Dapper Dan is one of the most influential designers to emerge from the Black community. From his atelier set-up with Gucci after a much-publicized controversy to his recent collaboration with the with Gap, the Harlem native is finally receiving his flowers and having the opportunity to share his story from his own lens.
Recently, the style icon and cultural staple sat down with Claima Stories co-founder and creative director Bimma Williams to discuss his career spanning over four decades in great detail.
Starting his career as an "underground designer," who customized designs with a soupçon of inspiration from luxury European labels, Dapper Dan was able to lay the foundation and follow throw on his vision. Over time, the world caught up, and was able to appreciate what he had been doing. In the interview, he spoke about breaking the mold of what was traditionally done and establishing a precedent for what is "trendy" in fashion today. "All the brands that came after me did the cookie-cutter approach to fashion. They have everyone looking the same. My approach has always been like Burger King, have it your way."
The support of the Black community, though at times conflicted about the longevity of his work at the start of his career, was integral to Dapper Dan's success over the years. He spoke about the difficulty that he experienced with getting different strata of Black folks to buy into his vision and overcoming the doubt placed on his designs. Dan even reflects on EBONY being the first black publication to honor him and his work. "I didn't get recognized by a major Black publication until two years ago. EBONY awarded me. I’m not faulting them. But people of color, uppity black people, didn’t understand what I was doing."
You can catch the full interview with Dapper Dan and Bimma Williams below: