The Harlem tailor tells his long adventure, from the outlaws to his partnership with Gucci.
“Today we have fun”. It is the first thing that Dapper Dan tells me by shaking my hand in his new atelier in Harlem, the neighborhood where he was born and became famous, first as a gambler, then as a tailor. Since 1982, the year the first workshop was founded, Dapper has changed: the bomber that made him look like his customers, athletes and rappers who wanted to conquer the world, has switched to bespoke suits. “The idea of elegance of American blacks was influenced by Italian immigrants who had made their fortune on the streets of New York, Chicago or Detroit, like Al Capone.” Today she wears a blue night dress, a white shirt with tartan bow tie and a burgundy gilet. The pocket handkerchief, the belt with double-G buckle and the brown leather straps with red and green band are clear: it’s all Gucci.
It is not just a matter of personal taste, because if today Dapper Dan was able to reopen his business almost 30 years after its closure, it is thanks to the Italian brand, driven by the need to make peace with the most controversial tailor in New York. That’s why: during the 2018 Cruise Collection show, Gucci presents a women’s jacket with enormous strangely puffed sleeves, very similar to the one worn by the Olympic champion Diane Dixon in 1989, made by Dapper Dan with Louis Vuitton fabrics. The protest of Dixon on Instagram feeds the accusations of cultural appropriation on social networks, to which the creative director Alessandro Michele responds by talking about homage, even if not declared.
But this is not the usual story about the fashion giant who copies the child without recognizing any merit, because the very creations of Dapper Dan were not exactly original. In the 80s, Harlem’s tailor bought Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Gucci bags in stock, cut out the branded fabrics and created bespoke pieces. For the law it was plagiarism, for customers it was a dream of ascent, expressed with clothes. Dapper sewed jackets, suits and suits thanks to which the logos denied to the blacks of America finally covered their bodies. The aim was not just to prove that we had done it: “My clients did not want to look like the rich white people they saw in the street every day, they wanted to express a personal idea of beauty. , to be able to say, like all the others: I am a human being “.
The rain of illustrious but unattainable logos, the exaggerated details, that bling bling taste were the signals of a value that the citizens of series B had to give themselves. More a heraldry than an aesthetic, an attribute from the aristocracy of the street. It is no coincidence that the first customers are the powerful drug bosses Alpo Martinez and Aize Faison, followed by rappers who are beginning to make a career: LL Cool J, Eric B. & Rakim, Public Enemy, Salt-n-Pepa. The best of hip hop in the 80s, which did not dictate fashion laws like today, but emulated the urban myths of the time: “Yesterday, rappers wanted to dress like gangsters, now it’s the opposite,” says Dapper.
Today everything has changed, starting with the new atelier a few steps from the old, a classic brownstone completely renovated. On the ground floor there is the sitting room and a study surrounded by velvet curtains and red walls, where the fabrics and small parts Gucci gave exclusively to Dapper Dan for his originals, this time perfectly legal: “It is the first time that I have to express my creativity within certain margins, “he says as we sit on the ocher velvet sofa on the first floor, the VIP area where clients’ clothes like Jay-Z and Beyoncé are tried out today. “Thanks to Alessandro Michele, I still have a lot of freedom, because his vision of fashion is as wide as mine … At first I was skeptical, then I realized that we were similar: I have always been out of the mainstream, he came out with force of ideas “.
Peace then made with the powerful maison that had made him close shop in 1992. “Now that there is recognition by an influential brand, everyone has rediscovered my story”. A story that will also be in the future Hip Hop Museum of the South Bronx, to which Dapper would like to donate as many archives as possible. “Finding them is not easy, do you have anybody?” He jokes, “I recently found my most famous piece, the Alpo coat, but the owner just got out of jail after 20 years, he found out how much it is worth and wants to keep it tight “. We will also be in the nicest brownstone in the neighborhood, but the old Harlem is still being felt, and it is not something that the new Dapper Dan wants to give up: “In my laboratory was born the first real collaboration between tailor and client, the personalization of the style that today pursue everyone “.
A “bottom-up” fashion that was not simple counterfeiting, but appropriated the symbols of the welfare of others to find a way to self-determination. Here is the political meaning of the flaming style of rappers, which would not have been the same without Dapper. Nas also tells the story in the CNN documentary Fresh dressed, dedicated to the relationship between fashion and hip hop: “If you were going to Louis Vuitton at the time, they would look at you from top to bottom, while at Dap you felt at home, creating something for you you never would have come from Vuitton “.
Today, however, Dap is more exclusive than any boutique, because it only receives by appointment. “Customers are not the same, now the cheapest jacket costs $ 2,700”. Despite the laurels of the present, the Harlem tailor loves to look back. He wrote a memoir for Random House, Sony Pictures will make a film and is now part of the establishment, but he always has the same question in mind: “what is done Dukie, the poor student of The Wire, in the fifth episode of the fifth season: how do I go from this corner of the road to the rest of the world? “.
Article taken from https://www.esquire.com/it/stile/moda-uomo/a23919550/dapper-dan/