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Dapper Dan is often considered the godfather of hip-hop style, and for good reason. If it wasn't for him, Eric B. and Rakim's Gucci jackets on the cover of Paid in Full would not exist. Neither would all the Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and MCM outfits that LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, and KRS-ONE wore. His creations were so next-level—groundbreaking, if you will—that they live on today.
Love Magazine recently chopped it up with Dan to find out more about his work. Dan discusses everything from from his proudest moment as a designer to how he learned his tailoring skills. Read on below for the interesting interview.
What was your proudest moment as a designer?
"Seeing a piece of my work at the Museum of the City of New York in their 'Black Style Now' exhibition and then being asked to give an impromptu speech to the attendees on the day that I went to see it."
Is it your fault that I'm obsessed by logos?
"My intention was to take them and adorn my customers with them in a way that made someone wearing one of my garments feel cool, giving them that sense of "I've arrived!" I wanted to really make my customers stand out so that they felt like a celebrity in one of my pieces, and I hope that that's what they do for you."
How do you feel about the changes in Harlem over recent years, and what does that mean to you?
"I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it reminds me of the Harlem that I grew up in, with all of the cultural diversity that you see now. But, on the other hand, I feel for people who have been displaced due to things like eminent domain [power of the state to take private property for public use with payment of compensation to the owner] and gentrification."
How did you learn your tailoring skills?
"Somewhere around 25% through trial and error, and the rest through reading and studying on my own."
This was a bespoke service you were operating; how many fittings did it take before the final item was made? And at the outset, was it just a discussion with the customer about what they may want or did they just want anything you could create for them?
"Well, it varied with men and women, but I never recall anything taking more than three fittings. And generally, after the second fitting, the customer would be there through the completion of the garment. As far as design, some customers wanted me to create a look for them, others had their own creative ideas, and then there were those who wanted things that they saw other customers with. For the customers who came to me with their own ideas, I had a slogan that I used to repeat all the time in the store, which was "the idea that you have in your mind, might not look good on your behind!" and what that means is that everything is not for everybody. A successful ensemble is one that compliments two things; the way a person looks, and also the way that they carry themselves."
Do you think they realised just how exclusive your work was - and is? I mean a lot of it was one-off special commissions, right?
"Yes, absolutely. In fact, that was the driving force for every customer that came into the store, from the richest to the poorest."
If you're feeling nostalgic after reading that, Dan's blog is full of old photos of his work.
[via Love Magazine]