Last week, a controversy was ignited over Gucci‘s resort collection, which included a puffy jacket that clearly was inspired by one Harlem designer Daniel Day aka Dapper Dan made for Olympian Diane Dixon. Push back on social media was intense, not only because the concept of appropriation is a very hot-button topic as of late, but also because Day was driven out of business by luxury labels who sued him for illegal reproduction of their labels.
Gucci quickly reacted to the hubbub, posting an image on social media acknowledging Dapper Dan’s influence, and a spokesman also told the NY Times it was interested in collaborating with the designer.
Yesterday, the Times published a full profile of Daniel Day (which was in progress prior to the Gucci blow up), in which Day acknowledged he had been contacted by Gucci. “We’re at the table,” said Day.
In the profile, Day detailed a childhood in which his family struggled to buy him new shoes. “My sense of style came from having holes in my shoes,” said Day. “I was in third grade, and I would put cardboard and paper in the bottom of my shoes, but it got to the point where the soles were just gone. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I came home from church one Sunday and told my mother: ‘Ma, my feet are killing me. They hurt so bad.’ I had tears in my eyes.”
A professional gambler as a teen, Day was inspired to make a change by Malcolm X and went back to school, attending Columbia University. After graduating, he worked for a Harlem newspaper called Forty Acres and a Mule during the ’60s, and also became involved with Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers and the Mighty Black Zulus.
Day was inspired to become a tailor after a trip to Africa in 1968. He began by reselling boosted items and opened his own store, specializing in fur and leather in the early ’80s.
It was during that period when he became aware of the power of a logo. “The label is everything,” he said. “The label is the thing the gangster clientele use to let the other gangsters in the street know, ‘You ain’t got what I got.’ The label or logo sets you apart.”
His entry into designing logo-covered outfits was inspired by a customer who was bragging about his Louis Vuitton pouch. “And it occurred to me, if that’s how he feels about the pouch, how would he feel if that Louis Vuitton pouch became a whole outfit?” said Day, who created leather coats, suits, hats and car interiors featuring the logos of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Fendi and MCM.
When word spread and he business began to really crank, the store was often open seven days a week, sometimes through the night. “At two in the morning, people from as far away as Philly were shopping at Dapper Dan,” R&B vocalist Jeff Redd said. “He changed the game in fashion.”
Dapper Dan clients included Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. and Rakim, KRS-One, LL Cool J, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, DJ Spinderella, Salt-N-Pepa, among others.
Day’s popularity proved to be his undoing, as his popularity grew, labels took notice and hit him with litigation for using their logos illegally. In 1992, Day shut down the store, besieged by lawsuits.
To keep up with Day, keep an eye on his site: blog.dapperdanofharlem.com.
Following the Times coverage, Dapper Dan responded on Twitter.
I grew up putting paper in my shoes to cover holes in my soles. Now I’m in the paper all bc of the people who believe in me. Thx everyone 🙏🏿 pic.twitter.com/l90tyZbE0h
— Dapper Dan (@DapperDanHarlem) June 4, 2017
Gucci on Instagram
Inside the #GucciCruise18 collection by #AlessandroMichele, a look that celebrates an iconic style of hip-hop fashion culture from the 80s—a plush jacket featuring puffy sleeves monogrammed in GG motif. Legendary tailor Dapper Dan @dapperdanharlem influenced the trend by making such custom pieces for his rapper and athlete clients out of logos from famous fashion houses, including #Gucci. In a homage to Dapper Dan, this jacket worn with jeans and a lurex headpiece is flanked with a striped knit with cross-stitch embroidery, cotton shorts and a georgette gown with trompe l’oeil details.
Diane Dixon pushes back on Instagram
“Bish” stole my look! Give credit to @dapperdanharlem He did it FIRST in 1989! #gucci #GucciRipOff Now they get it! Long time overdue! @iamaprilwalker @tammyfordagency #DesignerWars #louisvuitton #LouisVuittonMinkJacket #dianedixonolympian @usmarothonmann @677flycreative @pam_boy @spaceodditykelly @i_am_audrey_ #dapperdanharlem @tom.prior @balleralert @theshaderoom