French Montana’s newly released music video “No Stylist” had a number of surprise cameos. Chief among them was Dapper Dan—a.k.a. Daniel Day, the Harlem couturier and original auteur of streetstyle—who appeared alongside A$AP Rocky and influencer Luka Sabbat. Despite the recent co-sign, the designer remains most notable for his "knockups"—a term he coined to distinguish his work from knockoffs or rips-offs—that upended the landscape of hip-hop fashion.
Unlike the counterfeit market that thrives on identical and cheaper versions of high-end luxury collections, Day’s work reimagined existing designs by the likes of Louis Vuitton and Fendi, with a quintessential streetwear aesthetic. Although his bespoke garments were stamped by designer logos, they were always redesigned to include signature Dapper Dan details such as puffed sleeves or expensive fur.
Inspired by hip-hop culture and the way gangsters dressed, his creations attracted the best of both worlds—from the likes of Salt-N-Pepa and Eric B to underworld kingpins—who also happened to be among the only few that could afford his ultra-luxe designs and prices.
Under mounting pressure from lawsuits and copyright claims, Day closed shop in 1992, which marked the end of his once flourishing business.
It was a surprise Gucci collection in 2017 that brought the one-time fashion outlaw back into the spotlight, and today he runs Harlem’s first luxury store in partnership with the brand. His legacy is also being immortalized in form of a book and a film adaptation. But as the designer’s story heads to the silver screen, we take stock of his exhilarating journey to success that solidified his status as Harlem’s most famous couturier.