Dapper Dan is synonymous with luxurious leathers, early hip-hop fashion, and Harlem braggadocio. The uptown designer has immortalized everything from Eric B. & Rakim's Paid in Full album cover to Salt-n-Pepa's matching outfits to the dope boy fits of 125th street. Now, he's trying to do the same with Floyd "Money" Mayweather who is fighting Robert Guerrero tonight in a custom boxing outfit. Dapper Dan's been making lavish pieces for Mayweather for a couple of fights now. Remember Pretty Boy's entrance last year for the Cotto fight? The white and red ostrich shorts and matching hoodie were Dapper Dan's creations. It had Twitter going ham, and tonight's outfit won't disappoint either. We talked to the Harlem legend to gain some insight on his collaborative efforts with the flamboyant boxer and other celebrities he's working with at the moment.
Interview by Soo-Young Kim (@sooeypooey)
How did you first meet Floyd Mayweather?
He reached out to me a few years ago through an old mutual friend of ours.
Did he reach out to you as a fan of your designs?
Yeah, we had a great mutual respect for each other and that's one of the reasons why we clicked right away. Floyd has keen fashion sense, and also a great reputation as a fighter. I have a long history of working with athletes and entertainers, so we knew of each other's legacy before we even met.
What's your favorite piece that you made for him?
The trunks that he wore for his fight against Juan Manuel Marquez back in 2009. They were ostrich and mink, with plonge leather as trimming. Very, very rich looking.
Nobody's ever done ring wear like he does ring wear. Nobody! People forget—his first nickname is "Pretty boy" Floyd Mayweather.
Speaking of very, very rich looking, the ostrich leather outfit you made for Mayweather for his fight against Miguel Cotto was lavish. Can you tell us the backstory of how you came to design those pieces for that night?
Floyd likes ostrich a lot. It's one of his favorite skins. But instead of buying an ostrich leather garment from a store, he likes to have something made that caters more to his style. It's got to have that special look that he likes, you know what I mean? He wanted something that was going to fit with what was going on in fashion at the time, but have it also be something that would put him at the head of the pack. The result was a chic biker look, and he loved it.
Is designing and coming up with the customs a collaborative effort?
Yes, it's always a collaborative effort because he's strong-willed. That's one of the things that I like about [Mayweather]—he knows what he wants and is very passionate about it. He just needs to have me show him what that energy would look like when it's brought to life as a finished garment—as far as what would look right and what won't—and then for me to work out how to actually make it.
Mayweather's look for tonight is being kept under wraps until his big entrance. But can you tell us what's special about the outfit?
When Floyd is in the ring, he likes to look the same way that he does when he's at a fly club. So, with tonight's look, if he substituted the trunks, he could still wear the top to an exclusive club and be fly. Nobody's ever done ring wear like he does ring wear. Nobody! People forget—his first nickname is "Pretty boy" Floyd Mayweather. Floyd "Money" Mayweather came later. He was fly before anything else.
Do the specific colors, cuts, or details of the pieces send a message about Mayweather?
A money message, because now he's "Money" Mayweather, so he wants to send a money message
I'm working on a top-secret project with Pharrell right now.
and have that money look. That's why I always use expensive exotic skins and flamboyant colors.
Are there any other celebrity clients you've been working with recently?
I'm working on a top-secret project with Pharrell [Williams] right now.
How would you describe your design aesthetic in one sentence?
A lot of times, it takes a person who is a celebrity to "make" the garment; I like my garments to make a person a celebrity.
How has your design style changed since your beginnings of putting a spin on designer leathers?
Well, my beginnings were with furs and plain leathers. After that, I got into putting spins on just about any fabric that you could find, including leather, so that I could push the limits of fashion that existed at the time. Now, I just continue to expand and widen my palette. Always going beyond the confines.