‘I used to be scared of getting a letter from Gucci’: the person who popularised the bootleg slogan T-shirt | Fashion


The solely firm that took authorized motion was Marlboro. Shortly after releasing a red-and-white sweatshirt with the phrases “Lichtenboro” in a Marlboro-esque typeface, designer Brian Lichtenberg was despatched a stop and desist letter by the cigarette firm. “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 might not keep in mind Lichtenberg’s identify, however you’ll know his work: a playful oeuvre of sweatshirts with subverted designer (and generally cigarette firm) logos, which loved a strong interval of recognition within the mid-00s earlier than being copycatted and showing on market stalls and Big Brother. The hottest was Homiés, a play on Hermès, though few designers had been left unturned: Commes des Garçons, Chanel and Gucci all fell foul of Lichtenberg’s printer.

Cara Delevingne in Bucci.

Cara Delevingne in Bucci. Photograph: Cara Delevingne/Instagram

It began in late 2006, when Lichtenberg introduced out a sweatshirt emblazoned with Brianel no1. It was a play on Chanel – who, miraculously, didn’t sue. Buoyed, he tried out some extra wordplay. Homiés, Bucci, Féline, Ballin – when riffing on the slogans of Hermès, Gucci, Céline and Balmain, he didn’t as soon as ask for permission. By 2007, enterprise was flying. Bellweather of posh trend, Browns of London, began ordering packing containers of Homiés to take a seat alongside its actual designer items, they usually all bought out. Rihanna requested a Homiés sweatshirt and posted an image of it on Instagram. One day, Lichtenberg was strolling down Rodeo Drive when he noticed a wealthy-looking lady dressed head to toe in Hermès aside from an orange Homiés sweatshirt. She entered Hermés. Lichtenberg went in, too, and requested the workers what they thought? The woman, it transpired, wasn’t the primary.

This was to grow to be his Kairos second and, in trend, signified that parodies had been turning into a official pattern – “Back then, the easiest way to show your fashion cred was to mix an original with something bootlegged,” he says. It reveals you might be in on the joke. Cara Delevingne, Irina Shayk, Lily Collins, Paris Hilton and A$Ap Rocky have all worn them. Just a few years later, at a commerce truthful in Guangzhou, China, he noticed a lady in an Alexander Wang bodysuit with one in every of his slogans on it – “Like it was a bastardised monster!” says Lichtenberg. It had eaten itself.

Santogold in a Brianel no1 top.

Santogold in a Brianel no1 high. Photograph: Matt Kent/Redferns

Ten years have handed since Lichtenberg, now in his late 30s, created his first sweater. But one thing appears to have caught. “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 emblem into “Loss International”, present menswear is fixated on parody with counterfeits having moved past eBay and Etsy to turning into official fashion gadgets. Homiés et al have kickstarted a motion.

Daisy Hoppen of Dover Street Market says Lichtenberg’s sweatshirts are no doubt a part of the rationale bootlegs have entered the autumn/winter collections. Alongside Shannon and Balenciaga, there’s a surfeit of bootlegs in on a regular basis trend this season. See Expert Horror’s twist on the Al Jazeera emblem and Junya Watanabe MAN’s use of The North Face branding on its jackets. This burst of renewed curiosity has naturally led patrons again to Lichtenberg. They are again on the Wavey Garms web site, and final month noticed an sudden search surge on eBay.

Homiés sweatshirt.
Homiés sweatshirt.

Lichtenberg’s play on Céline.

Lichtenberg’s play on Céline. Photograph: Ben Pruchnie/FilmMagic

Of course Lichtenberg wasn’t the primary designer to do that. But not like cult figures like Dapper Dan, who dressed 90s Harlem hip hop begins in custom-built counterfeit Gucci, Lichtenberg’s stuff was reasonably priced (below $100 for a sweatshirt), opening up the world of designer labels to individuals who couldn’t afford it. Just a few years earlier, Naomi Klein had printed her takedown of the company model world, No Logo, and anti-capitalist magazines resembling 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 performed on Coca Cola’s emblem) had been enormous amongst teenagers and Lichtenberg’s Homiés sweatshirt sat on that much-coveted intersection between hipster subversion and trend legitimacy.

To Lichtenberg, recontextualising logos “was just quite fun. You know, a bit creative, too.” He describes his items as “bastardisations, or mutations. A spin on something, on pop culture, on something familiar.” Lichtenberg says his designs had been by no means meant to be that refined. But that didn’t cease his items turning into one of the identifiable items of streetwear within the 00s, invigorating the bootleg scene and questioning the connection between trend 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.

Lichtenberg himself.

Lichtenberg himself. Photograph: Lauren/WWD/REX/Shutterstock

The authorized wrangles with copyrighting are clear – to legally do what Lichtenberg did required permission from the corporate – however, it transpires, loosely enforced. It appears depending on the individual. Beyoncé sued Texas clothes Feyoncé for utilizing her identify, whereas store workers at Céline bulk-bought Lichtenberg’s Féline sweaters for enjoyable. But it’s these days turning into recognised as an artwork kind. A Cold Wall* designer Samuel Ross minimize his tooth making counterfeit sportswear, whereas websites resembling Sportsbanger and Bowcut Garms’ sensible, wilful emblem mockery have each turned bootlegging in a artistic kind, by and huge with out bother from the businesses. “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 computer. He’s all the time most popular anti-social hours, however nowadays it’s extra work-related – tonight, he’s up sorting orders for his modern menswear line for Harvey Nichols within the UAE, so the time distinction 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.”

(Editor references)

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