Style Behind the Moment: Dapper Dan’s Ascent From Hustler to Fashion Innovator
I'm Starting to Think That Maybe Fast Fashion Isn't The Only Thing Contributing to Wear-Once Culture
I attended a conference earlier this year hosted by Slow Factory - an organization dedicated to improving sustainable literacy in fashion - called Climate Positivity at Scale. The conference was aimed at fashion insiders, with the goal of getting us to think of solutions to reduce the alarming amount of pollution fast fashion creates each year. Slow Factory's founder, Céline Semaan-Vernon, shared that the majority of carbon emission and greenhouse gases released into the air from fashion, happens in the material phase, meaning the manufacturing, dying of yarns, and the creation of raw fibers all play a huge role.
No one has a story like Dapper Dan. His evolution from hustler to fashion icon is the stuff of legend. The hallmarks of his creative outlet are well-known—who could forget the luxury print-covered custom looks he created for hip-hop stars like LL Cool J or KRS-One—but many don’t know the details behind his cultural influence. In Behind the Moment, he shares his journey in his own words, opening up about the highs and lows that come with subverting trends and shaking up an entire industry. “Let’s talk about how this really went down,” he shares from the NoMad hotel. “I went from refashioning fashion to having fashion refashion me.”
The New York Fashion Week Calendar Is Here
New York Fashion Week is missing many big names, but Jason Wu, Imitation of Christ, and Tom Ford are all on the schedule.“This is an unprecedented Fashion Week. In the history of New York Fashion Week there has never been one like it,” declared Steven Kolb, the CFDA’s CEO, on a Zoom call. Indeed, in February there were 177 labels on Vogue Runway’s NYFW review calendar. The schedule the CFDA released today, which begins with Jason Wu at 5 pm on Sunday, September 13, and ends with Tom Ford at 7 pm on Wednesday, September 16, includes just 60. With only a handful of IRL exceptions, all of the presentations on the CFDA’s official lineup will be digital.
The runways are indebted to Dap’s eponymous Harlem boutique, which opened in the 1980s and popularized logomania as a concept. If you’ve ever decked yourself out in Double Gs or a Vuitton monogram, you have him to thank. But his contributions to style weren’t always appreciated. At first, the fashion establishment’s response to his work was hostile, and he dealt with lawsuits, raids, and unwanted attention from a future Supreme Court justice. “Sonya Sotomayor, at that time she was working for Fendi, and she came on a raid,” says Dap. “At the time I had a coat hanging there [that] I had just finished for Big Daddy Kane. She looked at that coat and said, ‘Wow, this guy belongs downtown.’ She paid me a compliment, and then raided the store. Took everything.”
Behind the Moment: Dapper Dan’s Ascent From Hustler to Fashion Innovator
They're each less than $20.
In time the tables turned. When Gucci designer Alessandro Michele re-created an iconic ’80s look Dap created for Olympian Diane Dixon for the brand’s cruise show in 2017, the internet exploded. After years of brands taking “inspiration” from creators of color without giving them credit, netizens weren’t going to let things slide. The situation led to one of the most fruitful collaborations in recent memory, a rare moment where online outrage blossomed into a mutually beneficial partnership between Gucci and Dap that has pushed fashion forward. “I told my son that if they were serious [about collaboration,] tell them to come to Harlem; they did,” he says. “I grew up in the ’60s, and what I learned from the civil rights movement is that the most important thing that a person of color can do is have a seat at the table.”
That mindset has kept him focused on the future and the continued importance of celebrating Black talent in music, fashion, and beyond. “What I do [is] translate culture, make it possible for our culture to continue to have a significant impact on global fashion,” he says. “America has the ability to bring us all together, and I want my legacy to be that I did something to make that happen.”
In this exclusive Vogue video, the fashion innovator shares how he changed the game and why he’s still looking to break barriers.
Director: Max Bartick
DP: Steven Tong
Producer: Naomi Nishi
Editor: Camille Getz
Associate producer: Rachel Cantor
Gaffer: Gautam Lee
Audio: Gabe Quiroga
Set design: Javier Irigoyen
Location: The Library at the NoMad hotel
How Harlem's Fashion Row Founder Brandice Daniel (Finally) Got the Industry's Attention .
The founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row talks building the movement everyone is talking about. Although it was just days before Harlem Fashion Row’s 13th annual fashion show and style awards (held virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic), unfinished hemlines and the latest RSVP count were the furthest thing from founder Brandice Daniel’s mind when she picked up the phone. “Today is my daughter’s first day of kindergarten, and I’m actually sitting outside of her school right now,” she says, adding that she had to fight the urge to abandon work and spy through the classroom window all day.