Dapper Dan

Designer

The underground Harlem couturier of the 1980s returned to prominence after a cultural appropriation scandal led Gucci to finance the rebirth of his business.

Dapper Dan

Daniel Day, known as Dapper Dan, is a Harlem couturier known as the “king of knock-offs.” He made his name in the late ’80s and ’90s as the tailor who provided rap culture with its signature gangster-inspired style, reworking traditional luxury-house products to outfit a slew of emerging hip-hop stars, athletes and gamblers including the likes of LL Cool J, James Jackson and Floyd Mayweather. He returned to prominence in 2018 after a cultural appropriation scandal led Gucci to finance the rebirth of his business and include him in its diversity council.

Born in New York, Dan dropped out of school and was linked to shoplifting and gang activity. Upon enrolling in an education programme sponsored by Columbia University, he took a trip to Africa and returned in 1974 with a newly sparked interest in fashion, opening his own 24-hour store in 1982, built on a made-to-order customisation model, powered by Dan’s regular visits to luxury department stores where he would buy up the monogrammed hardware as stock. His work was put on the map when he designed outfits for hip-hop artists’ Eric B and Rakim’s cover of their 1987 “Paid in Full” album.

While luxury brands took notice of Dan’s reworked logo prints, he faced lawsuits that claimed he had violated brands’ copyrights, and by 1992, after a raid on his boutique led by Fendi, he shut down the store.

In 2018, Gucci’s Cruise show featured a balloon-sleeved mink bomber jacket that showed similarities to Dan’s 1989 Louis Vuitton version for Diane Dixon. The garment sparked online outrage over appropriation. Though it dismissed the rumours as a homage, Gucci teamed up with Dan on a capsule collection inspired by his archive, released a limited-edition book, “Dapper Dan’s Harlem” and made Dan the face of the #GucciTailoring campaign. In 2018 Gucci opened an invitation-only atelier with Dan in a joint venture, supplying fabrics for his new creations.

Dan’s work was also highlighted as part of the MOMA’s “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” exhibit, and he starred in AT&T’s short film chronicling street style history alongside A$AP Rocky .

Career History

VITAL STATISTICS

BORN1944
NATIONALITYAmerican
LOCATIONUnited States
MEMBER SINCE2019

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