Monday, September 04, 2006

Von Dutch

It’s not the sort of thing that I’d normally be interested in but my curiosity got the better of me. I have been struck by the ubiquity of one particular brand in Seoul. That of “Von Dutch”.

It may be because a number of their products are manufactured here but they are available on almost everywhere. While there is always the chance that the products available are knock-offs I don’t think that they are. (And if they are, they are indistinguishable from the real thing – down to the matched quality, sewn in labels, stickers of authenticity etc).
But who, or what the hell is Von Dutch itself?

Well, sadly he, one Kenneth “Von Dutch” Howard died in 1992. He was according to this tale a maverick mechanic and vehicle pinstriper as well as excellent gunsmith. An all round interesting character. That said, not exactly a great guy as this article that indicates this king of cool was probably a racist alcoholic. Do those trendy teen folk have any idea what they are wearing?

Quite how did the work of this maverick head into purgatory to emerge resurrected as fashion label some ten years later? How did he get his name on Paris Hilton’s head?

Along comes small time surf clothing marketer – one Mike Cassel who took the brand, slapped Von Dutch’s unique logo onto a trucker’s cap trying to market it to hot-rod enthusiasts. But he made it trendy and with an old marketing trick - getting “cool people” to wear the things by sending freebies to them and getting them to wear them – he was soon onto a good thing.

OK, it’s a brand that has been milked and after 3 years or so has had its day. The trucker look has done it’s time – to be piled on the scrap heap of dead fashion. But what does one make of taking someone’s life and art and exploiting it posthumously.

Is it justified in the way that Mike Cassel, the guy that started the whole thing says :

"Everything cool gets packaged and sold to somebody," Cassel said. "If I make some money out of it, and his daughters make some money out of it, I think that’s the American way. If somebody does that to me after I die, I’d be honored."

Would you be honoured?

Or is it rather as this guy who used to run the now defunct parody website a rueful situation?

"Von Dutch is pretty much finished as an artist. It’s like Picasso being known for furniture.”

What value is posthumous fame or infamy? Should we care?


VallyP said...

I can't say I've ever heard of the Von Dutch label, but it seems a shame that his 'brand' of art should have been exploited posthumously. Smacks of a lack of respect, unless of course, his family were consulted and gave their approval, and as long as they weren't just doing it to make some capital out of it, and as long as.....and so on.

If I were him and looking down from my cloud on high, then I might be feeling a touch of indignation!

ATW said...

Hey Val, I'm glad the brand didn't forge its way onto your barge over the last few years. But I'm pretty sure its everywhere everywhere else around Europe.