Dapper Dan, a beacon of Harlem’s fashion scene, has come out with a holiday capsule of the DAP GAP and has given his hometown Harlem the first dibs opportunity as he’s giving back to the neighborhood that has made him who is today. On Giving Tuesday, the designer went to the Gap Factory to sign hoodies alongside a poetry performance by The Peace Poets and support a new charitable project by Gap called BroSis, a Harlem-based non-profit organization dedicated to bridging the equity gap in young Black and Latinx communities that have a need for education, organization, and training for social justice.
The limited capsule collection comes in four reinvented colorways — red, green, and yellow plaid and a camel herringbone colorway to fit the season’s greetings. These colorways serve as an amplification of the Black man’s joy and the importance of portraying them as such, opposing the vilification that has been a longstanding narrative. The 78-year-old “hustler,” as her calls himself (rightfully so), has been in the game for almost over five decades, and truth be told, there are so many more stories to tell, projects to build, and more giving back to Harlem and hip-hop culture.
Known for re-imagining luxury house designs and putting luxury and Hip-Hop in the same rooms, Dapper Dan’s Gap collaboration just shows that he’s always thinking of new ways to tell a story from the Black perspective and somehow stays true to himself no matter what the deal is. In the quick and candid interview below, he shares his hustler intel, love of Harlem, and “logomania” that put him on the map.
Essence: How does it feel to be passing out your Dap hoodies in Harlem, similar to how you used to pass out your re-designs of Gucci and Louis Vuitton?
Dapper Dan: Debuting the new drop first in the neighborhood that inspires me every day meant the world to me, and the crowd absolutely brought it. 125th street is the center of our cultural world here in Harlem, and partnering with Gap has allowed me to take the Dap style universal. In celebration of Giving Tuesday, we also got to kick off the very first Gap House Sessions series with youth-development organization, The Brotherhood Sister Sol, which focuses on educating, organizing, and training for social justice – making space for Black and Latinx young people. It’s so important to give back to the community, particularly the kids – they are the future!
How have you remained authentic as you’ve hustled into the mainstream fashion world?
Even when partnering with Gucci, I told them that I have to continue being able to do what I’ve always done, and that’s creating for my community and remaining a part of it. Even though I knew when I was doing high-end luxury that the people in my community might not have been able to afford my designs, it was important for me to continue to stay out there – take the train, take the bus, and be out on the streets to make sure I’m interacting with the community face-to-face. They still could afford to have me around, to talk with me and interact with me.
That’s why partnerships like working with Gap mean so much to me, creating an opportunity for my people to have the ability to wear my designs. Today you’re seeing all of those people who have been with me from the beginning, coming out and supporting in Harlem just to wear a DAP of their own. They’ve finally been given the opportunity to show all the love that they’ve been feeling all along.
As you’ve become an originator of “logomania,” how has the Gap collaboration re-immersed you in the world of re-creating designs and logos?
It’s been very cool partnering with a brand as beloved as GAP. As a designer, it’s always exciting to work with a brand that shares similar values and wants to collaborate on something that I think people will really love. I’m always trying to elevate my work and find ways to connect and make people feel good. As some have dubbed me ‘the godfather of hip-hop fashion,’ it was amazing when an iconic American brand like Gap and I got together to create something that would take our culture even further – creating a new instant classic of modern American style with the signature Dap spin on it. My vision has always been about destigmatizing the hoodie, all while paying tribute to my Harlem roots with the new addition to that iconic logo. The DAP GAP collaboration symbolizes the merge of accessible fashion with a certain swagger and flair of self-expression.
What advice would you give to a fellow hustler who wants to work in fashion?
Growing up, I never knew just how capable I was until I found something that I loved doing. That’s when I discovered who I really was and what I was capable of creating. Whether interested in fashion or beyond, all I can do is encourage today’s future to really strive to find out what it is that they’re excited about. Because not until you find that excitement do you get to find out what you’re truly capable of. Trust me that you’ll open up a whole new can of opportunities in your mind once you zero in on that passion and discover who it is that you really want to be.