One of Gabe Stone Shayer’s favorite collaborations happened thanks to his agent, Henri Lemic. In August 2019, Shayer—frustrated after being passed over yet again for a promotion at American Ballet Theatre—started to think about the company’s fall gala. He wanted to make a defiant sartorial splash on the red carpet. Lemic worked some magic, persuading Harlem couturier Dapper Dan to meet with his young client.
At the meeting, Shayer said the ballet world seemed unable to envision him, a Black man, as a prince. “I’m going to make you look like a king,” Dapper Dan told him. Referencing photos of African royalty, the designer created a sweeping gold jacket, dubbed the “King Coat.” Shayer wore it to the gala—thumbing his nose, in the most elegant way, at the ballet establishment. “I was finally a prince, and not with a tunic made in Germany, but with a coat made in Harlem that represented my African heritage,” he says. “And my story is a Black story that might not have gotten to Dapper Dan, if it wasn’t for Henri.”
Here’s the thing: There is no Henri. Or, rather, “Henri Lemic” is Shayer, under a different email address.