“Yeah, I have a spunk to me. I have an edge to me. I’m from Queens.”
I meet Dai Burger outside a monochrome hipster café (my choice) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on the second day of 2020. The café is playing ’90s RnB and serving egg-white omelettes with roasted tomatoes. Already, the New Year feels pretty grim – fires burning up Australia, floods in East Africa, stirrings of unrest in the Middle East. Even the unseasonable blue sky is foreboding: a reminder of impending climate catastrophe spread all out across the great grey New York winter. But then there’s Dai, standing on the street like an antidote to the misery, in her black tracksuit with flashes of primary colour, jewelled nails and hair a shade of purple somewhere between your great nana’s blue rinse and a Groovy Grape flavoured Hubba Bubba. She orders a green tea, and we sit down to chat.
Dai is (and there’s not another word for it, I’ve spent fifteen minutes browsing an online thesaurus) fabulous. I love her within seconds of the interview starting, and not just because I really need something to hold onto amid the relentless bad news. She’s literally colourful, like a kindergarten mural, dressed down but styled perfectly – matte gold eye shadow and sweeping liner pulling the whole look together with an unexpectedly delightful flourish that can only come from someone who knows what she’s doing when it comes to fashion. “I’m not afraid to be weird,” Dai says, describing her approach to self-styling. “Weird works. It took a little figuring out in the beginning, but we got past that.”
This ability to pull off a look is the result of seven years working under the legendary designer Patricia Field (of Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada fame), styling visitors to Field’s infamous lower East Side boutique store. It’s a time Dai describes as formative – both in the sense of refining her fashion skills and in developing the sensibility that has come to shape her approach to music.
“We had LGBTQ friendly clothing sizes and everything. You could come and you could leave a brand new person. And even if you have five dollars we’d find something for you. It was a place of treasures. I worked there for a while and that kind of shaped who I am. Because she’s so amazing, I learned a lot of things in fashion behind the scenes too. Merchandising, visualising – I put the eye for fashion, colours, into the music. You gotta look good while you’re talking about feeling good. You got to, you know, put it out there for people to understand. Look good, do good, feel great. I throw it all in there. It’s fun. I like having fun. People used to come and see me at the store. And they knew there was cool music, and I’ll help you get dressed for the night. It was like a perfect place, a spectacle. And then I took it on the road.”