As noted by Complex, the Harlem native gained notoriety in the 80’s for his designer “knockups” which saw him take inspiration from high-end labels such as Gucci. Decades later, the famed fashion house would be called out for knocking off his designs. But Dan says the brand had his back in a way that other copycat labels did not.
“Gucci comes and they say everybody’s paying homage to Dapper Dan but nobody’s paying him. We gon’ change that. We gon’ allow you to do what you’ve always done in Harlem and we’re going to do a partnership and you get a percentage of that globally,” he explained. “I could never get that. That’s my foothold.”
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The 75-year-old writes in his memoir that he grew up among “the poorest of Harlem’s poor,” now designing garments for Gucci.
Speaking on the most recent Gucci boycott – sparked by a sweater design resembling blackface – Dan noted that the black folks gained nothing from criticizing the company.
“Don’t tell me there’s any organization in the world that don’t have a number of people who are racist because we don’t hear them say it, that don’t mean it ain’t happening,” he stated. “So forget that part, let’s look at what can we get out of this? This will be the first boycott black people have ever had in America that we get zero results. That is too damn stupid. You walk away because you’re insulted and you end up with zero? You can’t be no hero like that.”
The blackface scandal prompted Gucci to tap Dapper Dan to help launch reforms within the company.
“We have a changemakers program, I wish everybody would go online and see what they implement,” he explains. “But this is what we should be doing, look at the changemakers program and see if it’s something you agree with, and if you agree with it, we’re going to run with this and keep running with it, and you know what we’re going to do next? We’re taking it to the rest of the brands.”
Watch the full interview via the YouTube clip above.