The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For

A few weeks ago I saw a suggestion come across my Hulu welcome screen entitled “The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For”. My first impression was that I knew all about the brand, especially the many details of how it was counterfeited into oblivion. Either way, I knew I wanted to watch it to see if my account was correct or if there was more to the story.

Turns out, as comprehensive as I thought my perspective might have been, there were some things I missed, or was not privy to. I worked for their lawyers during the peak enforcement process and I knew things were a little off. And this documentary helps bring that to light.

Bobby Vaughn and Mike Cassel were two surfer dudes who appropriated the IP of a counterculture icon named Kenny Howard a.k.a. Von Dutch (1929-1992). Howard’s philosophy about Intellectual Property was that no one owned anything and that all creativity was meant for the world to share. So, in 1999, Vaughn and Cassel spun off the Von Dutch brand from another fashion line they had that was not doing well.

Before Bobby and Mike knew it, the Von Dutch brand took off. Celebrities were all over it, wearing their apparel on every television channel available. Along with the success of the brand came organized criminals they had previously tapped for startup funds. This made life difficult because there were established cartel captains that demanded cuts from the sales.

But the two surfer dudes, as savvy creatives as they were, could not manage the explosive success of this brand. It was then that they welcomed investors and a CEO from Europe. All of a sudden, French fashion designer Christian Audigier was the face of the brand. Christian blew the brand up to levels no one dreamed. But, as the genuine product sales grew, the counterfeit sales grew exponentially.

“Here’s the problem. When you are already a logo-driven brand where your logo is your main seller its easy to slap a logo on a piece of thing and sell it and call it Von Dutch. We were the second most counterfeited brand in the world next to Louis Vuitton.” ~ European Investor Tonny Sorensen.

This was where my team and I came in. In the early 2000’s, counterfeiting fashion brands on the Internet was at its peak. Yes, the flea markets and street vendors were also going bananas, but Internet sales were new, and I was the guy that handled these types of cases.

What was discovered was that the folks behind this brand never laid a proper foundation for enforcement. They didn’t spend the few cents per item required to tag the genuine goods properly so that they could be differentiated from the fake. By the time they brought in the proper attorneys and investigators, the problem was out of control there was very little that could be done.

“In the height of our business, we were doing probably around the $300 to $400 million mark. The counterfeits were north of a billion for sure.”~ Niels Juul, Von Dutch investor

I’ve met both of the original creatives Bobby and Mike during my years living in Venice Beach and find their stories fascinating. I don’t blame them for the counterfeiting problem (bringing in the cartels is another story). But, when the European investors came in and hired high-priced attorneys corners were cut while people were too busy making money.

The lesson to learn here is that, before your brand takes off, make sure you have already laid the foundation for a good enforcement plan. We can help you with that. Contact us at MI:33 and we will be glad to get things going for you.

Good Food + Bad Laws = Unlikely Hero

Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘N Waffles is a Los Angeles soul food restaurant and a staple of local cuisine since the 1970’s. The strange flavor combination along with its addictive recipe has gone unquestioned for decades, and has been immortalized by pop culture figures such as Quentin Tarantino, Ludacris, Will Smith, and Snoop Dogg.

Continue reading “Good Food + Bad Laws = Unlikely Hero”

How a Change in Routine Can Bring you Peace

How a Change in Routine Can Bring you PeaceIt’s Monday night. New Year’s Eve. Work was good. But I’m in this funk that I can’t seem to shake. I really hope I can get myself out of this emotional rabbit hole in 2019. I’m at home lounging in my sweat shorts and tee shirt with Chauncey by my side. Chauncey is a White West Highland Terrier, a little larger than the norm. According to the American Kennel Club’s snooty standards, he should be between fifteen to twenty pounds. He’s a solid thirty but not chubby at all, just a big ol’ farm boy bred in Arkansas. I’m watching the latest popular true crime docuseries streaming on television. Continue reading “How a Change in Routine Can Bring you Peace”

The Real Truth About Suicide

Suicide can happen to anyone. Especially on the worst day of a person’s life. Experts, pundits, and all others who want to pretend that it is something that only happens to ‘other people’ say that there is a sickness or syndrome that causes a person to clock out. The truth… the real truth… is that the same person who made this claim is probably one step from the act themselves (now or in the past), but decided to mask it out of shame or superiority. I’m here to tell you that you need not feel shame about contemplating suicide, nor sympathizing for friends or family members who have decided to commit this ultimate act. Of course it is not a choice to aspire to make, or to be happy of the outcome. However, understanding the choice and sympathizing for those who consider or commit this act is most important to our humanity. Continue reading “The Real Truth About Suicide”