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From Controversy to Collaboration: Dapper Dan for Gucci

By: Jamara Robinson, Life+Style Reporter (@itsJamara)

Legendary fashion designer, Daniel Day, better known as Dapper Dan, was a pioneer for urban luxury fashion during the 1980s in Harlem. Dan would take high-end brands, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Fendi, and embellish their logos in a way that would fit the cultural style interests of African-Americans. His designs were requested and worn by major hip-hop artists, including  Rakim, Salt N Pepa and LL Cool J, who popularized his work. After eight years of redesigning, Dan was raided and sued for copyright infringement by the brands he used.

More than two decades after the lawsuit, Dapper Dan’s impact on the fashion industry remains obvious. Major brands have taken Dan’s concepts and used them as their own—giving him no credit. This was most recently seen at Gucci’s Cruise 2018 fashion show in May. The line included several pieces covered with Gucci symbol embellishments and even a puffer jacket identical to one of Dapper Dan’s creations. This caused an uproar among fans who demanded that Dan get the credit he deserve. Some critics even saw the pieces as a form of appropriation. Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, responded to the critics stating, “I wanted people to recognize Dapper on the catwalk. It wasn’t appropriation, it was a homage.”

Fast-forward four months later and Gucci announces that Dapper Dan is the face of their new tailoring campaign. The two will also be collaborating on a capsule collection set to release next spring. Though this is viewed by many as another opportunity for the fashion industry to get themselves out of hot water, Dan explained in an interview with The New York Times how the collaboration would benefit both parties. He plans on opening a second-generation shop for custom pieces with original materials powered by Gucci themselves. In an interview with The Times, Dapper Dan stated:

“I was just excited about it being there. The part about appropriation, Alessandro and I are part of two parallel universes… I found out how similar our experiences were, the way he grew up and the way I grew up, and how he was influenced by me. I was never apprehensive about what took place… You have to understand, I was prepared to be copied from the time my store was first opened… The fact that it has to be two different worlds, I had already accepted that. I was just content with satisfying the people in my community… I think that would be doing a disservice to the culture that I am a part of to accept anything less than what Alessandro has offered me. I think it’s something that the younger people in my community could be very proud of.”

The fashion industry has been known to fail African-Americans in areas ranging from representation to recognition. The same brand to sue Dapper Dan for copyright infringement, ultimately causing the decline of a black cultural phenomenon, is now collaborating with him after receiving backlash for stealing his designs. But, if the designer himself has no problem with it, then why should anyone else? As some say, sometimes you have to play the game to win.

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