Known as the couturier of Harlem, pioneering luxury streetwear, Dapper Dan brand, founded by Daniel Day in 1982, never stop shining. Rappers, hustlers, gangsters, athletes, famous ones like Diane Dixon, Mike Tyson, LL Cool J, Salt ‘N Pepa, The Fat Boys, Rakim, Bobby Brown, wore his original lux ghetto style jumpsuits, bomber jackets, and hoodies he crafted using lambskin and mink, plastered with bootleg logos of European fashion houses like Gucci, Fendi, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton. He also outfitted drug dealers like Alpo Martinez.
Daniel Day’s fashion style defined the important and significant direction of the hip-hop fashion style during the 80s and 90s.
At first, he initially built a fashion brand on reproduced logos. He stated: “Everything I did was original. So, the only thing that I (copied) was the logo itself, and even then, I did them in ways that had never been done before, not even by the people who owned the rights to the logos.”
How did it all started? According to Esquire, one day a hustler called Little Man who worked for the Harlem boss James “Jack” Jackson walked into the Dapper Dan Boutique and his girl held up a small brown leather clutch with a repeating pattern of gold letters—an L overlapping a V. As someone who knew all about leather, Day marveled at the stitching and the way the ink rested on the skin of the Louis Vuitton clutch. And as a tailor, Day offered them: “Imagine if you had a whole jacket”, eventhough he really had no idea how he was gonna do that. So he drove to the Fifth Avenue visiting Louis Vuitton and Gucci boutiques to get to know better about the brands.
Research and development. In the 80s, in the Fifth Avenue area, Day was the only black person in the stores and he received unwelcome reception, but he kept the focus on studying the merchandise. Unlike today, at that time Louis Vuitton and Gucci brands were only specialized in leather bags, luggage, wallets, and loafers. Gucci had only small section of clothes and most of all, none of the clothes had the beautiful Gucci logo. Day ended up bought only a Gucci garment bag and use some part of its cloth to be applied on the jacket. So the Little Man’s jacket with the Gucci trim was Day’s first effort at incorporating logos on a piece of clothing. It was a bigger success after the Harlem Jack also ordered a Gucci jacket. After that, Day went back down to the Gucci store and bought every single canvas print garment bag they had in stock, week after week.
As more and more clients started asking for monogrammed designs, so he started reading, experimenting, and sciencing on how to create good quality of ink print technique on leather and fabrics for months. Once the silk screening process refined, Dapper Dan Boutique could make a whole jacket or jumpsuit out of leather that was covered in any logo or crest any customers wanted.
The raids. Louis Vuitton was the first company to raid the Day’s shop. A lawyer handed me their documentation, explaining that this was a seizure due to infringement of the Louis Vuitton trademark. They took away all clothes with LV print. The next raids were from brand MCM but saved by Sonia Sotomayor, the first woman of color on the Supreme Court, nominated by Barack Obama. Followed by a lawsuit from Fendi in 1992 and pushed to close the store. Daniel Day was totally broke, kept secret by his loyal customers, and working under the radar for many years before bounced back into the light in 2017. He believed he was filling a legitimate need in the market. At the time, European fashion houses were not catering to the sensibilities of African-Americans.
Logo infringement. Intellectual property is still a gray area when it comes to fashion appropriation. Designers are constantly borrowing and sampling and getting inspiration from different cultures and from each other. It’s even more blurry in the art world. Andy Warhol’s career was one knockoff after the next. Campbell’s soup probably could shut down Warhol for stealing its logo and selling it for profit, but instead of getting lawyers to seize his paintings and end his career, the company sent him an appreciative letter for the homage and a shipment of soup. That’s how African-American saw it. And it’s a logic point of view.
For style, Daniel Day totally moved the international heritage-brand aesthetic away from the Madison Avenue look and gave it distinct uptown flavor. Everybody knows that his style is original and the only fake one is the bootleg logos from international fashion houses.
Collaboration with Gucci. Around two decades after the lawsuit, the Gucci creative director and CEO wanted to collaborate with Dapper Dan. Before the collaboration offer, the Gucci’s 2018 cruise show in Italy in 2017, had a jacket (Look no. 33) on the catwalk that was identical to one that Day had made for Olympic gold medalist Diane Dixon in 1989. People were angry and the internet erupted in outrage.
The Gucci creative director said that he was paying homage to Day. He was using this counterfeiting as a way to get Day’s attention and convince him to partner with Gucci. In 2017, Daniel Day was included in Gucci fashion advertisement in Harlem neighborhood style.
And Daniel Day back in town with his Harlem Atelier Studio:
Source: How Dapper Dan, Harlem’s Tailor, Mainstreamed “Ghetto Couture” — Dapper Dan Explains the Birth of His Legendary ‘Knock-Up’ Logo Clothing — How Gucci Brought Streetwear Swagger To A 96-Year-Old Brand — Gucci responds to claims it copied Dapper Dan — Gucci – Dapper Dan Collection.