A partnership between Gucci and the legendary Harlem designer Dapper Dan bridges past and future, and revives the storied culture of a New York neighborhood
By MAX BERLINGER
Photography AN LE
Dapper Dan didn’t expect all this. When he shut down his Harlem atelier in the 1990s, he figured his work — which took the logos from high-end labels like Gucci and Louis Vuitton and made them into bold and flashy streetwear — was done. But last year the Italian luxury label announced they’d be partnering with the legendary clothier, who’s real name is Daniel Day, helping to continue his legacy and introduce it to a new generation. This was a big surprise, considering that Day’s original designs attracted unhappy attention from the luxury brands — how things have changed.
Today, Dapper Dan’s multi-level store and studio inhabits a corner townhouse around the corner from his original store, in a neighborhood where the designer has spent the entirety of his life. On a sunny spring day, the sidewalk has a subdued energy — young people stroll past arm-in-arm while others walk along hurriedly to the nearby subway stop. Thanks to Gucci’s support, you can once again get custom clothes made by Day or shop the collaborative capsule collection, which riffs on Day’s original designs from the 1980s and ‘90s. The thing that’s so striking about the pieces is how timelessly cool they are, how Dapper Dan was truly ahead of the curve, how he saw casual street styles and integrated luxury labels with that aesthetic, long before the current streetwear mania that has swept the menswear industry.
Day is a loquacious, welcoming host, and undeniably cool in his three-piece suit and dark shades. He sits regally in the well-appointed living room area of the townhouse, with its ornate and rich decor, happily talking about his life and worldview. He’s clearly a man who has seen a lot and knows a lot, and is happy to share.
“It’s not a collaboration, it’s a partnership. It involves everybody straight across the cultural platform, and I love that.”