Von Dutch is a worldwide American fashion brand that was named posthumously after Kenny Howard, a.k.a. “Von Dutch,” an American artist and pinstriper associated with the Kustom Kulture movement.
Following Howard’s death in 1992, his daughters let Ed Boswell to make Von Dutch-inspired goods. Mike Cassell and Bobby Vaughn purchased the trademark rights in 2000. In the early 2000s, Christian Audigier, a French designer, helped promote the brand.
In 2009, Groupe Royer S.A. repurchased Von Dutch via its Luxembourg subsidiary Royer brands International S.a.r.l.
The apparel line quickly achieved popularity in the United States, attracting celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Ashton Kutcher, and Eric Church.
Kenneth Robert Howard was a motorcycle mechanic, artist, pin striper, metal fabricator, knifemaker, and gunsmith from the United States of America. The apparel line was inspired by Howard’s daughters Lisa and Lorna after his death.
They chose the artistic moniker Von Dutch for him; “Dutch” was a family nickname for Howard due to his reputation for being “as obstinate as a Dutchman.”
Howard was a vehicle and motorbike enthusiast. Additionally, he developed special effects for Hollywood films and consulted on other period films. His most recognised effort was in 1955 during the 1955 Motorama, when he spent ten days striping a 1927 Studebaker. Howard is now regarded as the inventor of contemporary pin-striping.
He was well-known for being apathetic to the rights of his work, describing copyright and patent protection as a “ego trip.” He sold the Von Dutch moniker for $5,000 to fellow pinstriper Steve Kafka. Howard died in 1992 as a consequence of liver failure caused by drinking.
Red, white, and blue 🔥
— Von Dutch Official (@VonDutchLLC) July 8, 2019
The Company’s Origins-
Ed Boswell, an art collector from Los Angeles, started selling Von Dutch patches at Los Angeles art events in the 1990s after acquiring the Von Dutch trademark from Howard’s children.
At a trade fair, he met former drug dealer Michael Cassel and professional surfer Bobby Vaughn, and the three decided to start a company together, first focusing on a clothing line of garage-themed jeans and workwear.
Cassel and Vaughn later purchased the firm from Boswell and hired entrepreneur Tonny Srensen as CEO and investor.
Christian Audigier was engaged by Srensen in 2002 to design for the company. Audigier invented the trucker hat, drawing inspiration from vintage Americana such as Marlon Brando’s motorbike headgear in The Wild One.
The early 2000s were the company’s golden years. Celebrities have been photographed sporting Von Dutch jackets, t-shirts, and, most famously, trucker hats. Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake were instrumental in Von Dutch’s success. Audigier met Spears in 2002 in Los Angeles and persuaded her to wear the brand. Soon later, Spears and Timberlake’s split made national headlines, and they happened to be wearing Von Dutch trucker caps on the cover of People magazine. The publicity aided in the growth of the brand, which eventually started selling.
Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Ashton Kutcher, and Beyoncé were all seen sporting the $100 trucker hat. In the early 2000s, Kutcher was often seen wearing Von Dutch, particularly on episodes of Punk’d. Von Dutch’s popularity peaked in 2003, when it sold more than $33 million in merchandise.
Now THAT’S style.
— Von Dutch Official (@VonDutchLLC) July 5, 2019
In 2002, Srensen dismissed Vaughn and became sole owner. Additionally, he started to demote Cassel as a designer in favour of Audigier. Vaughn and Cassel developed open hostility toward Srensen at one point, Cassel hired the grandson of drug lord Pablo Escobar to intimidate him into selling his stake in the company for $500,000, an offer that Srensen rejected.
Meanwhile, Vaughn attempted to coerce Cassel into surrendering his firm shares, accusing him of contacting the cops when he refused.
Vaughn was arrested on first-degree murder charges in February 2005 after he shot and murdered boyhood friend Mark Rivas, whom he said assaulted him with a shattered bottle. In 2006, he was acquitted.
By the late 2000s, Von Dutch has suffered a precipitous decrease owing to trademark saturation and imitation. In May 2004, Boswell, who resented Cassel and Vaughn for buying him out of the company just before it became successful, leaked to the press a letter written by Howard in 1992, in which the late artist made several racist and antisemitic remarks and professed admiration for Nazi Germany.
Despite Boswell having nothing to do with the clothing line, this letter destroyed what little popularity the company had left; by 2004, the fashion press had derisively nicknamed the brand “Von Douche”.
Audigier stepped down from the company in 2007. Sorenson sold the brand to Groupe Royer, a French footwear company, in 2009.
In 2016 Von Dutch started to make a comeback when Kylie Jenner was seen wearing the famous trucker hat, jackets and two piece sets.
In 2019 Von Dutch hired Ed Goldman as its general manager, and he started to create connections with Los Angeles’ hip-hop community; rappers such as Travis Scott, Saweetie, and Megan Thee Stallion were soon seen wearing the brand on Instagram, and the company partnered with Young Thug in 2021 to create a line of streetwear.
Von Dutch also became popular with Internet celebrities such as Emma Chamberlain and Addison Rae. As of 2021, Earl Pickens is the executive director of design.