Ava Nirui Gives Bootleg a Fashion Twist

Posted March 23, 2018 7:24 p.m. EDT

Name: Ava Nirui

Age: 26

Hometown: Sydney, Australia

Now Lives:In a modern three-bedroom apartment in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York City, that she shares with two friends.

Claim to Fame: Nirui is a self-described “luxury remixer” known for putting a DIY spin on designer labels, such as a tank top made from Gucci garment bags and an asthma inhaler bedazzled with the Dior logo. Her high-low creations have won her fashion fans, including Marc Jacobs, who hired her to create a bootleg hoodie that purposely misspelled his name as “Mark Jacobes.” The $125 hoodies sold out in a single day in December. Nirui is also a writer, photographer and digital editor at Helmut Lang. “I’ve kind of become obsessed with customizing things and the fact that I can pay $5 for a Chinatown hoodie and change the context so it has the same value as a $900 sweatshirt,” she said.

Big Break: In 2015, designer Demna Gvasalia was making waves with his Vetements x Champion capsule collection. Not wanting to spend $1,100 on a sweatshirt, Nirui dreamed up her own version: a black Champion hoodie with the Comme des Garçons logo embroidered using the hoodie’s iconic C. “I remember thinking it was so absurd that it was so expensive,” Nirui said. “So I decided, no way. I’m just going to do my own.” She posted her creation to Instagram and was flooded with messages from people wanting to buy it, including Chance the Rapper. She declined to sell it, which only stoked demand further. “It wasn’t about making money,” she said. “It was about taking a piece of history and reworking it into something nobody else could have.”

Latest Project: In January, the Museum of Modern Art enlisted Nirui to make a limited-edition hoodie for the closing of its exhibition “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” The hoodies were based on Maison Margiela’s numerical logo, and were given out free to museumgoers.

Next Thing: While Nirui is planning more hoodies (she declined to name the designers she is collaborating with), she is branching into zines and other creative forms. Most recently, she created a line of Barbie doll outfits for the Miami street wear brand Stray Rats.

Bootleg for the Masses:Nirui doesn’t consider her work as “ripping off other designers,” but as homage. “Brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel, they’re the pinnacle of luxury, and things like that should be available to everyone,” she said. “If you can’t afford it, make it. If that’s what you want to wear, do it yourself.”