The Girl Behind Instagram’s Best Fashion Knock-offs

Whether it’s Gucci creating real “fake” t-shirts or internet teen Asspizza knocking off Yeezy merch, bootlegging is something which has come to define the year in fashion. Weighing in in her own way isAva Nirui, a Dazed contributor who, when she’s not interviewing New York’s new wave designers orphotographing the likes of Heron Preston, is turning everyday things into bejewelled fashion objects and posting the results on her Instagram, @dazedfashion’s pick of the week. Key examples? A Louis Vuitton inhaler, Prada basketball, and a series of Champion hoodies embroidered with brand names. But rather than the knock offs you’ll find on street corners, Nirui’s logo-heavy DIYs question the lines between real and fake, creativity and commerce, expensive and throwaway. Here, she tells us more.

Who are you?

Ava Nirui: My name is Ava Nirui. I am a writer, occasional photographer and object-maker from Sydney, Australia. I currently live in New York city and work in fashion e-commerce.

How would you sum up your Instagram?

Ava Nirui: A humorous visual library of my collection of homemade designer bootlegs and bejewelled custom Air Force 1s.

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How did you first get into fashion?

Ava Nirui: I studied Media at University in Sydney and after I graduated, I moved to New York to work in fashion. Soon after, I started working at Opening Ceremony on their e-commerce team and from there, I became quite immersed in the city’s creative scene. New York is the most inspiring place when looking at style – whether it’s the badass 60-year-old Asian man in head-to-toe New York tourist merch roaming around China Town or the young dudes in Bushwick flexing in fake Nike and bootleg Red Octobers, everyday people naturally have cool style without trying.

What fascinates you about bootleg fashion? Do you actively seek out knock-offs? 

Ava Nirui: It’s so interesting how a tag, logo or design can change the way you view an object, garment or product (even if it isn’t authentic). To me, a bootleg can be just as rare, desirable and sought after as the real thing. I don’t necessarily seek out knock-offs (most of the objects on my Instagram are those I have created) but if I do see an interesting or unique bootleg, I’ll buy it. You can find incredible/janky bootlegs on Canal Street and on Knickerbocker Avenue near my home in Brooklyn…even in your local 99¢ store. A friend of mine is in Manila right now and she sent me a care package filled with bootleg LV and a “Gucci” phone with an internal software which is completely Gucci themed! Asia is the “it” location for bootleg shopping.

Why does high fashion provide such good ground for experimentation?

Ava Nirui: Heritage fashion houses have the most familiar and recognisable iconography or design elements which make riffs on their logos trigger a reaction from such a wide scope of people. Also, luxury fashion is sterile, expensive and exclusive so to create luxury versions of cheap everyday objects is unrealistic therefore humorous. It’s the dramatic contrast between the high-end and the low-end. Most of the branded products I’m repurposing are completely valueless until they appear in a different context.

“I’m just subtly poking fun at the industry and showing that I can easily do what a major fashion house is doing for a fraction of the price” – Ava Nirui

What’s your favourite thing you’ve customised?

Ava Nirui: Probably my Louis Vuitton monogram inhaler. I have pretty bad asthma so it’s an 100 per cent functional mixture of my two favourite things – bootlegs and Ventolin.

Any particular artists or reference points?

Ava Nirui: I am inspired by so many people, eras and designers including: the 90s Dipset movement (and anything Cam’ron has ever worn… where did he even find this full bootleg Chanel kit?), Steven Sprouse, Dapper Dan, Vivienne Westwood’s approach to DIY fashion, Helmut Newton, Canal St, Soulja Boy in 2008, Sex and the City, Diorissimo, Sydney’s “Paddy’s Markets”, Martin Margiela, Tom Sachs, Nike, Alessandro Michele’s Gucci “bootlegs”, Gregg Araki, everything and anything Louis Vuitton and “Lad” fashion in Australia.

Where did the custom basketball idea come from? Or the dustbags?

Ava Nirui: I am a firm believer in material objects having multiple meanings. Adding powerful iconography to anything can completely skew and manipulate the value. Right after I did theBarbie project where a friend and I created “bootleg” fashion Mattel Barbies based on the designs of obscure, gender-neutral designers, I began repurposing value-less and objects that many would see as “trash” to give them new significance. I started re-cutting dustbags to make 1183211 (1)dresses, using branded ribbons (that come with the packaging of luxury purchases) as shoelaces and adding logos to or bejeweling basketballs. I have an obsession with altering the meaning of material objects through the addition of familiar logos.

How long have you been making hoodies?

Ava Nirui: The hoodies came about right after VetementsSS16 show where they showed the Champion flip reversible hoodies. Although I respect how Demna Gvasalia and the brand have revived the culture of “bootlegging” and logomania and brought it to the masses, I found it genuinely disturbing that they were selling a garment that was worth $40 for over $700. I found it even more disturbing how many people were wearing it last New York Fashion Week and that really opened my eyes to how much money consumers are willing to invest in a trend in order to look “cool” in front of their friends and people they don’t know. Out of frustration, I created the first Chanel hoodie and from there I have made Givenchy, Gucci and a tonne of other logo flip sweatshirts and tees. I’m running out of brands that contain the letter “C” haha. I’m just subtly poking fun at the industry and showing that I can easily do what a major fashion house is doing for a fraction of the price.

Anything cool come from your Instagram?

Ava Nirui: I’ve made amazing friends and connections through Instagram as well as uncovering so many amazing artists who are constantly creating. Instagram can be pretty mind-numbing and time consuming, but if you use it the right way, it can be a useful platform in many different senses.

Curated