When it comes to Dapper Dan—the Harlem-born former shop owner who dressed the likes of LL Cool J, Mike Tyson, Salt-N-Pepa and many more—there’s a few fundamental problems in the way his legacy is discussed. Though that legacy gets a highlight in the recently opened Museum of Modern Art’s fashion exhibit “Items: Is Fashion Modern?”, generally it’s buttoned neatly under an abbreviated descriptor: king of knock-offs. The problem with that: the creations that Dan turned out of his East 125th street shop for just under a decade in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, were not recreations of anyone else’s ideas.

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