Untitled

Dapper Dan was doing high fashion in hip-hop when guys like Kanye and Pharrell were just little kids. When brands like Louie Vuitton and Gucci wouldn’t even acknowledge hip-hop, he made sure rap’s biggest names were still dipped in designer duds. From his headquarters in Harlem, Dan constructed some of the most memorable fashion pieces in hip-hop history. LV logos on Nikes and car interiors–he did it first. In a recent interview with SneakerFreaker, Dapper talked about how he’s proud to see guys like Kanye actually working with the big name designers. Spotted at the Smoking Section

You gave those brands a different kind of fame, a street credibility. They obviously didn’t see any value in what you’d done for them.
They didn’t. They really, truly didn’t. They didn’t wake up until the other brands started seeing the impact of urban wear and how hip hop took it around the world. I’m happy for that and I’m happy for what’s going on now with Kanye and Pharrell working with the big houses that would not take me on early on, you know?

Did you see Kanye’s shoes for Louis Vuitton?
Yeah, I saw the red sneakers. I’ve been trying to follow him closely and I’m excited about what he’s been able to do. I hope I had something to do with him being able to be where he is today, as far as fashion’s concerned.

Check out more from the interview after the jump…

You got into a little legal tangle with those brands eventually though.
Yeah. They sued me, so I had to start all over again. I was getting too much publicity with Mike Tyson and all the rappers naming me in all the songs, so that’s why I went underground.

You gave those brands a different kind of fame, a street credibility. They obviously didn’t see any value in what you’d done for them.
They didn’t. They really, truly didn’t. They didn’t wake up until the other brands started seeing the impact of urban wear and how hip hop took it around the world. I’m happy for that and I’m happy for what’s going on now with Kanye and Pharrell working with the big houses that would not take me on early on, you know?

Did you see Kanye’s shoes for Louis Vuitton?
Yeah, I saw the red sneakers. I’ve been trying to follow him closely and I’m excited about what he’s been able to do. I hope I had something to do with him being able to be where he is today, as far as fashion’s concerned.

I’d say you definitely did. Now I wanted to ask you about sneakers. It’s probably the least well-known element of the Dapper Dan story. How did you get started in footwear? Was it a customer’s idea?
In Harlem, we always wanted our shoes to match our jackets. So even in the very beginning, I got requests from guys to do sneakers. And if you look on the Fat Boys album cover for Crushin’ they got Gucci jackets on and the Nike sneakers with the Gucci on it.
After that everybody wanted either their boots or their sneakers to match their jackets. Even the hustler who popularised it the most – Alberto Martinez, better known as Alpo, one of the main characters in the movie Paid In Full – had the espadrilles that matched his jacket. So, it’s a thing I always did because it increased the sale of the jackets. It had to be a top and bottom hit, you understand what I’m saying?

I do! What did you think when brands started to appear like Troop.
You know what? Troop did not have the status of Louis, Gucci, or Fendi, so it was never really popular in Harlem. It was popular outside of Harlem because of LL Cool J. Then the word went out that Troop was owned by a supposedly racist company (the KKK) and controversy erupted. When my shop was open, nobody was interested in Troop. It wasn’t rich enough and it didn’t send out the type of signal that my clientele wanted.

I always saw Troop as a mutant imitation of that luxury look, and I know LL Cool J was a customer, so I had to ask. Now, I bought a pair of New Balance 572s two years ago, and they were sold to me as Dapper Dan customs. I have never shown anyone these shoes. Did you make them?

Yeah, yeah, I did! New Balances was popular and I used to wear New Balances to jog in. New Balances was popular among a certain group of guys who wanted to break away from the norm. So yeah, we did a lot of New Balances for customers.

via Sneaker Freaker

Related: Pharrell Reunites with Mark McNairy for BBC Bee Line’s Fall/Holiday 2013 Collection