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Dapper Dan Growing Brand Despite Being Shut Out From Fashion Industry 30 Years Ago 

As reported by ABC News, Daniel R. Day, better known as Dapper Dan, has had a long and arduous journey, marked by resilience and steadfastness. The 79-year-old fashion designer, also known as "the godfather of hip-hop fashion," has faced lawsuits, blackballing, and rejection from top luxury fashion brands. But despite the challenges, he has now established himself as a tastemaker, collaborating with those very brands that once dismissed him.

Dapper Dan's Harlem boutique at 43 East 125th Street, a legendary establishment in the fashion world, was forced to shut down due to lawsuits from high-end fashion houses. These houses accused Dapper Dan of using their logos without permission in his designs. However, Dapper Dan explained that he didn't do knock-offs, but knock-ups, akin to what jazz musicians did.

In the 1980s, Dapper Dan offered his own twist on designer brands that stood out, aiming to attract the wealthy and fashionable people in his community. He realized he could make a lot of money by using luxury brand logos on his clothes. After learning about textile printing, Dapper Dan began incorporating the logos of luxury fashion houses like Fendi, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci in his products, putting his name on the tags. Soon, word spread about his unique items, and his list of clients ranged from Harlem hustlers to famous personalities like Run DMC, Mike Tyson, Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J, and Bobby Brown. He was not just a fashion designer but a cultural icon, credited with sowing the seeds of fashion in the hip-hop music genre.

Despite his success, Fendi sued Day in 1992, claiming his use of their logo in his designs was trademark infringement. He lost the lawsuit, forcing him to close his store and go underground. During the '90s, he flew below the radar, and his business ceased to thrive. The lawsuit left him with almost nothing, and he found himself sewing in a basement.

However, Gucci's Resort 2017 collection, under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele, showcased a nearly identical version of a Dapper Dan coat from the 1980s that Olympic gold and silver medalist Diane Dixon wore. Gucci referenced the collection as a tribute to Dapper Dan's unique designs.

At the inspiration of Dixon, Gucci's creative director, Alessandro Michele, collaborated with Dapper Dan on a new men's clothing line and launched a new luxury store called "Dapper Dan of Harlem."

"The No. 1 designer came to Harlem," Dapper Dan said. "And said, 'we believe in you. We want to do this thing with you.' And we walk through Harlem. It was like a political campaign almost. We walk from my brownstone to the Apollo Theater. And when you look at the entourage, it's all Brown and Black people. And then you see the Gucci team, you know, the whole Gucci team embracing it."

On April 4, 2024, Sherwin-Williams made it known that they will collaborate with Dapper Dan on a new fashion line called, 'The Loneliest Color.' The fashion collection was inspired by the brand's least popular color, 'Kingdom Gold SW 6698.' Dapper Dan will debut as the Creative Director of The Loneliest Color™.

Other brands such as Puma and Gap are following the fashion trends that Dapper Dan has long been providing. "Usually we have to be them to succeed," Dapper Dan said. "We made it so that they had to be us to succeed. And so that's why you see every major brand has some of my influence in it."

Today, Dapper Dan aims to recreate his designs from the past with a modern twist of reinvention. He studies and incorporates African styles and sensibilities while putting his own twist on them, bringing them to the streets of Harlem and around the world.

"In our culture, you know, we take things that already exist and fashion them into who we are," Dapper Dan said. "And that's what I did with the logos. You know, I say, if Ralph Lauren can give you one horse, I'm going to give you all the horses, and I'm going to give you herds. Gucci gonna give you 2 Gs, I'm gonna give you colorful Gs."

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