The fashion outlaw of Harlem, Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day, created his own classification of fashion. He molded the way fashion and hip hop are intertwined by reworking luxury brand items into entire outfits and turning ready-to-wear designs from the runway into something more accessible for his ‘gangster’ clientele.
Dapper Dan got his start by satisfying the needs of the “street people who had money”, as he refers to them in an interview. The label of a luxurious item sets the person wearing it apart from everybody else. Representing a $100,000 a week salary, gangsters needed a style to match and Dan was able to provide them with a uniqueness that displayed their wealth and power.
The boutique became a sensation after polaroids of the latest designs were being shared beyond Harlem. Sharing photos to get your style out to the masses... sounds familiar right? Cough, instagram, cough. Once the word got out, rappers soon began to admire the hustlers and Dapper Dan became the staple for bootlegged Haute-Couture.
The eponymous, Dapper Dan’s Boutique, lived on 125th street from 1982-1992 before fashion house lawyers moved in and shut it down for copyright infringement. I mean, yes there was a legitimate reasoning behind it, but Darold Ferguson, Jr. (also known as ASAP Ferg), says what we’re all thinking, “What Dap did was take what those major fashion labels were doing and made them better.” Preach. “He taught them how to use their designs in a much more effective way. Dap created hip-hop culture.”
Despite the boutique closing its doors, Dapper Dan’s influence continues to live on, decades later, in the street wear culture we know and love today.
Dan outfitted iconic hip-hop artists such as Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, Salt N’ Pepa, Run DMC, Eric B. and Rakim, and Fatboys, to name a few. They were set up with custom made fits that can be seen on album covers, music videos, and photos.
Now, let’s discuss the Dapper Dan original jacket created for Olympic sprinter Diane Dixon that caused an internet uproar. Fur-lined with balloon sleeves that were covered in the Louis Vuitton monogram logo. As a part of their Renaissance cruise collection, Gucci released a jacket that shares a haunting resemblance to Dixon’s original piece. It had viewers wondering, homage or copy? The man who stood accused of copyright infringement in the 80’s was now being directly referenced to by the very brands that forced the closure of his beloved boutique.
To answer the question, it was in fact an homage. Alessandro Michele, creative director for Gucci, reached out to Day to express interest in a collaboration to celebrate his continuous influence on fashion and hip-hop culture. Dan’s response? He was cool with it. In late 2017 he said, “I existed completely outside the fashion structure; I’ve never been involved in any major fashion house. So when Alessandro Michele came along and embraced me the way he did, I was very grateful. I didn’t have any problems with the coat.” So we can all relax knowing that it wasn’t ripped off and Gucci was granted permission.
The collaboration between Gucci and Dapper Dan doesn’t end with Dixon’s jacket, thankfully. January 2018, the doors of “Dapper Dan’s Boutique” will reopen, making it the first luxury brand store to ever open in Harlem. Think you can go in and browse the store? Think again. It operates strictly by appointment with bespoke garments created with raw Gucci materials, fabrics, prints, patches, and hardware. Oh right, and as if we needed more of a reason to be excited, the Hip-Hop tailor and Gucci have announced a capsule collection to be released as part of Gucci’s Fall 2018 collection.
As it always does, fashion is repeating itself and needless to say we are ready for this repetition.
"Everybody thinks about buying a house or a car, but an outfit transforms you the next day." -Dapper Dan