Fashion designer Dapper Dan to receive the Geoffrey Beene lifetime achievement honor at the 2021 Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Awards. The ceremony is set for an in-person return on Nov, 10th after conducting a virtual award show in 2020. The full list of nominees, reported by VOGUE, includes Telfar Clemens for TELFAR in two categories, Edvin Thompson for Theophilio, Jameel Mohammed for Khiry, Jerry Lorenzo, Kenneth Nicholson, and Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton.
“This is an important moment in American fashion. There is much excitement about the return of New York City and New York Fashion Week as well as the top caliber of diverse talent making their mark on the city and the global fashion landscape,” CFDA CEO Steven Kolb said in a statement. “The CFDA Fashion Awards are our biggest fundraiser of the year, and we are looking forward to our industry coming together, in person again, to celebrate the very best of American creativity.”
The Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award “recognizes the outstanding contributions made to American fashion by individuals from all areas of the industry and related arts.” Past honorees include Tom Ford, Narciso Rodriguez, Michael Kors, Vera Wang, Tommy Hilfiger, Anna Wintour, Calvin Klein, and Oscar de la Renta.
Despite being distinguished by the CFDA as the first designer to earn the honor without ever having a runway show, Dapper Dan offered his own perspective. The designer shared on social media his belief that the streets of Harlem have served as the catwalk for his designs for more than 30 years.
“Isn’t it ironic how the fashion world says that Dapper Dan won the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, without ever having a runway show?” he wrote on Instagram. “The streets of Harlem have been my runway for 35 years. Isn’t that where the major luxury brands got their inspiration from? Maybe logo-mania is an illusion. Thank you Harlem, I love you!”
His post also highlighted that he is the first Black fashion designer to earn the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Thank you to the CFDA for making me the first black designer to win this lifetime achievement award. Harnessing the Dapper Dan brand to Gucci, mounted it on a global track, now the whole world knows what Harlem always knew, that the Dapper Dan brand is a thoroughbred brand.”
The 77-year-old fashion innovator got his start in his native Harlem, selling outfits in the 1980s at Dapper Dan’s Boutique on 125th Street. He was unable to purchase necessary textiles due to race barriers set by suppliers so he taught himself about the fashion industry and began to create custom designs. Dapper Dan pioneered the logo-forward design look, with textiles and outfits centering on high-fashion logos such as Gucci, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton. His signature style became influential in hip-hop and Black culture, creating looks, jewelry, and more for acts such as LL Cool J, Salt ‘N’ Pepa, KRS One, Bobby Brown, Mike Tyson, and others.
After being forced to shut down by the government for alleged infringement, Dapper Dan made a return and found mainstream success in 2017 when Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele re-created one of his designs. After a slight controversy, Dan partnered with Michele and Gucci CEO Marco Bizzari for a menswear line. In 2018, he opened a new atelier in partnership with Gucci, the first luxury fashion house store in Harlem.
Watch Dapper Dan describe his fashion journey to VOGUE below: