Black excellence recently flooded Pier Sixty in Manhattan to honor the work of those that continue to break barriers in their industries for our community. The New York Urban League honored Dapper Dan with the Icon Award for the indelible mark he’s made on fashion spanning the last several decades.
“As we began the selection process for this year’s honorees we felt that it was very important to merge the past with the present to showcase where we, as an organization, are headed in the future,” said New York Urban League President, Arva Rice. “Looking at the influence that Dapper Dan has had, not only on his culture but fashion as a whole is so moving. Drawing inspiration from his resilience to pursue his dream and his recent resurgence we felt the history of this living legend had to be told.”
During his award acceptance speech, Dapper Dan shared: “The Urban League is so significant in my journey that this wouldn’t be happening today if it wasn’t for the Urban League… The Urban League started a street academy called the Storefront School. I didn’t want to be stuck on the corner, so I went to the Storefront School.” That decision was only the beginning of his journey. That experience inspired him to do work that would impact his community in a positive way and, thusly, pave the way for people of color in the fashion industry.
However, he definitely faced adversity. “I tried to open up a store, I couldn’t get businesses to sell to me because I was Black,” said Dapper Dan. “When they wouldn’t allow me to buy these things from them, I created these things myself. And, I created them the way we see things… When we look at something whether we are conscious of it or not, we always look at it with Black eyes.”
Now, Dapper Dan has an atelier in Harlem and recently collaborated with Gucci to create a capsule line.
Dapper Dan told ESSENCE, “I think that the fashion industry should pay very close attention to everything that is transpiring with the Urban League… The Urban League is responsible for me having that vision.”