HomeGeneral NewsVon Dutch Controversy: Inside Von Dutch's messy and chaotic fall from power

Von Dutch Controversy: Inside Von Dutch’s messy and chaotic fall from power

Von Dutch Controversy: Most of the famous people and athletes who wore Von Dutch didn’t know that the name and idea came from the work of Kenneth “Kenny” Robert Howard, a mechanic and car detailer who started making art under the name “Von Dutch” in the 1950s. Howard’s job was to paint pinstripes, flames, and eyes on hot rods.

This helped start the subcultural movement called “Kustom Kulture.” (Recent conversations about Howard have brought up his racist and pro-Nazi views.) Howard died in 1992, so he was no longer alive when the Von Dutch brand became popular.

Who put Von Dutch together?

After Howard died, many people tried to make money off of his name and work. The director of The Curse of Von Dutch, Andrew Renzi, told the New York Times, “It was basically a grab by a lot of people who said they came up with the idea or took the right steps to own something that you shouldn’t be able to own in the first place.”

One of these people was Ed Boswell, a Los Angeles art collector who is often named as the founder of Von Dutch. He appears in the docuseries to defend his role in the company’s success. But the company didn’t really start until 1996, when Howard’s daughter sold the rights to the Von Dutch name to Michael Cassel, a former drug dealer who had just finished a four-year prison sentence, and his student Robert “Bobby” Vaughn. Most people think of Cassel and Vaughn as the ones who took Howard’s signature and turned it into the logo for the Von Dutch clothing line.

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Von Dutch Controversy

Many of the clothes that Von Dutch was known for had been worn by working class people in the past. But adding the Von Dutch logo turned the trucker hat from something that real truck drivers wore into a trendy item that rich and famous people wore. This was probably something that the stars who helped make the brand popular didn’t realize.

Emma McClendon, a fashion historian, told the New York Times, “There are implicit power dynamics in the appropriation of garments like this because you can choose which garments to wear but leave behind the labor and legacy of the people who originally wore these garments in the context in which they wore them.”

What’s wrong with Von Dutch?

Aside from Howard’s racist and anti-Semitic past, the Hulu series gives a number of reasons for Von Dutch’s decline. For example, it suggests that the company may have been a money-laundering scheme and that the brand did business with someone with ties to drug cartels.

But it’s clear that things really got out of hand in 2005, when Von Dutch co-founder Bobby Vaughn shot and killed a friend he said had attacked him with a broken bottle. He was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Even though he was found not guilty because Rivas’ death was justified, the scandal hurt the brand’s reputation and led to its demise.

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Von Dutch Controversy

Who currently owns Von Dutch?

In 2000, Cassel and Vaughn needed money, so they brought in Danish businessman Tonny Sorenson. He invested in the company and became CEO. Sorenson hired French fashion designer Christian Audigier to help grow the brand, but Cassel and Vaughn didn’t like Audigier’s direction and worried that they were “selling out.” When Audigier left Von Dutch in 2004, their famous trucker hats were said to be making tens of millions of dollars. But Von Dutch’s popularity started to decline in the late 2000s, and in 2009, Sorenson sold the brand to the French shoe company Groupe Royer.

How did Von Dutch get hurt?

Even though Von Dutch never stopped making things for real, people stopped caring about the brand for almost a decade. Ed Goldman was hired as the acting general manager of Von Dutch North America in 2019 so that the brand could be brought back to life and reach a new generation. With nostalgia for the 1990s and 2000s at an all-time high, it seems like the right time for Von Dutch to try to come back, and it might be working. Megan Thee Stallion and Saweetie have been seen wearing Von Dutch clothing, and the brand recently made a streetwear collection with Young Thug.

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