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Fashion

Black In Fashion Spotlight: Looking Back On Dapper Dan's Legacy In Fashion

The pioneering tailor introduced a new wave of luxury in the 1980s.

Infusing hip-hop with luxury fashion in the '80s, Daniel Day, aka Dapper Dan, will go down in history as the King of "Knock-Ups." While his original Harlem-based atelier shuttered its doors in 1992 (and was revived decades later, thanks to Gucci), his legacy will be one to remember. Here's why.

Day's story didn't start in fashion. Growing up poor, he dropped out of school and began doing and selling drugs. After an arrest and rehab, a trip to Africa ignited a spark for art and design. A Liberian tailor crafted Day a suit from scratch, inspiring him to occupy a tailoring space back in NYC.

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Dapper Dan's Boutique sat famously on Harlem's 125th street, opening its doors in 1982 to an exclusive clientele of drug kingpins, professional boxers, and hip-hop musicians — many of whom he had connected with during his days of professional gambling and hustling.

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He quickly pinpointed a particular fascination for designer logos among his clients, and shifted direction from solely selling high-end furs to revamping repurposed fabric from such luxury houses as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Fendi.

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Day's 24-hour boutique became synonymous with hip-hop-inspired tracksuits and reversible leather jackets, which often included a Louis Vuitton monogram on one side and high-quality mink on the other. The boutique drew interest from the likes of Big Daddy Kane, L.L. Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, and more.

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Day eventually learned how to screenprint designer logos onto leather, expanding his offerings that soon became so coveted within the music industry. His work is one of the original influences for today's logomania craze.

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Dapper Dan Boutique's decade-long stint came to an abrupt end in 1992, after Fendi won a lawsuit against the boutique. A raid led by now-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor resulted in the final closure of his atelier.

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Day had largely disappeared from fashion until Gucci was accused of appropriating his old designs. In 2017, the luxury house debuted a puff-sleeved jacket with similarities to a repurposed Louis Vuitton version that Day created for Olympian Diane Dixon, later stating it paid homage to the tailor.

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What happened next was the recognition Day ultimately deserved: In a partnership solidified in 2017, Day worked with Gucci on a capsule collection, was the face of its tailoring campaign, and continues to serve as a brand ambassador.

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The legendary tailor and couturier's partnership with the Italian house also included the opening of a new Harlem atelier in 2018, where he creates made-to-order pieces on a by-appointment basis with fabrics hand-picked directly from Gucci's factories.

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Day's success with Gucci is a full-circle moment, but the timelessness of his work serves as the true testament. From dressing Ashley Graham and Regina Hall for the Met Gala to Saweetie and Doja Cat in Dapper Dan x Gucci for their "Best Friend" video, Day’s impact will never be obsolete.

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