studies Collection; Gift of Diet Prada
Diet Prada (American, founded 2014), Kim de Garçons Sweatshirt, 2018, Cotton and polyester Courtesy of Costume Studies Collection; Gift of Diet Prada
ChanelxNike Shirt, Unknown Maker, 2000s, Cotton Courtesy of Marie Genevieve Cyr and Joseph Jagos
Baeenciaga Hat, Unknown Maker, 2000s, Cotton Courtesy of Marie Genevieve Cyr and Joseph Jagos
Marc Jacobs (American, founded 1984), Marc Jacobs (American, born 1964), Ava Nirui (Australian, born 1992) “I can’t believe it’s not Marc Jacobs” Hooded Sweatshirt, 2018, Cotton Courtesy of Marc Jacobs