Opinion To Knock Out Knockoffs, Knock Off Knockoffs

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Diesel is the latest company to turn its own fakes into buzz. And thanks to a collaboration with Hood by Air’s Shayne Oliver, even more buzz may be on the way.

Deisel play

Deisel

(nyt.com)

At a pop-up market stall just off Canal Street, the Madison Avenue of the unauthenticated, shoppers have spent the last week snapping up off-price, jeans, hoodies, T-shirts and boxer briefs with a familiar, almost-right logo: Deisel.

Sure, the “i” and “e” are on the wrong side of their usual do-si-do. But you get what you pay for. They’re $69.99; Diesel jeans generally start well over $200. Forget it, Jake — it’s Chinatown.

Companies like Diesel spend significant resources chasing down counterfeiters and stamping them out. According to Renzo Rosso, the founder of Diesel and president of its parent company, the Only the Brave Group, the label shut down 86 websites hawking fake products last year. But Rosso was crammed into the small, wood-paneled shop Friday with no intention of dampening Deisel. He’d created it.

“This is a magical moment for logos,” he said, and a brand can embrace its own and its own imitation. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, the logic runs: Make the fakes, pocket the cash.

Diesel is far from the only brand to come to this idea. Gucci has riffed on its own bootlegs (and styled its own “Guccy” logo) and set up shop with Daniel Day, better known as Dapper Dan, the counterfeit couturier it had once threatened out of business.

Like Gucci, Diesel aims to make its patronage an event. On Thursday, the rapper Gucci Mane posted about the shop on Instagram, inviting fans to meet him there at noon; by 12:30 p.m. the shop was thronged, and the security-patrolled line outside snaked nearly a full city block. The stall remains up through Monday; after that, the collection goes online.

Mane did a spin through, posed for a few photos with Rosso and Diesel executives, and then left the store in a strobe of camera flashes. The mob waited around to shop anyway.

“I didn’t get the Gucci love, but it’s cute,” shouted Jorge Wright, known as “Gitoo”, a dreadlocked model and music producer in a Deisel sweatshirt. Janelle Dey, who happened on the line while walking through SoHo with her boyfriend, stuck on the end of it, not knowing in particular, she said, what was on offer or why, but game to wait up to an hour to find out.

At the en-suite media room — an amenity most Chinatown shops don’t offer — Rosso was celebrating a return to Diesel. After a decade spent mostly focusing on the other labels in the Only the Brave portfolio (Maison Margiela, Marni and Viktor & Rolf, among them), he is back at the one he founded.

“My people said, ‘You need to be back,'” he said. “It was just a company. It was missing the DNA. The passion was missing.”

He promised a lot of new projects, and “a new adrenaline.” Which led one to notice that Diesel’s artistic director, Nicola Formichetti, departed in December, and no successor has yet been named, though there in the media room were some of the collaborators known in New York for working with the designer Shayne Oliver on Hood by Air, talking and joking with Rosso and Diesel executives, and Oliver’s name could be overheard being bandied about.

Could he be set to take on Diesel (or, for that matter, Deisel)?

“I don’t know this name,” Rosso said with a smile when asked about Oliver, not entirely convincingly. “Never say never.”

A spokeswoman for Diesel declined to clarify further. Oliver did not respond to a request for comment.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

MATTHEW SCHNEIER © 2018 The New York Times

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