It’s a problem straight out of an early fashion magazine. You’re desperate for a Juicy Couture necklace—like, everyone at your school has one!—but your parents won’t quite use it. Do you:
A. Give it up—maybe they have a point that they don’t need expensive jewelry.
B. Beg – your reputation is worth more than your dignity.
C. Take out your Juicy key chain and turn it into a necklace – versatility is next to chic.
For Dan McLean, the decision was simple. She wore that key chain necklace until the Juicy logo was removed.
Now, the Seattle fashion designer makes money selling pieces born of that formative experience: expensive casual bags adorned with emblems from big fashion houses like Yves Saint Laurent; Vintage cut buckles enhanced with a Dior elastic band. She calls it a bootleg, but these clothes are far from cheap knockoffs. No one would mistake a pair of sweat shorts stuck together with a Fendi dust bag for an original, or even a dupe. And McLean wouldn’t want them. It’s “fan art,” she says. Fashionable versions of popular characters styled by fans in a way that feels familiar but looks almost entirely new.
McLean is not the first artist to work in the space between inspiration and duplication. Legendary Harlem fashion designer Dapper Dan rose to fame during the ’80s and ’90s for his trendy shoes, beloved by clients such as Salt-N-Pepa and LL Cool J. Suits forced him to close his boutique , but in 2018, after Gucci copied one. of his own designs, Dapper Dan formed a partnership with the fashion house.
People who try to cheaply recreate existing designs still face lawsuits and arrests. But when friends wear Dan McLean pieces to their jobs at the brands she draws inspiration from, everyone wants to know how to get their hands on one. “I think the fashion houses are flattered” by the tricks, says McLean, “because Dapper Dan did it.”
Reusing logos from luxury powerhouses is one thing. But in a world where everyone from Instagram followers to Fashion Nova designers can copy designs with little consequence other than public shaming, many artists are understandably protective of their work. A cheater is a cheater, with little room for nuance. McLean has a more relaxed take on the subject: Although she refuses to let big corporations overtly rip off her designs, she’s almost enthusiastic about other small designers imitating her work. “If you have an idea from me and we can both make money from it, let’s go.”
It’s an attitude she attributes to her mother, who often reminded McLean in her high school years that copycats “just think your style is really cool.” But it’s also what stems from McLean’s intentions for her work in general: “I don’t want to be famous for it.” She wants to ditch fast fashion and make clothes that are environmentally friendly “without shoving it down people’s throats”. She wants to make it size and gender inclusive. She wants to keep unwanted clothing from winding up in landfill, one logo at a time.
If people look at Dan McLean and decide they want to do those things too, so much the better. There are plenty of Juicy keychains to go around.