At MAGIC, Dapper Dan and Elaine Welteroth Engage in Honest Keynote Discussion
Opening its Feb. 14-16 edition, Informa's MAGIC apparel trade show featured as its keynote icon and designer Dapper Dan and Elaine Welteroth, the first African American editor-in-chief to work at Teen Vogue, who is now The New York Times-bestselling author and "Project Runway" judge. The Feb. 14 discussion took place with notes on how to best serve customers and ensuring authenticity through connections.
Daniel "Dapper Dan" Day's rise to the top of the fashion world was filled with hurdles, leading the designer to only recently be recognized by the mainstream-style community. As Day created looks for some of music's most notable names in hip-hop and R&B, his style was often stolen by larger design houses, watered down and presented to the affluent.
Speaking with the man whom she refers to as "Uncle Dap," Welteroth broke down the origins of the challenges faced by Day, which stunted a time that could have seen his early rise to receive accolades in mainstream fashion.
"You came from the streets. You were creating based on what you were experiencing in the streets and your designs were ripped off and put on the runway and you weren’t given credit. That culture that you come from was not given credit," Welteroth explained. "Luckily, thank God, he is here today because the culture spoke up on Instagram, social media. Social media really changed that sort of didactic, one-way conversation that we were having for so long, too long, in fashion where the gatekeeper is the holder of information and they are the ones that are telling you what is a trend and telling you who to pay attention to and telling you who the taste makers are but now the people are telling us. The people told us he matters. If it wasn’t for the people bringing you into the conversation, the institutions that ripped you off wouldn’t have had to give you the credit you deserve."
While he received recognition from the hip-hop community over the course of his career, Day has only begun to receive positive recognition from the mainstream fashion industry over the last few years. This shift has not impacted the designer's approach to selling and ensuring a connection between himself and the community that has influenced his designs, encouraging his audience to do the same.
"After I open up, I stand on the corner to greet all the people in my neighborhood, the kids going to school. I don’t want them to lose that magic," Day explained. "Even the people who can’t afford what I sell…I want them to have part of me...You have to maintain that connection. Let me tell you something. Let me tell you how important it is. Don’t get hung up on yourself."
The conversation also ventured into fashion inspiration, where design pays homage the roots that allow it to grow.
"Come on out of who you are and grasp the culture and create from the culture," Day said. "I do not dictate fashion. I translate culture of who we are. Everybody has this individual thing that we like about ourselves and how we like to look. Grab that. Take hold of that. When people come to you say, 'How do you feel?' 'What do you want to look like?' and then shape that with them as they are shaping you. That is the creative flow."
Discussing her own growth, Welteroth noted the great responsibility of evolving as she rose to a powerful position. As she navigated her career, Welteroth's commitments changed and she accepted the important duties of her position that were far beyond the role of a lead editor
"Once I got into a position of leadership, I realized that what got me there was not what was going to keep me there and it was time for me to proverbially take off the mask and honestly have more authentic conversations with the people and start conversations in the culture that really resonate and that matter," Welteroth said. "For me, it started with telling our stories and weaving them into the way we talk about fashion and beauty. One of my first stories was talking about my natural-hair journey and when I saw how that resonated with the people on the internet, I was like 'That’s who I serve.' Anna Wintour may have appointed me, but the people are what’s going to keep me here and they are going to tell Anna and everyone else in this industry what resonates and actually matters. It empowered me to find my voice and tell the truth and find those intersections that matter more in this moment."