a16z Podcast

a16z Podcast: Making Culture, Making Influence

Dapper Dan and Ben Horowitz

Posted September 2, 2019

“You cannot be IN it… and not be OF it.”

Dapper Dan a.k.a. Daniel Day shares his remarkable history and story of defining an era of fashion and cultural influence in this special episode of the a16z Podcast — based on his conversation in San Francisco (also available as video here) with a16z co-founder Ben Horowitz around his memoir, Made in Harlem.

Dapper Dan pioneered high-end streetwear in the early 1980s, remixing luxury brand logos into his own designs for gangsters, athletes, and musicians — dressing cultural icons from Salt-N-Pepa and Eric B. & Rakim to Beyoncé and Jay-Z along the way. Going on to define an era, Dapper Dan’s work has been featured in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Met, The Smithsonian, and more. But he began as a hungry, fast learner in Harlem who became a gambler; spent a brief stint in a foreign jail where he nourished himself with reading; and then studied the market to build his fashion business, trendsetting the concepts of logomania and later, influencer marketing. Today, Dapper Dan has a unique partnership with Gucci and reopened his boutique in 2017.

From “the struggle” when not given the privileges and opportunities that others have to the struggle of building and then losing and then reinventing oneself again and again, this special episode offers inspiration for all kinds of makers — including the power of “studying the game”; the power of listening to your customers (not in the cliché way!); and the power of cultural influence… and voice.

photo credits: Alain McLaughlin