It's summer in Harlem. It's blazing hot. But that hasn't stopped Dapper Dan from holding court on the street in front of his atelier, greeting people as they pass by.
I met up with him to talk about his new memoir, Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem, about his journey from hustler to respected taste-maker and businessman. Today he's wearing a pastel green suit jacket over a couture vest and matching pants that he designed himself for the European fashion giant Gucci. "This is fine polka dot, Gucci loafers, semi-loafers they call them," and yes — those are gold moths on the back.
Dan says these daily greetings are important to him. "The cheapest jacket I have inside is $2700. So the people in my community I know cannot afford that, so I make sure I stand outside and engage them every day."
Now, Dan's selling jackets for nearly three grand — but when he was a kid, here in Harlem, his family didn't have that kind of money. He tells a story in his book about shopping for an Easter suit with his father: "We went to Ripley's department store. I was gonna get my first suit. I think I was in eighth grade, seventh or eighth grade and we went to Ripley's department store. I saw a charcoal brown suit with pinstripes. I loved it, and my father was going to give it to me, right? We were gonna get it on credit, cause we couldn't pay cash. We didn't have the money," Dan remembers.