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Column: Gucci, Dapper Dan, and redemption

The curious case of Dapper Dan

The Serial Shopper is Salute Magazine ’s weekly column authored by Managing Editor Money Jensen. The Serial Shopper is a weekly look into the mind of our quirky and eclectic Managing Editor and her thoughts on fashion, books, music, culture, and controversial topics within.

Gucci has opened a new chapter by teaming up with Dapper Dan for his Atelier.

If you are old enough to remember the 80’s,  Dapper Dan was one of the key players in New York hip-hop’s fashion scene and African American celebrity culture.  Dapper Dan was the go-to name in urban fashion in the 80’s when you wanted to be distinctly fly. If you wore a Dapper Dan Original, you were going to stop the show.

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You may wonder how Gucci came into play with a designer who had faded into the mist of fashion legends. Over the last few years, under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele, the brand has had an insane resurgence after being in the wings for several years. During this resurgence in the 2018 cruise collection, Alessandro recreated one of Dapper Dan’s original designs, that was once emblazoned with the Louis Vuitton logo, and replaced it with their trademark double-g logo.

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When the cruise collection first dropped, there was no mention of Dan or his influence on the designs until critics online began to compare the two designs, even the New York Times covered the story with the question “Who knocks off the knockers-off? Who bootlegs the bootleggers?”. Soon after the barrage of online comments from fashion fans and critics citing appropriation, Gucci released this statement on their Instagram page citing Dapper Dan as the influence of the design.

 

 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 @dapperdanharleminfluenced 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.

After this pseudo-controversy, something unexpected happened. Gucci decided to actually collaborate with Dapper Dan giving him a new atelier studio in Harlem on Lennox Avenue (not too far from his original studio on 125th) with a full stock of Gucci supplies to create his designs.

Some might call it a play to cover their own skin, but this collaboration means so much more to the culture than some may realize. Dan, whose studio was closed down in 1992 after brands came after him for using their logos in his upscale original designs, has come full circle in this situation. In an article with GQ, Dan addressed the claims of appropriation.

“You know, that’s an interesting question, because that’s an issue with the public. I’ve left that behind a long time ago. Because I have seen [echoes of] my work in various forms, with various companies. In fact, Mecca launched their company with one of my initial creations. So I was used to seeing that. The only new idea that I had to get used to is getting credit for it! But social media was up in arms about it—you know, social media is new to me, so it all took me by surprise. But, no—I plan to just move ahead. Sometimes I would have to address it, in fairness to the public, but all in all, I’m very happy about the arrangement Gucci and I have.”- Dapper Dan

His artistic influence on fashion, hip-hop, and pop culture has come to the forefront of the fashion world in a way that shines a light on creatives from disparaged neighborhoods around the globe who are trying to get their work seen on the world stage. Last Sunday at the 90th Annual Oscar Awards, world-renowned actress Selma Hayek and wife of Kering executive François Henri Pinault,  wore a Dapper Dan original Gucci design to the Vanity Fair afterparty marking a moment for Dan and the culture.

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In a post (below) Dan noted this moment via his Instagram page.

 

@SalmaHayek wore the most important outfit of the night. It wasn’t because she is absolutely stunning—because she is. It wasn’t because it was the best outfit of the night—because it wasn’t. It’s not because it was @Gucci, nor is it because it was made by #DapperDan. No. It was the most important because it sent a message to my pen pals in the favelas of Brazil, and in Soweto, South Africa, and in every ghetto in the world where people are trying to find a way to “make it from The Corner to the rest of the world.” It is important because they know that my story is their story, and that if someone of Salma’s stature would wear something of mine, then they, too, can be a designer.
#Harlem

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@SalmaHayek wore the most important outfit of the night. It wasn’t because she is absolutely stunning—because she is. It wasn’t because it was the best outfit of the night—because it wasn’t. It’s not because it was @Gucci, nor is it because it was made by #DapperDan. No. It was the most important because it sent a message to my pen pals in the favelas of Brazil, and in Soweto, South Africa, and in every ghetto in the world where people are trying to find a way to “make it from The Corner to the rest of the world.” It is important because they know that my story is their story, and that if someone of Salma’s stature would wear something of mine, then they, too, can be a designer. #Harlem

A post shared by Dapper Dan (@dapperdanharlem) on

 

The always gracious Hayek made her own post via Instagram of a photo of herself and Dan at his studio in Harlem.

It was an honor to collaborate with legendary @dapperdanharlem and give a taste of Harlem talent to the world. Fue un honor colaborar con el legendario diseñador #dapperdan testimonio del talento de #harlem#oscarsparty#fashion#gucci

 

The case of Gucci and Dapper Dan is a rare one, where the brand took responsibility and decided to collaborate and cultivate the artist in a way that would be mutually beneficial instead of the great suck that usually happens in this global culture of “every person for themselves.”

As we examine our past and our global culture, brands should use this example of not taking but reaching out and cultivating those creatives on the forefront of new fashion, technology, etc. and making an impact that may be greater than initially perceived.

Watch: Gucci 2018 Cruise Collection

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