Dapper Dan Says Logomania Is Here to Stay
Dapper Dan is one of the most legendary names in fashion, and the famed designer continues to innovate and stay inspired more than four decades into his career. He revolutionized fashion in the '80s and '90s and pioneered logomania, yet the Harlem style icon is still breaking new ground. His latest venture is a collaboration with Puma, which is releasing on Oct. 29 on Kith.com and at Kith stores across the globe, after first debuting at the label's New York Fashion Week show in September.
"Not only is [inclusivity] the right thing to do, but it . . . brings more energy to a brand, so I'm glad to see it happening now. I hope people realize that is something that can bring us all together."
"In addition to being exciting, Puma has a lot of history with my community," Dapper Dan recently tells POPSUGAR over a Zoom call. "For me to be able to do it coming from a fashion perspective adds so much more texture to the culture."
The designer describes the four-piece capsule collection, which features a specially designed logo, as "luxury meets leisure" fused with ferocious energy. "I come from an aggressive community. I'm always attacking established, iconoclastic ideas and brands, so I told them the Puma [logo] would have to be ferocious, in attack mode," he says.
Dapper Dan also wants to destigmatize activewear staples like hoodies, which are criminalized unfairly. "When you take athleisure and this whole sports look, and elevate it, it gives it a better sense of class and elevation and takes away a lot of the stigma associated with it," he says. "That's why when I wear athleisure, I like to wear it with an ascot or silk scarf to show people . . . that this could be upstairs, too."
While the couturier has created a collection that will no doubt have fans queuing around the block, the line is also deeply personal, as it represents a topic Dapper Dan is passionate about: the democratization of fashion. "You either grow or you die, and democracy allows [the former]," he says. "So inclusivity and diversity is necessary, otherwise you pit different segments of the society against [others]." He goes on, "Not only is it the right thing to do, but it monetizes a brand and brings more energy to a brand, so I'm glad to see it happening now. I hope people realize that is something that can bring us all together."
Ahead of the Oct. 29 collection coming exclusively to Kith, Dapper Dan opens up about his relationship with June Ambrose, the longevity of logomania, his dream collaboration, and more. Keep scrolling for the full interview.
On His Partnership With June Ambrose
To curate his collection, Dapper Dan worked alongside longtime collaborator and mentee Ambrose, the women's basketball creative director at Puma. "I couldn't have asked for a better partner," he says of the iconic celebrity stylist. He explains that together, they had "complete balance" and complemented each other seamlessly.
"She's one of the first stylists and the premier stylist that I've ever worked with," he continues. "To work with her on this level was amazing because she has such an enormous amount of energy and she's connected to the whole hip-hop scene like I am . . . To be able to interface with that [energy] is right in line with what I want to do. I want somebody who's been around but at the same time is timeless."
On the Democratization of Fashion
The democratization of the industry was not only "necessary" but also "inevitable," Dapper Dan explains. "You either grow or you die, and democracy allows [the former]. So inclusivity and diversity is necessary, otherwise you pit different segments of the society against [others]."
He goes on, "Not only is it the right thing to do, but it monetizes a brand and brings more energy to a brand, so I'm glad to see it happening now. I hope people realize that is something that can bring us all together."
On What Still Inspires Him
"I don't want [fashion] to be dictated from the top, when the bottom gave birth to it."
The industry veteran shares that young people continue to inspire him. "You are only as young and as old as your thoughts. Your thoughts comprise who you are," he says. "I surround myself with younger people and how they're thinking."
"I try to tell young creatives, 'Don't get locked up in yourself,'" he adds. "You are as creative as you think you are, there's no doubt in that. But if you get locked in yourself, your creativity might not be for this time."
He also wants younger creatives to know "there's no right or wrong" in fashion; "there's a weak or strong." "I don't want [fashion] to be dictated from the top, when the bottom gave birth to it," he says.
On His Dream Collaborator
Though the creative genius has dressed the likes of LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, Beyoncé, and Megan Thee Stallion, he still has a "dream" list, which includes Kendrick Lamar.
"I like the direction that Kendrick Lamar is going into," he explains. "I think that's the future of hip-hop. To make a stink, you have to make a stink about higher thoughts."
He says his favorite artists are those who "[make] you examine yourself and then bring you back together again as a better person," pointing to Marvin Gaye and The Beatles as examples.
On the Evolution of Hip-Hop Style
"The biggest thing that I've noticed is that it used to be on a singular track, but now the train is going in different directions," he says. "When I started, hip-hop had an enormous relationship with the street and street culture, and with the dark side of the street as well. Now I see, as it evolves, it's getting more social, more fun — even more fun than it's ever been."
Speaking about the current hip-hop landscape, he says, "The good part is everything goes, but the bad part is everything shouldn't go." He's referring to any part of the industry that's "associated with the dark side," like gang or gun violence. "I'm always happy when I can allow people to represent themselves outside of the negative side," he says.
On the Future of Logomania
"Can we escape it ever? I don't think so," he says. "Logomania says, 'I have arrived, this is it. Don't you see my Gs, don't you see my Fs, don't you see my logo?' That's what it says. And as the culture expands and people move up the social ladder, they want everybody to know, 'I'm up here now.'"
He adds, "It's a status symbol. It feeds the ego in a way that nothing else can in fashion . . . You can have the most elegant outfit in the world on, but nobody can tell exactly where it came from and how much it is."
On the State of the Fashion Industry
"What I love about the fashion industry [right now] is its marriage to music," the designer says, which was at the core of his work when he first started out. "When the artists came to me, I would listen to their lyrics and see how they wanted to represent themselves. To me, that's happy matrimony. I always wanted to see that take place."