At the Met Costume Institute’s new show, Camp: Notes on Fashion, three Gucci outfits are arranged on mannequins in a millenial pink-hued display. (Monday night’s Met Gala marks the opening of the exhibition.) By way of explanation, a quote from the exhibition’s guiding text, Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp,” is printed in front of one of their brown lizard boots: “Camp is the answer to the problem: how to be a dandy in the age of mass culture.” All three mannequins are encased in garments printed with Gucci’s interlocking G pattern. One is a fur-fringed cape, another an allover-printed tan-and-brown suit: very dandy, very suited for Instagram, both from Alessandro Michele’s resort 2018 show. The third garment, a Gucci-G’d-out, leather-fringed track jacket, is by Harlem couturier Dapper Dan. Though the track jacket dates from the same recent era as the other two, it is also their direct inspiration. And its presence in the show rightfully cements Dan’s status as not just as a fashion icon, but a true hero of camp. Want to be a dandy in the age of mass culture? Buy some Dapper Dan.
Which is why, on Sunday night, 21 Savage was in Harlem at Dapper Dan’s atelier to try on his Met Gala fit. Like the Costume Institute show and tonight’s Met bash, Dan’s studio is sponsored by Gucci, which helped reopen the long-dormant institution early last year (after receiving criticism for showing Dapper Dan-derived designs in that same resort 2018 show—ironically, intellectual property lawyers working on behalf of luxury houses like Gucci put Dan out of business in the first place.) Among Dap’s new perks: rather than bootleg Gucci fabrics, they supply him with bolts of luxurious metallic jacquards and yards upon yards of Dap’s favorite interlocking-G woolens. And he’s got his own table at the Met Gala, where 21 Savage will be sitting.
When 21 walks into his cherry red-velvet dressing chambers, he’s greeted by a black silk button-up blazer covered in gold silk brocade, a pair of shiny black leather pants, and gold-studded lace-ups. As he shimmies into the resplendent blazer, someone in his entourage jokes that it might have to be taken in, even if the reason isn’t terribly funny: he lost weight during his recent stint in ICE detention. “Yeah, I got skinny,” he confirms. “I ain’t eat for 7 days straight!” After some deliberation, the tailor decides to taper the thigh of the trousers by a half inch so they hang straighter on the red carpet. The jacket? It’s perfect. Or, as 21 put it: “It’s lit, it’s hard.”
21’s fit may not be the most daring on tonight’s carpet. But like camp itself, it has a long history. “This is [his] opportunity to be a part of the golden age of hip-hop,” Dan says. “When you see the gold and black that I encouraged him to use, all that is a holdover from the streets. Everyone on the streets wants to be shiny, they want gold, and the outfit he’s wearing is a reflection of that.”