After selling out previous lines of special-edition DAP
Central to the collection, the DAP GAP logo hoodie appears in four new colorways, as part of the designer’s goal to “destigmatize” the silhouette in his community. “At certain points in history, the hoodie had been used to represent the dark side of our culture, so this partnership with GAP presents it in a way that shows you can wear a hoodie and be fly, be international, and elegant,” said Dan. “This new installation also symbolizes universal love and unity.”
Elsewhere, denim kimono jackets, Western-style button-down shirts, embroidered cotton Oxford shirts and houndstooth denim jackets supply the wardrobe for this season’s countrified DAP GAP clientele. Like the duo’s last collab, this latest collection also includes a number of GapKids items, like hoodies and branded stuffed animals.
“We are in the present preparing for the future because this brand, this collaboration, is about bringing everybody together,” Dap added. “We were some of the original cowboys. But we are also the faces of the world to come — we are the urban cowboys.”
Notably, Dap enlisted the residents of Harlem’s historic Graham Court to star in the collection’s campaign, which includes both photography and a 60-second film shot by Ghanaian-American creative Joshua Kissi.
Below, Hypebeast spoke with Dapper Dan about his Western inspirations, the making of his largest-ever collection with Gap and the future of his partnership with the brand.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your Western pieces this season?
It’s about the Black Cowboys of the West. It’s Black History Month, and so few people of color know about the original cowboys. They were called cowboys because they were African American, but they were called cowhands when Europeans became involved in “winning the West,” as I call it. Ironically, I learned afterwards that my idol, Ralph Lauren, started a GAP collection with the Western theme. The universe seems to be tapping me in.
How does this collection build on what you’ve already done with GAP so far?
I get a chance to reach people on the grass level but with an elevated feel. I’m really big on the hoodies. So one of the number one things that I wanted to do was introduce the hoodie in a way that is elevated, especially since after what happened to Trayvon Martin. When minorities wear a hoodie, it’s often seen as sinister. So I wanted to elevate the silhouette and give it a more glamorous look, a universal look. That’s always been the key to my excitement when it comes to working with GAP.
Can you talk more about the design process for the collection’s denim kimono?
The kimono is not a his or her thing. Anybody can wear it, so it has that universal feel. You can dress it up really nice, or you can dress it down. One of the interesting things that drew me back to the kimono was this memory I have of making one for a famous artist, who I don’t know if I should name. But she won it in a bidding contest, and she said she was going to wear it once and then mount it on her wall. I kept thinking about how significant that was and how much that piece meant to her. So, I wanted to recreate that in a way that incorporates a touch of what I like to do, which is the logomania. It always has to have a touch of that logomania.
“Here in Harlem, so many people have said to me, ‘Dap, I finally got the opportunity to wear something you made.’”
You’ve always shown your love for Harlem in your GAP collections. How are you spotlighting the hometown this time around?
The campaign was shot at Graham Court, which is the most historical building in Harlem. It’s so elegant. The building houses all nationalities, and it reminds me of the Harlem that I grew up in. I wanted to emphasize the Harlem that I knew, the elegant Harlem, and the Harlem of today. Everybody’s living in that building today. I wanted to showcase Harlem’s New Renaissance, and this location was perfect for that.
Why do you think it’s important to include a children’s line in every drop?
I’m most excited about the children’s line because I like the fact that the adults love dressing their children up in garments that they can be proud of. I love that they can relay that message to their children. The children are already becoming accustomed to the brand, and I just want them to feel excited about that. If the parents are excited, that feeling will trickle down to the children and they’ll feel excited about it too. Hopefully, from womb to tomb!
You’ve had sell-out success with this collaboration, and it’s been very well received by the public. Why was it important for you to partner with GAP in the first place?
GAP helped me reach everybody. I’ve done exclusive drops and luxury all my life. Here in Harlem, so many people have said to me, “Dap, I finally got the opportunity to wear something you made. I couldn’t afford it back when you had your boutique on 125th Street.” I’m super excited now that everybody can share in my success and share in that Harlem pride. That’s what this is all about. One of the things that I try to emphasize to young and up-and-coming designers is that we have to reach the world.
What was different about the process of working with GAP, as opposed to your collaborations with more luxury brands?
Here’s the story. In the past, people of color and African people, in particular, joined brands and became part of brands, but it wasn’t until the introduction of hip-hop and Dapper Dan that these types of brands began to come to us and assimilate with us. I don’t have to be anything other than myself in this collaboration. They have said, “We want you to be you.” That hadn’t happened before. Brands wanted us to be them, but now brands are asking us to be ourselves. That’s the essence of the Renaissance that’s taking place in fashion, and that’s, if anything, how my legacy will extend.
How do you hope to see your partnership with GAP continue to evolve down the line?
I hope GAP will understand that culture — and fashion within our culture — is like the Harlem River. It’s always there, but it’s always moving. Together, I want us to roll down that Harlem River.
The latest DAP GAP collection will be available to shop in seven stores across New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, as well on GAP’s website beginning February 9 at 12 p.m. ET. Sizes range from kids’ size 8 to adult XXL, and prices go from $25 USD to $158 USD. Take a look at the collection in the galleries above.