Dapper Dan Makes History With CFDA’s Lifetime Achievement Award

In Summary

Dapper Dan is said to have merged luxury fashion with hip-hop culture in the 1990s, and he’s the first Black designer to be honored with CFDA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Harlem fashion icon Dapper Dan will receive the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, and he didn’t even need a television show to do it, per RUNWAY MAGAZINE editor-in-chief Eleonora de Gray

Dan is a designer, or more appropriately a tailor, known for logo design and textile printing in the 1980s and ‘90s. He took logos from high-end fashion brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Fendi and printed them on fabrics, adding puffed sleeves or other elements he took from French and Italian Couture brands. However, he didn’t have permission to do so. 

RELATED: Kerby Jean-Raymond Brought Black Inventions to Couture Runways 

His earliest clients were hustlers and local drug dealers, but he later expanded his clientele to include young Black celebrities and athletes such as Mike Tyson, LL Cool J, and Rakim, per Forbes’ Cassell Ferere

Fashion brands filed a massive lawsuit against him, the FBI pursued him and his Harlem boutique was eventually shut down. But his spirit lived on.

Not only is Dan the first person without a runway show, the trendsetting designer is also the first designer who produced counterfeit goods to ever win the CFDA honor. 

“We’re also incredibly pleased to see several talented names among the nominees for the first time. American fashion is experiencing a renewed energy, and the designers play a significant role in the future trajectory of our industry,” said CFDA CEO Steven Kolb

In an Instagram post, Dan made note of the fact that though he’s apparently the first person without a runway show to ever receive the award, the “streets of Harlem have been my runway for 35 years.”

RELATED: Celebrities Gather for Met Gala to Celebrate American Fashion 

“Isn’t that where the major luxury brands got their inspiration from? Maybe logo-mania is an illusion,” he said. “Thank you Harlem, I love you! Thank you to the CFDA for making me the first Black designer to win this lifetime achievement award. Harnessing the Dapper Dan brand to Gucci, mounted it on a global track, now the whole world knows what Harlem always knew, that the Dapper Dan brand is a thoroughbred brand.” 

CFDA Fashion Awards 2021 will be held on November 10 at the Seagram Building’s Pool + The Grill on Park Avenue. 

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