An Exhibit Examines the History of Fashion Fakes

‘Fake it till you make it’ is a well-worn refrain. But counterfeits and parodies have been a hot-button topic long before those notorious orange ‘Homies’ T-shirts — a barely disguised reference to Hermès — flooded the streets of L.A. or Hedi Slimane pulled Saint Laurent from Colette for selling sweatshirts emblazoned with “Ain’t Laurent Without Yves.” A new exhibit at the FIT museum traces sartorial copying back to early 20th-century European houses — Dior, Vionnet, Poiret, Balmain — and follows its long arc through the logomania craze of the 80s, the fast-fashion phenomenon of the aughts, and the clever, if controversial, wordplay of today.

The exhibit, Faking It, begins with a 1903 Charles Frederick Worth gown with a label the couturier had signed as an artist would sign a canvas, giving rise to the practice of sewn-in labels. The demand for counterfeits mushroomed in the ensuing decades, reaching a feverpitch with Christian Dior’s New Look collection of 1947 that launched countless imitations of the wasp silhouette. As a result, couturiers shrewdly began licensing their designs, earning a princely sum from American department stores in particular.

Several pieces by Chanel from the 1960s to the 1980s are also on view, alongside their corresponding copies. Yet surprisingly, or perhaps not, Coco Chanel remained relatively unperturbed by counterfeits. Ever the savvy marketer, she considered copies of her signature tweed suits — and there were a lot — as free publicity. “The very idea of protecting the seasonal arts is childish,” she said. “One should not bother to protect that which dies the minute it is born.”

Faking It: Originals, Copies, and Counterfeits, Dec 2, 2014 – Apr 25, 2015, FIT Museum, Seventh Avenue at 27 Street, NYC

left: Chanel (1966) / right: licensed copy, Chanel (1967)

House of Worth (1903)

Moschino Cheap and Chic with Roy Lichtenstein print

Unlicensed copy of Madeleine Vionnet (1925)

Catherine Malendrino, eBay x CFDA anti-counterfeit campaign (2013)

Fake Louis Vuitton coat by Dapper Dan of Harlem

Leave a comment