Dauan Jacari is the menswear brand bored of menswear


His spiral skirts became an IYKYK item in New York four years ago. Now, DJ Chappel is presenting a nuanced take on Black masculinity and the lost art of dressing however you want, wherever you are.

You get more than you bargained for when you enter designer DJ Chappel’s Brooklyn apartment. The Dauan Jacari founder’s home currently doubles as a temporary studio space, with garments from his first menswear show Paradise – held in the West Village in April – greeting guests that frequent the space he shares with his creative director, Ryan Cardoso.

Oh, you wouldn’t believe it,” he says, wearing a self-devised black halter and sporting a freshly buzzed cut. I don’t even know how we do it, but me and Ryan have a shared closet right now. We had a closet that was just our coats, we’ve put them away and the collection is in that space.”

The idea is for friends and supporters of the brand to get the full experience” when they come over. Purely through word of mouth and social media, DJ has amassed a crowd of fans eager for garments from his line – and to work with him too. In December, Vaquera tapped him for a series of self-portraits, while the designer’s latest show was on the radar of every fashion It-girl. Think: Alva Claire, Arca and Shygirl, to name a few.

It does add context to the collection, which is nice,” he says, concluding the virtual tour of his home-meets-studio-meets-showroom, as we speak over Zoom. But we do need to get out.”

So pivotal is the apartment to DJ’s creative hub that he and Ryan named it African American Paradise.” The term nods to his debut ready-to-wear collection, which took six months to complete. Not to mention the six years the self-taught designer had been slowly chipping away at the idea. It’s been years of getting to a place where the team, as well as me, is in a place where we can do a collection.”

Inspired by a utopian world with no restraint or policing around Black men’s self-expression, DJ’s first collection features 25 looks, from hooded jumpsuits to halterneck dresses and drop crotch denim. Those six years of collecting references and affixing them to a binder helped DJ to consider what he wanted to offer. I was thinking of doing just six to nine couture gowns. And everybody looked at me sideways. It became more about what do we need in menswear right now?’ And then I just made a bunch of shit.”

The show was staged inside an LGBTQ+ centre because he wanted to go against the grain, much like one of his favourite designers, London’s own Martine Rose, who held her SS24 show in a community centre last year. It’s a community centre for LGBTQ people. I am gay, and it was such an inviting space and it all just worked out.”

To understand DJ is to understand that dance is his first love. Born and raised in New York, in high school, the designer ferociously studied Alvin Ailey [the American dancer and founder of his American Dance Theater] and developed an affinity for modern ballet. It was at Point Park University in Pittsburgh where he took up Gaga” dancing, a style of unconventional improv which focuses on expression through the body. Working in his university’s costume shop, meanwhile, fuelled his love of fashion.

This theatrical background is always at play in DJ’s work, as evidenced by his personal Instagram posts. There you’ll find him posing on worktops or in front of the sizable mirror in his apartment, taking on various characters while wearing Junya Watanabe, Ugg x Shayne Oliver boots and Vaquera. For him, the two worlds of dance and fashion often intersect. I’m always referencing Bob Fosse when I’m posing. I think about the importance of shapes and personas.”


It’s this inquisitive nature that led to the launch of the Spiral Boxer skirt four years ago. Dauan Jacari’s bread and butter” piece, the skirt is crafted from deconstructed plaid boxer shorts, with a sweatpant iteration recently added to the fold. The original spiral skirt was created by pure coincidence: I went to Target and picked up a five-pack of blue boxers. I cut them all open and started making something with a small sewing machine, and I was like, I can’t do this.’” DJ threw it into a corner, but an intrigued friend ordered him to continue. I knew I wanted to play with stacking and spirals. The first style on the internet was filled with safety pins.” It quickly became an IYKYK item in New York.

Since then, the brand has gone through something of a rebirth. First named Duality Junkie when it launched in 2019, the designer went back to the drawing board in 2023 and the label underwent a slight reconstruction. The result? A label rename and a brand-spanking-new campaign – the first of its kind for the line – featuring a group of DJ’s friends wearing spiral skirts. This whole campaign imagery is perfection,” commented model and poet Kai Isiah Jamal under one of the posts. It wasn’t about being grandiose,” DJ explains, but rather let’s just execute this idea.”


Both the campaign and show in April have lit a fire in the designer. Now, he’s ready to branch out: My goal in life is to eventually have a small shop in the Lower East Side,” he says. Half of it will be a concept store and the other half, a studio. I want to bring excitement back to the shopping experience.”

But before that? London is on his radar. I’ve been speaking with Ottilie Thompson [the London-based art director] about doing something in the UK,” DJ says. I’m attracted to the energy of London – I can see myself going into a frenzy of work and study while I’m there. London pays more attention to beauty which is all I want right now. As Andre Leon Talley said: There’s a famine of beauty, honey. My eyes are starving for beauty!’”

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