It’s 2021, and the girls did not come to play. The relevant girl in particular here is Diamonté Harper, a.k.a. Saweetie. Her “Best Friend” music video featuring Doja Cat racked up more than 18 million views over its debut weekend, while also serving up a sumptuous fashion feast amid glittering visuals. Among the eight eye-catching looks featured, there is one, inspired by an iconic piece of Black fashion history, that stands out. “When we pull up to the scene, they be filled with jealousy,” Saweetie raps while patting her hot-pink hair. As I take in her custom Dapper Dan for Gucci ensemble, that is exactly how I feel—not just a little envious.
Decked out in a forest-green velour cropped jacket with balloon sleeves, a bralette, hot pants, and thigh-high boots emblazoned with hot-pink Gucci monograms—not to mention paired with gold jewelry and auntie nails clacking—Saweetie is a pure ’90s throwback. “I wanted it to feel like she was a chick in Harlem in 1994,” her stylist of three years, Bryon Javar, tells BAZAAR.com. “The Dapper Dan moment was so important for me and Saweetie to have for this video. I had been trying to get some things made for other projects and timing wasn’t on our side, but for this, it was perfect.”
Dapper Dan, in case you’ve been living under a un-chic rock, is a designer and haberdasher from Harlem who rose to fame in the 1980s, outfitting hip-hop heavyweights like Eric B. & Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J, Run-D.M.C., The Fat Boys, and Public Enemy out of his iconic store, Dapper Dan’s Boutique, which shuttered in 1992. Flash-forward to 2017, when Dan caught the eye of Alessandro Michele of Gucci, resulting in ongoing collaborations on a number of projects.
“This is how we work,” Dan explains of how Saweetie’s look came together. “The inspiration came primarily from their team. When they reached out to me, my understanding was that they were always fascinated with the item that I made for Diane Dixon back in the ’80s, with the blouson, puffy sleeves, and so they wanted something sexy on that order.”
He continues, “So, as we go through that, we sit down, we lock heads, and we find out what suits them. In the past, it was just me and the client. Today, we have a lot of people who have their own stylist. So between us, we work out the ideas that are based around how they want to look, what their image is, or even what their lyrics are in some cases.”
The image maker in question here is Javar. “I’ve been inspired by Dapper Dan for decades,” the stylist says. “I was inspired by his infamous Diane Dixon coat. … I remember watching Lil’ Kim videos and being blown away by her look. [Dapper Dan] sent me fabric ideas, and it popped in my head. I wanted to have her in a Dapper Dan–Gucci look from head to toe. I had a sketch done and sent to Dap’s team, and they loved it! I was like I have to have her in a boot! That is such a hip-hop fashion staple for women, and it had to be done.”
The impact of an aughts queen as inspiration goes deeper for Javar than pure style. “Having this Black hip-hop fashion was important and was an absolute must for me to make happen. I paired it with bamboo earrings, which are from Mary J. Blige’s brand, Sister Love MJB, and rings and necklaces from Ruby Stella, which was a great additional touch to this look, to give it that hip-hop feel.”
The trick with working with celebrities and their stylists is all in the mind meld, explains Dan. “It has to be consistent with how they see themselves. I help them to interpret themselves. Let me tell you the basic difference between me and designers: Designers will work with a stylist, or they do collaborations with other designers. My thing has always been, over the last 35, 40 years, to collaborate completely with the customer. I find out how they feel about themselves. What do they think their image is? And I help them design what’s best to suit that image.”
Just like his work in the ’80s and early ’90s, Dapper Dan remains committed to telling stories through his garments, capturing “the mindset of the rappers and images that they’re trying to project.”
As for Javar, he hopes to achieve just that with his singer-songwriter client. “My vision for Saweetie for 2021 is to create more iconic looks with her. I’m super excited for people to see her eye and the creative genius she is, and continue to make our mark together in the fashion world.”
Judging from what we’ve seen in just the first week of 2021, she’s well on her way.
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