There’s a long-running debate in the fashion world as to what defines vintage clothing. Sticklers believe a garment must be at least 30 years old to deserve the label. Others argue 20 years is sufficient. What Dennaya Famous considers vintage, however, wouldn’t go over well with either camp.
"I was born in ’87, so the late ’80s to 1995 would be vintage for me," she says, bedecked in gear from those years. In other words, she considers a 16-year-old Ralph Lauren Polo shirt an aged article of clothing.
The local 24-year-old doesn’t just represent a new take on vintage. She represents what it means to be young and determined in the fashion industry today.
Famous’ niche goes beyond a preferred era. She scours thrift stores and vintage boutiques for gear specific to African-American and hip-hop culture during that time. If you saw it on "Yo! MTV Raps," "The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire" or Spike Lee’s classic film "Do the Right Thing," chances are she searched high and low for the garment, priced it out and sold it to a growing fashion community on her online store, D.Fame (dfamestore.com).
Although her name sounds like something an agent conjured up for a budding rock star, Dennaya Famous is her real name. Famous is the oldest of two children. She grew up in North Las Vegas, where she still lives and operates D.Fame. Although it pays her bills now, the store wasn’t part of her initial fashion aspirations. Then again, fashion as a career wasn’t an initial aspiration.
After graduating from Cheyenne High School, Famous had a brief college stint at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She thought she wanted to study psychology until she started to study psychology. She decided it wasn’t for her. That’s when she took an honest look at her interests and strengths and pondered how to turn them into a career. It came to her. Famous would become a fashion stylist.
Generations before her couldn’t even describe what a fashion stylist did for a living. But, Famous is part of the "Project Runway" generation. She grew up watching reality TV shows that put the fashion industry center stage. Celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe is as well known as some of her clients thanks to her show on Bravo. Additionally, watching Lauren Conrad waltz into the "Teen Vogue" offices and leave with a coveted internship on "The Hills" probably didn’t do naive teenagers any favors. The uber competitive, highly exclusive industry of fashion suddenly seemed easily attainable.
Like all the others, Famous had a wake-up call when she set out on her stylist adventures. As it turned out, borrowing clothes from high-end designers wasn’t easy. Rather than repeat her UNLV experience and surrender completely, Famous got creative. And, the World Wide Web got D.Fame.
"I had to be more cost-efficient," she says. "I decided to do it myself."
Instead of unsuccessfully asking these stores to loan her clothes so she could style photo shoots, she created her own store. Now, when she styles shoots (D.Fame is currently working on its third look book) she pulls pieces she compiled on her own.
The store is a reflection of Famous’ personal style. Visitors will find Chanel heart earrings ($200), Fendi clutch bags ($120), MCM portfolio bags ($200) and Gucci collegiate sweaters ($120). But, they’ll also find University of Michigan jackets ($75) from the Fabulous Five’s heyday, Air Jordan sweatshirts ($40), distressed D.A.R.E. T-shirts ($30) and shredded denim shorts ($55) customized by Famous herself. The point is to provide customers with merchandise that reminds them of the days when belts had a pager clipped to them, when Michael Jordan’s tongue precluded a slam dunk, when high-top fades made men feel taller and when bamboo earrings — "at least two pair" — were must-have accessories.
That was a time period Famous and her family fondly remember. Her father, Ben Famous, is better known as DJ Benzo for KCEP, Power 88, a local radio station that bills itself as "your soul school station." He admits his daughter got her fashion sense from her mother, but says the hip-hop influence probably came from him.
"From a toddler, I remember her in her crib, rocking to songs," he says. "Her favorite song — she would bounce to it when she was maybe 2 or 3 months — was Salt-n-Pepa’s ‘Shake Your Thang.’ " Artists such as Queen Latifah and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were steadily playing in their house. But, if there was a Chicago Bulls game on, that took priority.
Considering her father refers to the Air Jordans he no longer owns as "the ones that got away," it makes sense that Famous’ next fashion pursuit is in premium sneakers.
"People don’t understand what these (collectors) go through to get their sneakers," she says.
Many of them sleep out for days for exclusive sneaker launches. Famous hopes to fully launch definitionlv.com as a consignment site for sneaker collectors and a means of educating the public on the premium sneaker lifestyle. She’s aiming for an August launch date. Right now the site is under construction with Air Jordan commercials and scenes from a "White Men Can’t Jump"-inspired photo shoot styled by Famous running in rotation.
While Famous’ ambition and perseverance have surprised her mother, her head-turning sense of style has not. Lynn Flowers, a local hairstylist, remembers her daughter making the same unconventional fashion choices for her Barbie dolls that she makes for herself and her online store today. "At the salon, when she comes in, everyone looks at her," Flowers says. "They all say, ‘No one but Dennaya can do that.’ ”
She’s grown so used to the stares that Famous doesn’t even notice them anymore. One side of her hair is shaved, Salt-n-Pepa-style, every one of her neon-colored acrylic nails boasts a different bold pattern, the weight of her jewelry competes with that of her tiny frame and most everything she wears is almost as old as her.
When asked why Famous chose the late ’80s to mid-’90s as a fashion focus, her mother and father both simply say, "They were good years for her." Her parents divorced in ’99, when Famous was 12.
She has big plans for the future, but right now the young entrepreneur just thinks of herself as a stylist, personal shopper and online store owner. D.Fame is 1-year-old and still growing into itself. Ultimately, she’d like physical stores in New York and Miami. And, if Famous has her way, the online store will one day have a lot in common with her last name.
"I want everyone to know about D.Fame," she says. Dennaya Famous wants to make her store famous.
To shop D.Fame and D.Fame Vintage, log onto dfamestore.com.