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Starlets, drugs and martial arts — how Von Dutch became ‘Von Douche’

Stacy Johnson



Starlets, drugs and martial arts — how Von Dutch became ‘Von Douche’

What happens when a competitive surfer-turned-small time gangster, a convicted drug dealer and a world martial arts champion launch a fashion line?

It becomes the biggest brand in the world.

Britney Spears donning a Von Dutch trucker hat.RHEA/BACKGRID

No label captured early 2000s style quite like Von Dutch — a casual line of denim, T-shirts, jackets and trucker hats favored by the era’s brightest stars, such as Paris Hilton, Dennis Rodman, Britney Spears and Jay-Z. At a moment when the pinnacle of style was a midriff-baring tank top paired with scandalously low-slung jeans, the scrawled Von Dutch logo was ubiquitous, showing up everywhere from rowdy college campuses to the red carpet. 

But as a new docuseries shows, overexposure and a feud over the future of the brand would ultimately kneecap Von Dutch’s growth and condemn the brand to early 2000s infamy.

Dennis Rodman, Jay-Z and Paris Hilton all wearing Von Dutch trucker hats.Jim Smeal/BEI/Shutterstock; Picture Perfect/Shutterstock; WireImage

“At its most aspirational, it was Levi’s,” Andrew Renzi, director of Hulu’s “The Curse of Von Dutch,” out Thursday, told The Post. He said Von Dutch’s original ethos was all about “James Dean [and] hot rod culture,” with the originators setting out to create “a real, true American heritage brand, something that really represented Americana.”

To do this, California-based duo Michael Cassel (a self-described “outlaw” who served 4 years in San Quentin after a cocaine bust) and Bobby Vaughn (a surfer and model, who narrowly evaded arrest after his involvement in a 1993 shooting) looked to the legacy of the deceased artist and mechanic Kenny Howard, a k a “Von Dutch.” Howard pioneered the contemporary art of pinstriping — customizing cars and motorcycles with thin, decorative lines — and created a number of memorable drawings, including a flying eyeball with wings that Cassel and Vaughn featured in their nascent clothing line’s iconography.

Bobby Vaughn (left) and Mike Cassel founded the clothing line together, inspired by the art of Kenny Howard, a k a Von Dutch.Hulu

Howard’s daughters approved the license, and by the late 1990s, Von Dutch had a small but loyal following among rebels and outcasts. “Kids go through a stage where they like punk rock, they like rebellious things, and ‘f–k that’ anarchy, right? He was that in his art, he was that in his actions, he was completely against the grain,” Cassel says of Howard’s appeal.

Unfortunately, Cassel’s criminal record made it almost impossible for the line to grow, because no one would lend him money. By the year 2000, he was on the hunt for a private investor.  

Tonny Sorensen took 51% control of Von Dutch with his initial investment.HULU

He found one in Tonny Sorensen, a 6-foot-6 Danish former Olympian and Taekwondo champion who had originally come to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an action star. At first, Sorensen — who took 51% control of the brand with a million-dollar investment — and Cassel shared a similar vision for Von Dutch (“hot rods and rolled up T-shirts and really hard denim,” said Renzi). But as time passed and Sorensen found himself losing money, he got desperate. He brought in a French designer named Christian Audigier to boost sales. 

Gwen Stefani wearing Von Dutch in 2003.Getty Images

Audigier — who would eventually launch a line of notorious tattoo-inspired T-shirts called Ed Hardy — had an entirely different vision for Von Dutch. “It was so much more flamboyant,” Renzi said. “It was louder, because Christian’s idea of America was Michael Jackson. Christian was obsessed with Michael Jackson, obsessed with the really loud flair of America.”

Soon, Audigier’s flashy designs — from sequin baseball caps to rhinestone tees to patent-leather bowling bags — took off.

Tommy Lee wore Von Dutch on his 2000 episode of “MTV Cribs” (a prime placement that Vaughn arranged, adding in the film that Sorensen rewarded him by tricking him into signing over his rights to the company). Audigier hired Tracey Mills, brother of NBA star Chris Mills, to get pieces on his celebrity friends, such as Brandy and Usher. 

Von Dutch had a policy of never charging celebrities for anything they picked out at the stores.

Once, Whitney Houston and her entourage came in and collected one of every single item. In the series, Sorenson says a sales clerk came to check with him that it wasn’t too much. 

Hillary Duff rocking Von Dutch’s coated jeans.Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

As he recalls it, “I said to them, ‘Have you ever heard her voice? Have you ever heard her sing? Do you remember ‘The Bodyguard?’ Like, give her 30 bags, because she’s the best singer I’ve ever heard in my life and I still get goosebumps.’”

Paris Hilton chatting with Jeremy Scott clad in Von Dutch and Juicy Couture — accessorized with a flip phone.Moghadam/BEI/Shutterstock

But nobody championed the brand like Paris Hilton, who at the time was promoting her tongue-in-cheek 2003 reality show “The Simple Life” with her best friend Nicole Richie.

“It was free, it was playful, it was cute, it was iconic,” Hilton said of Von Dutch in the series. Audigier, she says, gave her and Richie “whatever we wanted … That was like, our uniform for the show.”

By 2003, Von Dutch was raking in millions of dollars each month, with the doc suggesting it was the most counterfeited logo after Louis Vuitton. Celebrities were “the ‘X’ factor for them,” Renzi said. “They were getting influencers before that was a thing … The difference then is that magazines would come out once a week or once a month, and so it really did create a craziness around this brand, because every month, Us Weekly or whatever would come out and everyone would be in a Von Dutch hat in the magazine.”

Halle Berry in a Von Dutch jersey tee.Picture Perfect/Shutterstock

For Vaughn and Cassel, the success was not so sweet. 

Is Kylie Jenner bringing back Von Dutch?FameFlynet.Biz/Splash News

In 2002, Cassel lost the struggle for creative control and he was forced out, unable to raise the money to buy out Sorensen. He watched, helpless and broke, as the brand he loved faded away.

“They took this thing that I created, my baby, and they prostituted it,” Cassel says at the end of Episode 2.

Ultimately, even Sorensen came to question Audigier’s judgment as he churned out more and more Von Dutch products — with items for kids and pets appearing in stores — to the point that by 2004, the once-hot label came to be known, disparagingly, as “Von Douche.”

“When you see dogs wearing Von Dutch, it’s just not cool anymore,” said Renzi. 

Sorensen eventually sold his stake, and Audigier jumped ship in 2007. (He died in 2015.) “They kind of exhausted themselves,” Renzi said. “They made a bunch of money and it was a successful company, but it was at the expense of longevity.”

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Save on beauty and more with Saks Fifth Avenue Cyber Monday 2021 deals

Stacy Johnson



Save on beauty and more with Saks Fifth Avenue Cyber Monday 2021 deals

NY Post may receive revenue from affiliate and advertising partnerships for sharing this content and/or when you make a purchase.

Our bellies are full, the turkey is gone and Thanksgiving is over. But that doesn’t mean the deals are done. In fact, Cyber Monday reigns as one of the largest 24-hour shopping days of the year, and we are ready to join in on the fun.

Top brands like Therabody, YETI, Lululemon and more are dropping major deals, but our favorite Cyber Monday retailer to shop is none other than Saks Fifth Avenue.

This Cyber Monday, Saks Fifth Avenue is offering a very exclusive spend and get promotion. Get $50 off for every $200 you spend with code CYBER21SF. But act fast, as this deal is only valid on Nov. 29.

If that’s not enough and you need a little extra incentive, then look no further, as Saks Fifth Avenue beauty is also 15% off for Cyber Monday with code CBTY21SF. 

And we know how quickly deals come and go on this hectic shopping day, so we listed our top picks below. Happy saving!

Best Saks Fifth Avenue Cyber Monday Deals For Women

Briogeo Detox & Repair 2-Piece Hair Care Set, $54 (originally $60)

This two-piece set features hair essentials made to restore and maintain the long-term health of your scalp and hair. A cult favorite for a reason, this Briogeo kit includes a Scalp Revival Charcoal + Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo and a Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask. It’s the ideal sampler.

IRO Heldens Plaid Shacket, $495

Shackets are all the rage, and this one is made of a luxurious wool blend. Further details include a relaxed silhouette, long sleeves, drops shoulders, snap button pockets and front chest pockets.

Slip Disco Fever Holiday Love Me I’m Delicate 2-Piece Set, $89

Celebrity hairstylists, beauty experts, dermatologists and more all rely on the secret weapon of a silk pillowcase. Why? Because they minimize hair frizz, are gentle on the skin and provide a cool night’s sleep. Better yet, Slipsilk specifically has been developed and perfected for over ten years to provide the best, softest and most durable silk pillowcase on the market. 

Theory Belted Turtleneck Sweater Dress, $475

This cream-colored sweater dress is made of rib knit and is paired with a boucle skirt. Buyers can also look forward to a cozy turtleneck perfect for cool weather, short sleeves, a side zipper closure, a belt loop and an included belt. 

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Noël Scented Candle Trio, $115

Maison Francis Kurkdjian brings three limited-edition fragrance candles made in France. Scents include Mon Beau Sapin, Pain d’épices and Pomme d’amour. So sit back, relax and enjoy the peace of a candle-lit room. 

Elie Tahari Cashmere Half-Zip Sweater, $445

With a warm cashmere half-zip sweater, you’ll never want to take it off — especially this one, as it features a convertible collar, long sleeves, a ribbed knit finish and an oversized silhouette. 

Faux Fur Pom-Pom Metallic Beanie, $52.50 (originally $75)

Adorned with an adorable pom-pom, this faux fur beanie is exclusively sold at Saks Fifth Avenue. Pair with some knee-high boots for an elevated look or some classic leggings for a warm night out.

Puma Mayze Classic Sneakers, $90

Stylish and comfortable, the Mayze classic sneaker will make you the best dressed in the room. Details include a stacked sole, contrasting rubber tooling, leather lining and a rubber sole. We suggest pairing the sneakers with some denim and a warm puffer jacket. 

Free People Jackie Plaid Mini Dress, $168

How adorable is this flowy dress? I’m in love! It’s cut in a soft, woven fabric and features peasant styling and smocked details. I would sang it quick if I were you, as Free People deals are known to go fast.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Stick Blush, $32

If you’re all about a low-maintenance beauty routine, then this is the product for you.

The Anastasia Beverly Hills Stick Blush is made of a lightweight formula that creates a color-from-within look. It also diffuses and blurs the appearance of pores and imperfections. Simply glide on some color and use the dual end of the product to blend it out.

Best Saks Fifth Avenue Cyber Monday Deals For Men

Gucci Guilty Black 2-Piece Eau De Toilette Set, $143

Made in Spain, this deliciously scented cologne duo is a must-have. Pair the two together to bring about a feeling of passion and unpredictability. Wear them separately to create irresistibility. You can’t go wrong with these explosive Gucci scents.

Hom Ramatuelle 2-Piece Long Sleepwear Set, $90

Get cozy with this two-piece pajama set from the Ramatuelle Collection. Features include a button-up top, drawstring pants, 100% cotton material, long sleeves, a camp collar, a chest patch pocket and side pant pockets.

Puma x Rhuigi Track Jacket, $78 (originally $130)

Track jackets are in, and this Puma x Rhuigi style elevates the look to make it effortlessly trendy. With side vents, a high neck, long sleeves and a zip front, you’ll look sophisticated yet be comfortable all day long.

Jack Black The Triple Play 3-Piece Skincare Set, $49

Jack Black’s best-selling men’s products are here, and you can get them all in one single holiday bundle. The set includes a Face Buff, Double-Duty Face Moisturizer and an All-Over Wash.

New Balance Winterized Anorak Jacket, $135

Great for the fall weather and the approaching winter season, this nylon puffer jacket features a mock neck, a quarter-zip closure, side zip pockets and long sleeves. Choose from two various colors to find your perfect match. 

Theory Stanton Crewneck Sweater, $281.25 (originally $375)

Made from an alpaca blend, this oat crewneck is sure to keep you warm. Pair it with straight jeans and a classic dress shoe for a luxurious feel or dress it down with some sneakers

Viktor&Rolf Spicebomb 2-Piece Cologne Set, $120

This addictive men’s cologne brings the allure of power and confidence. The set includes a 3 oz Eau de Toilette spray and a Eae de Toilette travel spray while encompassing notes of bright bergamot and pink pepper.

Stone Island Leather Mid-Top Sneakers, $528

Everyone needs a good pair of white sneakers, and these are it. Made of leather, they are crisp and clean. They also feature a round toe, lace-up vamp, leather textile lining and a rubber sole. And if you’re looking for a bit of extra height, it’s your lucky day, as there is a 1-inch platform.

Theory Burton Crewneck Sweater, $258.75 (originally $345)

Choose from three various colors and easily style this wool and cashmere crewneck. Featuring a striped pattern, ribbed cuffs, long sleeves and a pullover style, it’s a must-have.

Kiehl’s Since 1851 Men’s Grooming On-The-Go 3-Piece Set, $40

The perfect skincare routine for men is found within this Kiehl’s box. Products include a face wash, moisturizer and body scrub soap. Each product includes doses of vitamin C perfect for boosting radiance and smoothing skin texture.

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Inside fashion designer Virgil Abloh’s private life with wife Shannon

Stacy Johnson



Inside fashion designer Virgil Abloh’s private life with wife Shannon

For many in the fashion world Virgil Abhol, 41, was a maverick, a fashion outsider who shot to fame for his headlining-making catwalks. Dubbed the “Karl Lagerfeld for millennials” he climbed from relative obscurity to the top of his game. He was down with the coolest kids, hanging out with best friend Kanye West, “crashing” fashion weeks, disrupting the industry and founding one of the world’s hippest streetwear brands, Off-White — a label which became as famous for its designer hoodies and t-shirts as its huge social media following. In 2018 he became the first African-American artistic director for French fashion house Louis Vuitton menswear. 

The shock news of the 41-year-old’s death from cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare, aggressive form of cancer, sent reverberations around the fashion world last night. “We are devastated to announce the passing of our beloved Virgil Abloh,” his wife of 12 years, Shannon Abloh, said in a statement on the designer’s Instagram page. “He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments.” He is also survived by his children Lowe Abloh and Grey Abloh, his sister Edwina Abloh and his parents Nee and Eunice Abloh.

Virgil Abloh appears at the end of his Spring/Summer 2019 collection for Off-White during Mens’ Fashion Week in Paris. That same year he was diagnosed with the cancer that killed him at 41.REUTERS

Shannon Abloh (above) met her husband at school and lived in Chicago while he worked in Paris.Christopher Peterson/SplashNews

As news spread around the world, tributes came from far and wide, with A-lister friends including Pharrell Williams, Victoria Beckham and Kanye paying their respects. But if his fashion career was star-packed, his home life was the complete opposite. Born in Rockport near Chicago, Abloh was the son of Ghanaian immigrant parents. His father worked at a paint company and mother, Eunice, as a seamstress. She taught Abloh how to use a sewing machine, and at a young age he began designing T-shirts. 

Designer Virgil Abloh, Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid and Karlie Kloss during the finale of the Off-White show as part of Paris Fashion Week.Getty Images

He met his childhood sweetheart Shannon (née Sundberg) when they were both still at school. Later the pair moved to Wisconsin where Shannon studied management and marketing at Edgewood College and Abhol began a civil engineering degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison before studying for a Master’s of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Abloh and Kanye West (middle, with estranged wife Kim Kardashian) were frequent artistic collaborators.Best Image/BACKGRID

Virgil rarely spoke about his wife in interviews, but there was never a doubt how strong their bond was. According to reports, after a 10-year courtship, Abloh decided to pop the question but realized he would have to be creative in taking her by surprise. He asked if she could drive with him to the airport for a work trip like she normally did and while they were swapping over driver’s seats, he caught her completely off guard and got down on one knee. “I was completely surprised – I couldn’t believe it!” Shannon said at the time.

Shannon Abloh often sat front row at her husband’s shows.Matteo Prandoni/

The pair married in 2009 at the Chicago Four Seasons, the same year as Abloh decided architecture wasn’t for him after all and found a job interning at fashion label, Fendi. It was a big family wedding, with Abloh reportedly leaving most of the arrangements to the bride, while still playing a “supportive role.” The bride wore ivory-hued Amsale and violet-blue shoes, the bridegroom, a tux and white tie, and the pair sat at different guest tables for each course to make sure they chatted to all their family and friends. During the ceremony the pair read out emotional special promises to each other. “The funny part is that we wrote them separately — and didn’t share them with each other — but they were very similar!” Shannon told bridal magazine, Inside Weddings, at the time. 

Virgil Abloh and his wife Shannon chat backstage after the Off-White Menswear Fall/Winter 2019-2020 show.Getty Images

Recalling her husband’s wedding speech, she said: “His words were so heartfelt and sincere. He had everyone laughing, crying, and then smiling… it’s the one moment I was dying to see on our wedding video.” Virgil humbly added that one of the best parts of the wedding was the people who helped make it happen: “The stress and strain never outweighed their good-natured hearts. More than anything, this was what created the most special evening of our lives, and we are so thankful.”

Flowers are seen outside the Off-White flagship store in London.Getty Images

Throughout Virgil’s meteoric rise, Shannon, 41, largely kept out of the limelight. She was, however, a staunch supporter of her husband’s career, attending shows and red carpet events, later with their two young children, son, Grey and daughter, Lowe in tow. While her career went down a different, more conventional, path — she first worked as a media planner for Yahoo and then later as a program manager for Monster — she continued to be a regular front row fixture at all his shows.

Abloh standing between his sister, Edwina (left), and Shannon at the Louis Vuitton Menswear Spring/Summer 2019 show.Getty Images

The family based themselves mainly in Chicago, with Abloh shuttling back and forth, clocking up formidable air miles. If fitting family life in with manning the helm at Vuitton menswear was a balancing act, he never showed it. His private life was by and large a closed book. “I don’t want to be a celebrity designer,” he once said. “I want to keep my personal life out of it.” He was famous for his formidable work ethic — it is said he never sat still, refused to have an office and did all his work on the go by iPhone. But despite this, his million-mile-an-hour lifestyle seemed to take a toll. Under doctor’s orders, the designer announced in 2019 he was taking three months off from traveling and public appearances. “I’m shifting gears,” he said at the time. 

Shannon Abloh poses with her children Grey and Lowe, who are both under five years old, at the Off-White Menswear Fall/Winter 2019/2020 show.Corbis/Getty Images

Shannon’s post on her husband’s Instagram page describes him as a “fiercely devoted father, husband, son, brother, and friend.”

The unwaveringly loyal support of his wife and family was no doubt key to his success. “Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered,” the tribute said. “Virgil was driven by his dedication to his craft and to his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design. He often said, ‘Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,’ believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations.” 

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Get 40% off with Cyber Monday deals on North Face jackets and more

Stacy Johnson



Get 40% off with Cyber Monday deals on North Face jackets and more

NY Post may be compensated and/or receive an affiliate commission if you buy through our links.

Cyber Monday is all about the unbelievably-low deals you can’t find any other time of the year, and the sales are sweet!

Right now, you can land exclusive YETI promotions, can’t-beat home deals, fashion must-haves and so much more.

But there is one sale going on right now you have to see to believe: The North Face Cyber Monday 2021 event.

This Cyber Monday, The North Face is offering 40% off select styles while supplies last. And yes, that includes slashed prices on their famous jackets.

To help you jump on these Cyber Monday deals before it’s too late, we rounded up the best North Face deals we could find below.

Happy shopping!

Looking for an ultra-warm jacket that will keep you cozy all winter long? If you answered yes, then this is the jacket for you. It features a customizable silhouette with a cinch-able drawcord at the waist, 550-fill down, rounded hems and zippered hand pockets.

Who doesn’t love a reversible jacket? So score this two-in-one jacket that features both a cozy and quilted material, a draft flap and zippered pockets. Choose from three great colors.

If you’re all about keeping warm while not feeling like a huge snowman, you’ll love the Women’s Explore Farther Jacket. It is made with a beautiful chevron quilted pattern, features round hems, hand pockets and 150g of synthetic insulation — without compromising your mobility.

Talk about a steal! You can bag this Tower Peak Parka for $120 off the original ticket price while having a thigh-length jacket that features internal cuffs and fur lining.

This Aconcagua Vest pairs perfectly over a long-sleeve shirt and protects against harsh winds. We also guarantee it will provide the perfect warmth-to-weight ratio while flattering your figure.

Men, did you just see the above and wish there was only one for you, too? It’s your lucky day because there is one! Choose from four color options, but act fast, as these are selling out quickly.

If you want to rock the North Face brand but don’t want something so heavy or warm, then this is your best bet. The hoodie is the ideal addition to your athleisure wardrobe and features raglan sleeves with thumb holes.

Guys, we have one for you, too. It’s versatile, made with recycled shell fabric and is great for the city and the trail alike.

Fuzzy, silky and warm is what makes the Osito Jacket what it is. Featuring an oversized collar, stretch cuffs and lightweight warmth, it’s what everyone dreams of in a zip-up. Choose from six various colors.

With a beautiful structure and detailing, the Gordon Lyons Full Zip is a heavyweight jacket that features knit fleece and insulates to the max. Plus, you can easily dress it up or down with the right shoes.

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