About two years ago, Destiney Bleu, a Los Angeles-based dancer turned designer known for her crystalized tights and bodysuits, noticed that someone copied her work. That someone was Khloé Kardashian, who ordered pieces from the designer’s line, dbleudazzled, and then attempted to release similar-looking product under her Good American brand. Around the same time, Gucci was accused of copying an older Dapper Dan design.
“The internet blacked out and was like, ‘Nah, this isn’t going to fly,’” says Bleu over the phone. “I need to research, but I know there were articles written around that time that mentioned both of us.”
Dapper Dan went on to work with Gucci. Kardashian went on to sue Bleu twice for defamation of character. But earlier this week, Bleu had a full-circle moment when Ashley Graham went to the Met Gala wearing a Dapper Dan x Gucci jacket that was accentuated with tights and gloves Bleu designed. This made her one of the few black designers who had a presence on the pink carpet for a gala with a camp theme—a concept or aesthetic cultivated by the black queer community long before it had a name.
“I’ve been so emotional about it, just because I have been dealing with a lot of knockoffs over the last couple years and our sales declined because of it. So I kind of felt like maybe I was falling off and being replaced by fast fashion,” says Bleu. “But this reignited my belief in what I really can do. Because they're not getting fucking Fashion Nova or Alibaba to do this.”
Here, Bleu talks about how the tights and gloves came about, what it was like to work with Dapper Dan, and the pop star who said she would have worn the look as well.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
How did this come about?
The last week of April, I got a text from Jordan [Foster], Ashley's stylist, and she just said, "I hear you're the person to go to for crystallized tights. Lala [Anthony]'s stylist [Kesha McLeod] recommended you to me.” She originally asked me to do the Gucci monogram all over. And then Dap was like, "No, no one will know what it is. Let’s try to do wordplay or something from the existing design." So they sent me pictures of the jacket-dress they were making, and we kind of just played from that. We went back and forth on skin tone forever, because I'm kind of psycho about that.
What about the design?
We originally sent her cat suits. Because we were originally going to do a cat suit. We wanted a full-bodied glove look. But they were kind of undecided. We had been selling gloves, and developed this concept where the hosiery covered the shoes and they liked it. At first we were going to do something straight down the legs, then the stylist wanted it all over. So I put a bunch of Dapper Dans in crystals on a big piece of mesh and sent it to them. They liked it. This didn’t come together until the Friday before the Met gala, and I had to send it on a flight with my friend. I thought I was going to have to fly them to New York because it was cheaper than shipping it via Worldnet. But everything came together to make it happen.
So you knew from the beginning that Dapper Dan was involved?
No. I knew it was for Ashley and Gucci, but I didn’t know Dapper Dan was involved until she sent me pictures of the jacket. And that didn’t happen until both Gucci and Dapper Dan approved me to work on them.
What was your reaction?
Being a young black designer and hearing that I could be working with him was crazy. And it's ironic because I had a pretty serious snafu with Khloé Kardashian a few years back with her copying my stuff. And at the same exact time, the same thing had happened with Dapper Dan and Gucci. The internet blacked out and was like, "Nah, this isn't going to fly." I remember being so happy that they did the right thing and brought him in. There's so many people that have been around forever and have influenced so many trends and they've never really gotten credit. And it's crazy, because Ashley Graham gave me my first magazine placement. She was in Sports Illustrated wearing my shit in a two-page spread.
You've made stuff for everyone from Beyoncé to Rihanna to YG. How special was this moment to you?
I've been so emotional about it, just because I have been dealing with a lot of knockoffs over the last couple years and our sales declined because of it. For the last two years, I would say, our sales have gone down by $75,000 to $100,000 each year. And so I kind of felt like maybe I was falling off and being replaced by fast fashion. But this reignited my belief in what I really can do. Because they're not getting fucking Fashion Nova or Alibaba to do this. So this has been confirmation that my ideas are good.
How have people reacted?
Dapper DM'd me yesterday. I'm going to try to make this a real thing. I think he's down for it, and maybe we can start selling these tights, because a lot of people are requesting them. He invited me to the atelier. LaDonna, who assists Beyoncé's stylist Zerina Akers, told us that Beyoncé loved them and she would have worn the whole look. Beyoncé is the one person who I really wanted to see it.
Did you get any backlash for working with Gucci because of the blackface incident?
A few trolls on the internet told me how disappointed they were in me and how I was a sellout. And I was like, Gucci gave me and Dapper an opportunity on the Met Gala pink carpet. This is huge for me. And people don't know anything that I go through. They don't know how I've been feeling like my whole brand got copied and I don't really exist anymore. But it's also like, no one's going to tell me who I should or shouldn't work with.
I did want to talk about the Nipsey Hussle vest you made for YG.
I didn't know Nipsey personally, but when he passed, I shifted as a human. We had done stuff with YG before, and they just reached out about this vest and he's been wearing it all the time, which I love. It's so precious.
The Good American and Khloé Kardashian thing happened a couple of years ago, but has there been any update on that?
They sued me once for defamation of character, and then, after I posted receipts of what she purchased, they tried to sue me again. At first they didn't acknowledge that they knew who I was; then, eventually, they admitted to purchasing items from me. At first I was scared, but then I realized they couldn't do anything to me, and I was not backing down, so they just left me alone. I was actually hoping I could work with Good American, because right now I don't have the capacity to do plus-size. I wish these companies like Fashion Nova and Good American would just work with the designers they are copying. Every day I wake up and there's some brand using my pictures to sell crystalized pieces. It's a problem.
What do you want for your brand down the line?
I want people to see crystallized work and assume it's us. My main goal is for it to change from bedazzled to bleudazzled. It's super fucking corny, but that’s what I want. I've been matching hosiery to skin tone for a while, but we're going to do a line that covers all shades. And setting up an easy recipe for custom stuff, kind of like Dapper Dan. The goal is swim, sweat, shine. So it's swim shit, workout shit, and then performance shit. They all can be intermixed.