How to build a brand – via a fashion brand that learned the hard way

Von Dutch

Sabotage! Murder! Branding!

Over the holidays, I watched the three-part docuseries, The Curse of Von Dutch: “A Brand to Die For,” which is available to stream on Amazon Prime in Canada and Hulu in the U.S.

The series explores the complicated corporate story behind the brand Von Dutch, best known for its logo-emblazoned trucker hats, and how it went from obscurity to become the go-to brand for a generation, including Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Until, that is, things went sideways.

Sidenote: Von Dutch is Kenneth Howard. Howard was an American artist, motorcycle mechanic, pin striper, metal fabricator, knifemaker and gunsmith born in 1929. His family nicknamed him “Dutch” because he was “as stubborn as a Dutchman” and the “Von” came later as an artistic signature. Some of his famous work includes the flying eyeball logo and the well-known 1979 Blue Velvet Pontiac Firebird’s pin striping. He’s also considered one of the fathers of “Kustom Culture.” You can learn more about Kenneth Howard on his Wiki page or watch the documentary.

The docuseries is a journey about the rise and fall of a brand, and perhaps how it could have remained an iconic brand to this day.

Some good advice comes from Mike Cassel, co-founder of the brand, who explains the three tenets of building a brand:

  1. “Classic never dies, ever.”
  2. “What you stand for is more important than what you sell.”
  3. “Authenticity speaks for and sells itself.”

So what, exactly, went wrong? You’ll have to watch the docuseries, as the twists and turns must be seen to be believed.

If you want a taste of what to expect, you can watch the trailer.

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