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Behind Von Dutch’s surprising return to the luxury market

By Julia Garel


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Business |Interview

Von Dutch Paris creative director Earl Pickens, surrounded by celebrities: Big Money, Brooke Schofield, Tana Mongeau, Imari Stuart and Ari Aguirre at the brand's launch dinner in Malibu in November 2022. Credits: GONZALO MARROQUIN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

A powerful fashion brand of the 2000s, Von Dutch (Royer Group) made a strong comeback with the 2020 launch of Von Dutch Paris, a clothing and accessories line that is about to gain visibility in the French market.

"The idea of doing Von Dutch Paris actually goes back to 2017," Earl Pickens, Von Dutch creative director, confided by phone. “We were thinking about how to make a comeback with this brand."

The comeback will be Parisian. A big surprise for this leading name in American culture, whose trucker cap has been popularised by celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. But the Californian-born brand has its reasons.

Firstly, Von Dutch Paris is based in Paris and was launched in France at Paris Fashion Week Men’s in June 2023. Secondly, Earl Pickens pointed out that the man who propelled the brand into the American market was French: Christian Audigier. Finally, the addition of the name Paris brings Von Dutch closer to the big names in Parisian fashion, who also offer luxury streetwear.

The creative director was also keen to point out that the Von Dutch Paris’ manufacturing plants are the same as those of the French luxury heavyweights. Von Dutch now plays in the same league as Parisian labels such as Balmain, Celine and Balenciaga. In fact, when FashionUnited asked Earl Pickens who his target customer was, he replied: "Young girls under thirty who can buy shoes from Balenciaga". He goes on to say that it's more a question of mindset than age.

Credits: Von Dutch Paris.

‘We didn't expect it’

Von Dutch Paris came as a surprise. Firstly, because its history is more associated with the ‘bling-bling’ aesthetic of American star Paris Hilton than with Parisian luxury, and secondly because its products are innovative.

Von Dutch Paris' move upmarket is not just expressed in the Italian manufacturing of its items. Earl Pickens also stated he has put "more into the details, the fabric treatments, more into the hand embroidery", and proposed a more experimental aspect. The intention is clear: the company wants to distinguish Von Dutch Paris from Von Dutch.

"We've tried to keep the two brands as separate as possible so that there's no competition between them.

Earl Pickens, creative director of Von Dutch Paris.

At Von Dutch Paris, T-shirts sell for between 250 euros and 400 euros (compared to 30 euros at Von Dutch), hoodies go for over 850 euros and denim pieces are priced between 300 euros and 1,000 euros. The big price difference with Von Dutch is also explained by the large number of leather items, a speciality of the young brand.

"It's a big difference," stressed the creative director. "We've tried to keep the two brands as separate as possible so there's no competition between them."

It is also a way of wiping the slate clean of the brand's sulphurous past, recounted in 2021 by Andrew Renzi in a docu-series broadcast on the Hulu platform. ‘A Brand to Die For’ highlighted the rise and fall of the company, including stories of sabotage, dirty tricks and attempted murder.

With such a genesis, it's no wonder the revival of Von Dutch has come as such a shock. When we asked Earl Pickens how the brand had been received at its launch in the Paris pop-up store last June, he said: "I asked everyone to sign a book tracing the history of Von Dutch and the thing I noticed most was 'We didn't expect it'. Most people were surprised by the jeans, the leather, the well-made caps, the sunglasses. They weren't expecting that and it's been great feedback for me."

Following its launch in the US, Von Dutch wants to focus on the French market. "The future of the brand is really for us to work on visibility in France. We have sales people who have started selling the brand. Boutiques [concept stores] are going to be delivered in Paris and the rest of France," informed Pickens.

The number of pieces in the collection, meanwhile, is set to increase. In fact, the brand entered the optical market in March 2023 with the launch of a line of sunglasses.

Aside from a potential presentation at Paris Women's Fashion Week in September, the label will be the subject of pop-up stores in Toronto and Los Angeles in August 2023.

This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.FR. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.
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