Ancuta Sarca by Simonas Berukstis

In the late 1980s a dance and music trend emerged in West Africa called the logobi. ‘Logobi’ means to earn money through trickery, but the danse de logobi has also been translated as the dance of brands.

The young men from the Côte d’Ivorie who performed this dance were known as bluffeurs. They would dress up in American brands such as Nike, Sebago, and Fubu and wear expensive suits by labels such as Versace and Armani to perform. In the danse de logobi, the bluffeurs attempted to convince onlookers that they could distinguish between the authentic branded goods and the counterfeit copies (and in doing so were of refined taste and sound aesthetic judgement).

Logomania by Hassan Kurbanbaev, 2019

Brand logos are seen as indicators of authenticity denoting luxury and affluence. It is why they are so often copied, co-opted and parodied. The Real Thing, a new exhibition at the Fashion Space Gallery considers this culture of counterfeiting, exploring how bootleg fashions can become artistic expressions in their own right.

The exhibition curator, Anastasiia Fedorva, explains, “Luxury brands and logos have always been the ultimate symbol of status in fashion, but as long as the real items have existed, so have the fakes. My first memories of fashion were knock-offs – Versace jeans and Gucci belts commonly sold at markets in 1990s Russia. Even though I had no idea what these brands were, I could feel the power they had and the aspiration they represented."

Image credit: Anna Ehrenstein

The exhibition features radical ‘brandalist’ Dr Noki, Harlem couturier Dapper Dan, Sports Banger and HYPEFACE, amongst others, and examines how bootleg culture transforms these symbols of luxury to challenge assumptions of social hierarchy and identity.

Image credit: Emma Louise Rixhon of Citizens of Nowhere

Becoming more than simply imitations, counterfeits play on the bluff at the centre of branded fashions, “forming,” Fedorva says, “an artistic language which is incredibly relevant for the 21st century.”

The Real Thing opens on the 7th February at the Fashion Space Gallery, London College of Fashion, 20 John Prince’s Street London, W1G 0BJ.