During an appearance on The Breakfast Club, Harlem courtier and Gucci collaborator Dapper Dan opened up about the childhood struggles he lays out in his new memoir, Made in Harlem: A Memoir, how he established the star-studded clientele that frequented his Harlem atelier in the '80s, and the reforms Gucci is adopting in the wake of their blackface scandal.
The Harlem native originally gained notoriety for the creation of elegant designer "knockups" that defined the aesthetic of '80's hip-hop legends and gangsters alike. Dan took inspiration from high-end labels yet he infused his designs with an eccentricity and flair that brought luxury fashion to the people around him. 75 years after growing up among “the poorest of Harlem’s poor," as he writes in his memoir, he's designing Gucci garments that are making their way down the Met Gala carpet.
A few years ago, when Gucci was called out for copying Dan's designs, the designer had a series of talks with the company which eventually manifested into a partnership. When Dan spoke to Alessandro Michele, the trailblazing designer credited with revamping Gucci, he told him that if black culture is going to be appropriated, then people of color need to have a seat at the table. "When people appropriate our culture, they make mistakes," he tells the show's hosts. "So my approach to them was, 'you got to have us in the room. We got to be a part of this so these things don't happen.'"
As it pertains to his partnership with the Italian fashion house—when the blackface scandal prompted customers to condemn the entire Gucci establishment, Dap helped spearhead some much-needed reforms within the company. "We have a changemakers program, I wish everybody would go online and see what they implement," he explains. "But this is what we should be doing, look at the changemakers program and see if it's something you agree with, and if you agree with it, we're going to run with this and keep running with it, and you know what we're going to do next? We're taking it to the rest of the brands."
In regards to the Gucci boycott that many in hip-hop have pledged to honor, Dap says it's not beneficial to the cause. "What can we get out of this?" he asks the hosts. "We do a boycott, this will be the first boycott people of color, black people have ever had in America that we get zero results. That's too damn stupid."
You can watch the full interview above.