In September, Dapper Dan unveiled a collaboration with Puma at New York Fashion Week during Puma’s “Futrograde” presentation, which was curated by creative director June Ambrose. The garments were true to Dapper Dan’s timeless reinterpretations of logomania that’s influenced nearly every luxury house. Tracksuits, oversized puffer jackets, and classic Puma sneakers were covered with a distinctive monogram by Dap and finished off with studded logos spelling out the fashion pioneer’s name and initials.
“It’s perfect for me to come along at this time to be able to align myself with such a powerful brand that also represents us,” Dapper Dan tells Complex from his atelier. “This is the biggest thing for me since I started making clothes for hip-hop. We are at the crux of a new era: athleisure. When I started out making clothes, I was at the crux of a new musical genre. So this falls right in line with what I represent and what my story is about. So I’m loving it.”
But Dapper Dan’s collaboration with Puma isn’t limited to those runway looks, which will be exclusively released at Kith on Oct. 29. Dapper Dan is also a member of ‘’The Collective,’’ a team of creatives, influencers, and storytellers Puma will highlight in video campaigns that detail each member’s impact on the culture. Members of The Collective, which includes designers like Rhuigi Villaseñor and the filmmaker Hype Williams, will also personally pick a rising creative from a younger generation to provide a $20,000 financial grant, mentorship, and support, for eight months.
“Fashion to me is a platform that I can use to address a bigger issue,” says Dapper Dan. “And I tell young guys in Harlem all the time, ‘Listen man, I’m not here to dress young bodies. I’m here to dress young minds.’ I’m using fashion as a way to do that.”
It’s clear for Dapper Dan that the mentorship element of his collaboration with Puma was as important as the clothes. Days after his surprise appearance at New York Fashion Week, Dapper Dan was a guest of honor at the 11th anniversary gala for SoHarlem, an East Harlem-based incubator that provides spaces for artisans, young designers of color, and other creative entrepreneurs to grow micro-businesses and earn liveable wages. In a suit by Javier Valencia, an East Harlem fashion designer supported by SoHarlem, Dapper Dan surprised attendees at the event by revealing that he picked Mario Miguelito as his mentee for Puma. Miguelito is a Bronx-based fashion designer who graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology. The designer launched his label Void Asylum in 2020 shortly after he took up a design apprenticeship at SoHarlem, which is where he first met Dapper Dan.
“What I look forward to the most is working with Dapper Dan and being a sponge. I want to sit next to him, soak in all the knowledge. It’s not just from the fashion and business perspective, but also life,” Miguelito told Complex minutes after receiving the news. “Dapper Dan is an elder and there’s nothing more that I enjoy than getting knowledge and wisdom from those that have come before me so that I can use it in my art and then pass it down to future generations.”
Complex exclusively spoke to Dapper Dan to learn more about his ongoing collaboration with Puma, the creative process behind his looks for June Ambrose’s Puma “Futrograde” presentation, how he looks to support a younger generation of designers, and more.