Dapper Dan is a household name to many in the urban context. He was the laymen’s Louis Vuitton and the common man’s clothing connoisseur. He tailored outfits for a lot of Hip Hop’s legends like LL Cool J, Salt n Peppa, and Eric B and Rakim.
Despite his local success, Dapper Dan didn’t always walk in the limelight. His rise from carpool couture to Gucci garments is a tale as old as time. A common rags to riches story of a young African American male carving his piece out of the pie.
Like many Black children that grew up in the projects of New York, Dapper Dan grew up poor. It was these same conditions that drove young Dan to want more out of life. Unfortunately, that same desire for more would lead Dan to a life of crime. At this stage of his life he assumed that the only way he could have “more” was by breaking and stealing clothing from other stores.
It wouldn’t be until much later through the inspiring words of Malcolm X that he would aspire to be more. This inspiration would lead him to want to be more than just a consumer in the fashion industry. As a result, Dapper Dan’s Boutique was born.Here his brand and fashion sense would keep the store open for a literal 24 hours.
Everyone one from the drug dealers on the corner to the most popular musical acts in the country would be present. Everyone loved Dan’s personal contribution to the popular fashion brands of the day.
Despite his success, he had to close his boutique in 1992. Due to his popularity and unauthorized use of major fashion brands (i.e. Gucci, Louis Vuitton), Dan would face charges against his boutique due to copyright issues. He would eventually transition his brand to go “underground” for the time being.
For about 2 decades the world would not hear from the influential designer due to major lawsuits and controversy.It wouldn’t be until earlier this year at Gucci’s fashion show that his name would enter public headlines again. A picture was released of a Gucci piece that was closely identical to one that Dapper Dan had created exclusively for Diane Dixon, a former US Olympian. Once the picture hit social media, Gucci received a lot of backlash for appropriating the piece. As a result Dapper Dan was able to later collaborate with Gucci and have a few of the pieces sold through the brand.
Sometimes you just have to “get it out the mud” like the old folks used to say. Dapper Dan’s story is one of resilience and creativity.If you aren’t given an opportunity, sometimes you have create your own. He began his designer career by selling t-shirts out of his car. Later, he saw the impact that big clothing brands had on the people in his area, so he decided to custom fit clothing that they weren’t allowed to get out of those designer stores. Although his first iterations of designer pieces were shunned, he was able collaborate with those same brands decades later.Dapper Dan is a brand bandit and an inspiration for everyone chasing the American Dream.
Written by Roswell
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