Fashion insiders love to talk about streetwear being dead. But according to at least one industry titan, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Whoever says streetwear is dead, they need to tell us what that [means],” Dapper Dan, a Harlem-based designer who is widely considered the originator of luxury streetwear, told FN in an interview at the Magic show in Las Vegas. “Streetwear doesn’t define itself the same to everybody.”
Dapper Dan got his start as a designer in the streets of Harlem, New York, creating streetwear pieces that utilized logos and materials from major luxury brands. After years of being shut down, Dapper Dan ultimately partnered with Gucci in 2017 and was given the creative license to continue his design process with the brand’s seal of approval.
His design voice, which merged high-end brands with styles from the streets, became a defining pillar of the luxury streetwear movement. Dapper Dan himself has worked with Gucci and has outfitted celebrities like Beyonce and Jay-Z.
Today, Dapper Dan — who is also known as Daniel Day — says that streetwear is almost impossible to define. And while it may look different than it did 20 years ago, its characteristics are still prevalent across multiple brands.
“[Streetwear] is all over the place,” the designer said. “It’s everywhere.”
While the category is popular today, streetwear started its life as a counterculture movement, centered around the worlds of skateboarding, music and art. Through the decades, this subculture became more mainstream and the lines between luxury and streetwear began to dissolve, as more high end brands took note of the category’s momentum.
For example, Supreme began its life immersed in skate and streetwear culture. Today, it is one of the more recognizable brands and was even acquired by VF. Corp in 2020, a move that placed the exclusive brand under a new footwear parent known for more traditional styles. What’s more, Supreme has collaborated with many high-end brands including Comme des Garçons and Louis Vuitton, putting it at the nexus of luxury and street style.
These days, it’s coveted by brands that play in almost every lane.
As such, trying to define the ever-changing category might prove difficult.
As Dapper Dan put it, “How do you define air?”