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Photo via GTBank's Facebook page.

7 Lessons Learned from Dapper Dan’s GTBank Fashion Weekend Masterclass

The Harlem fashion icon drops serious gems on building a luxury brand, connecting with his blackness during his travels around the continent and more.

GTBank Fashion Weekend not only served fresh street style and emerging fashion on the runway, but also provided the opportunity for fashion industry hopefuls and veterans to take the time to learn from the best in the business. One of whom is a living legend—Dapper Dan. The man who redefined high fashion and has been immortalized through numerous rap songs was the perfect speaker to give a masterclass on "Making A Fashion Statement."

Wearing a green jacket, green shoes and his signature Green Gucci aviators, capped off with a cravat on a white shirt and beige pants, we were clearly in the right room. The fashion icon took some time to share tales from his illustrious past, styling the likes of Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, Aaliyah, P. Diddy, Floyd Mayweather and many more.

Here are the seven lessons we learned from his masterclass.


He explains the strong link between music and fashion in his earlier days.

It was only the Gangsters who could afford his clothes at the time and their personal style influenced rappers of the age who became loyal patrons. Dapper Dan drew parallels between his context in New York, and how his brand was exported globally through hip-hop acts, and the Lagosian convergence of fashion and music in afrobeats and afro-pop with acts like Wizkid who recently collaborated with Nike on a limited run of Jerseys.

A Dapper Dan movie is coming to a cinema near you.

Yes, indeed. The man who introduced high-fashion to hip-hop also has a biopic in the works that will be based on his memoir Made In Harlem. He made the announcement to an ecstatic auditorium of would be movie-goers as the film is set for a 2019 release.

Photo via GTBank's Facebook page.

The "MTV blur" was made because of Dapper Dan + his approach to networking and marketing.

According to the fashion designer, there are two approaches to networking: "You either start with your immediate circle or collaborate with the people you want to sell to." Dapper Dan says a key aspect of his marketing was that he generated excitement about himself before his brand. "When all the rappers were coming to the store, they wore my clothes on MTV," he continues. This led to Ted Demme, director and 'Yo! MTV Raps' co-founder to know of him (and contract him to style rappers on occasion) due to the profligacy of his designs in the music videos of the late 80s to early 90s. He went on to explain that the "MTV blur" was created because of him. Partly because of the curator of MOMA called him "the most important person in this age when it comes to logos." In a closing response he advised the attendees to "generate excitement to expose your culture to the world."

Dapper Dan is just as good at human resource management as he is fashion design.

Dapper Dan surrounded himself with first generation immigrants with good work ethic—many of them were Senegalese. This makes sense when you think of the original location of his boutique being on 125th in Harlem, around the corner from Little Senegal. Dan recanted amusing stories of innovative management strategies when he faced a language barrier with his staff. There was the story he told of a product defect nobody would take responsibility for, knowing one of them would eventually return covertly to save his skin, he fired 23 of his tailors—effectively using game theory to subvert the loyalty in camaraderie. Most importantly, he stressed the need for staff with a good work ethic at the time because "gangsters and entertainers need their work yesterday."

Photo via GTBank's Facebook page.

Dapper Dan touches on how to build a luxury brand.

"Exciting is a currency in fashion," according to Dapper Dan. "Today, you need to latch onto something [or] someone who's exciting." And the man has a point. It's no wonder Gucci leads the top three most popular brands online according to Luxe Digital, followed by Chanel, who have done collaborations with the likes of Pharrell Williams and Cara Delevegne under the leadership of Karl Lagerfeld and Louis Vuitton, who recently appointed Virgil Abloh as creative director and done a capsule collection with Supreme. He brought it back home to say: "People wearing big Dapper Dan want to be connected to the story and excitement."

Dapper Dan speaks on staying true to one's identity.

Dapper Dan became conscious of his identity by coming on tour to Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Tanzania with Lauryn Hill. The designer explained that he is constantly encountering hints that make him "conscious of his blackness." He says, "you either embrace it or run away from it." Dan also highlighted the importance of "symbolism in African culture" and the need to build new African narratives around them. "We need to create our own symbols and magic—it started here," he continues. He encouraged would be designers to explore their cultures and explore more with their designs in said context, but humorously cautioned to a cacophonous crowd, "Everything on your mind might not look good on your behind."

Dapper Dan emphasizes the transformative power of fashion.

He reminded the audience that he started out making clothes for "people in Harlem dressing fancy to go downtown." Through this he has built a legacy that was borne of the need for luxury, to influence luxury fashion, from a place that was considered unfit to sell luxury items. The social programs he's involved in are also a response to this. According to Dapper Dan, everything he knows he taught himself. His dad only went to the 3rd grade, and his social mission is "to show kids how to get off the corner like I did."

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(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for AFI)

Cynthia Erivo Earns Golden Globe Nomination for 'Harriet'

Check out the full list of 2020 nominees (and the snubs).

Award-winning actress, Cynthia Erivo has earned a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman in Harriet. She's earned a nomination for Best Original Song for 'Stand Up."

She's nominated in the "Best Performance by an Actress In a Motion Picture—Drama" alongside Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson, Renée Zellwegger and Saoirse Ronan.

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From #FeesMustFall to #BlueforSudan: OkayAfrica's Guide to a Decade of African Hashtag Activism

The 2010s saw protest movements across the continent embrace social media in their quest to make change.

The Internet and its persistent, attention-seeking child, Social Media has changed the way we live, think and interact on a daily basis. But as this decade comes to a close, we want to highlight the ways in which people have merged digital technology, social media and ingenuity to fight for change using one of the world's newest and most potent devices—the hashtag.

What used to simply be the "pound sign," the beginning of a tic-tac-toe game or what you'd have to enter when interacting with an automated telephone service, the hashtag has become a vital aspect of the digital sphere operating with both form and function. What began in 2007 as a metadata tag used to categorize and group content on social media, the term 'hashtag' has now grown to refer to memes (#GeraraHere), movements (#AmINext), events (#InsertFriendsWeddingHere) and is often used in everyday conversation ("That situation was hashtag awkward").

The power of the hashtag in the mobility of people and ideas truly came to light during the #ArabSpring, which began one year into the new decade. As Tunisia kicked off a revolution against oppressive regimes that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook played a crucial role in the development and progress of the movements. The hashtag, however, helped for activists, journalists and supporters of causes. It not only helped to source information quickly, but it also acted as a way to create a motto, a war cry, that could spread farther and faster than protestors own voices and faster than a broadcasted news cycle. As The Guardian wrote in 2016, "At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with 'Twitter uprising' or 'Facebook revolution,' as global media tried to make sense of what was going on."

From there, the hashtag grew to be omnipresent in modern society. It has given us global news, as well as strong comedic relief and continues to play a crucial role in our lives. As the decade comes to a close, here are some of the most impactful hashtags from Africans and for Africans that used the medium well.

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The 20 Best Ghanaian Songs of 2019

Featuring Pappy Kojo, Sarkodie, Amaarae, Kwesi Arthur, Shatta Wale, Efya GuiltyBeatz, Joey B, R2Bees and many more.

2019 was definitely an exciting year for Ghanaian music.

Right from the top of the year, we saw both new and established make their mark with songs that would soundtrack the nation's airwaves, functions, and nights for months to come. In 2019 we got to experience an E.L comeback, Shatta Wale and Beyoncé on the same song, numerous solid Ghana-Naija collaborations, and bop after bop by old and new artists alike.

We also saw the rise of brand new artists, starting from the likes of J.Derobie's wave making debut in January, to Kofi Mole's widespread trap anthem, to Fameye's declaration of brokeness, to the promising future superstar Sam Opoku. As far as projects go, 2019 was a good year for that in the Ghana music space as well. We were blessed with an EP from Sarkodie, an album by the superstar duo R2Bees, talented singer King Promise's debut album, Ko-Jo Cue's stellar debut, and M.anifest's 7-track feel-good EP, among several others.

Ghanaian music has been stepping its game up lately, and there's only one way to go from here. Below, we give you the rundown on the Ghanaian songs that stole ears and hearts and set the pace for the country's sound this year.

Check out the list below. Listen in no particular order.—Nnamdi Okirike

Follow our GHANA WAVE playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

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Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

CNN Names Ethiopian Innovator Freweini Mebrahtu This Year's 'Hero of the Year'

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Last night, Ethiopia's Freweini Mebrahtu was been named CNN's "Hero of the Year". The award was in recognition of her work on menstruation and keeping girls in school as well as fighting to end the cultural stigma still attached to menstruation. Mebrahtu was also awarded USD 100 000 to help in expanding her work.

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