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The twisted fall of billion dollar fashion brand Von Dutch exposed in new docuseries

The twisted fall of billion dollar fashion brand Von Dutch has been exposed in a brand new docuseries that details fist fights between its creators and the dark decline of founder Bobby Vaughn, who was charged with first-degree murder in 2005.

Von Dutch first launched to fashion fame in the early 2000s, when dozens of stars started sporting its designs – namely, its infamous trucker hats – and quickly catapulted it to one of the most well-known brand names in the industry.  

The very public support of some of the era’s most popular celebrities, including Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Hilary Duff, Gwen Stefani, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and Halle Berry, helped Von Dutch to earn fast financial success, with reports at the time suggesting that it was worth ‘north of a billion dollars’ at the height of its fame. 

However, a new Hulu docuseries is now lifting the lid on the scandalous reality behind the scenes of the popular fashion brand, detailing bitter rivalries, backstabbing, and violent feuds between executives – one of whom was ultimately charged with murder in 2005, effectively sealing the fate of the once-beloved brand. 

The twisted fall of billion dollar fashion brand Von Dutch has been exposed in a brand new Hulu docuseries that aired on November 18

#TheCurseofVonDutch: A Brand to Die For detailed the dark decline of the company founder Bobby Vaughn (pictured), who was charged with first-degree murder in 2005

#TheCurseofVonDutch: A Brand to Die For detailed the dark decline of the company founder Bobby Vaughn (pictured), who was charged with first-degree murder in 2005

Looking back! The company's trucker hats, jeans and jackets were branded the 'celebrity uniform' of the time period by Paris Hilton (pictured)

Looking back! The company’s trucker hats, jeans and jackets were branded the ‘celebrity uniform’ of the time period by Paris Hilton (pictured)

But despite being one of the biggest brands in the world - behind the scenes, there were fist fights between the founders, backstabbing, greed, and even death. Gwen Stefani is pictured wearing the brand

But despite being one of the biggest brands in the world – behind the scenes, there were fist fights between the founders, backstabbing, greed, and even death. Gwen Stefani is pictured wearing the brand

Back in the 1950s, Kenny Howard (who was also known as Von Dutch) was a car detailer and a mechanic. He was known for tricking out cars with things like flames, pinstripes, and eyeballs, and at the time, he became pretty well known for his work. 

He passed away in 1992, and when his daughters sold the rights to his name to a man named Michael Cassel, the Von Dutch clothing brand was born.

Prior to starting the company, Michael didn’t have the best past. It turns out, he was actually an incarcerated drug dealer.

Due to his previous troubles with the law, Michael was struggling to get the company on its feet, so he brought in Bobby.

However, right away, things weren’t always as they seemed for the brand. For example, one of them admitted in the docuseries that at first, Von Dutch jeans were really just Dickies with the Von Dutch label sewn on top.

But despite their rocky start, the brand quickly took off. In the the three-part show – which is called #TheCurseofVonDutch: A Brand to Die For and was directed by Andrew Renzi – Paris described the company’s ‘trucker hats, jeans and jackets’ as the ‘celebrity uniform’ of the early 2000s. 

‘Celebrities were the X factor for them,’ Andrew told New York Post. ‘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.’ 

When late artist Kenny Howard's (also known as Von Dutch) daughters sold the rights to his name to a man named Michael Cassel (pictured), the clothing brand was born

When late artist Kenny Howard’s (also known as Von Dutch) daughters sold the rights to his name to a man named Michael Cassel (pictured), the clothing brand was born

However, prior to starting the company, Michael didn't have the best past. It turns out, he was actually an incarcerated drug dealer

However, prior to starting the company, Michael didn’t have the best past. It turns out, he was actually an incarcerated drug dealer

Due to his previous troubles with the law, Michael was struggling to get the company on its feet, so he brought in Bobby Vaughn (pictured)

Due to his previous troubles with the law, Michael was struggling to get the company on its feet, so he brought in Bobby Vaughn (pictured)

Sneaky: The creators revealed that things weren't always as they seemed. For example, they admitted that their jeans were really just Dickies with the Von Dutch label sewn on top at first

Sneaky: The creators revealed that things weren’t always as they seemed. For example, they admitted that their jeans were really just Dickies with the Von Dutch label sewn on top at first

Tonny Sorensen (pictured) became CEO of the company in 2000, and he began to 'butt heads' with the creators - eventually forcing them out of the brand one by one

Tonny Sorensen (pictured) became CEO of the company in 2000, and he began to ‘butt heads’ with the creators – eventually forcing them out of the brand one by one

As the money rolled in, Bobby and Michael remembered ‘tons of girls, block parties, champagne, private jets, cars, homes, and more.’

But unfortunately, the fun didn’t last long. Over time, the three creators explained that they started to ‘butt heads,’ with physical fights breaking out between them.

To make matters worse, Bobby was arrested for murder during the height of Von Dutch’s popularity.

According to The New York Times, back in 2005, he was hanging out with a friend, who had just been released from prison.

Bobby told them during a 2009 interview that the friend attacked him with a broken bottle. He fatally shot him and claimed self-defense. He was found not guilty of first-degree murder. 

After that, he headed from California to New York City to try to start a new life. But when he was arrested and charged with carrying an unregistered handgun, things got worse for him.

He pleaded guilty to a felony gun charge and was sentenced to five years probation. 

Things went especially south for the company after Michael brought an investor named Tonny Sorensen into the picture.

He became CEO of the company in 2000, but when he started to change almost everything about the brand, Bobby felt like he was stealing the company from them.

Many disagreements broke out between Tonny and Bobby, and eventually, Tonny went behind his back and bought out Bobby's stake in the company - ultimately firing him

Many disagreements broke out between Tonny and Bobby, and eventually, Tonny went behind his back and bought out Bobby’s stake in the company – ultimately firing him

Tonny brought in designer Christian Audigier, who had a different vision for Von Dutch. This caused more feuding between him and the founders. Anna Nicole Smith is pictured wearing the brand

Tonny brought in designer Christian Audigier, who had a different vision for Von Dutch. This caused more feuding between him and the founders. Anna Nicole Smith is pictured wearing the brand

On the outside, the billion dollar brand seemed liked they had everything. But in reality, one of the creator's said it felt like 'snakes consuming each other.' Halle Berry is pictured wearing the brand

On the outside, the billion dollar brand seemed liked they had everything. But in reality, one of the creator’s said it felt like ‘snakes consuming each other.’ Halle Berry is pictured wearing the brand

He then brought in a French designer named Christian Audigier, who had an entirely different vision for Von Dutch.

‘It was so much more flamboyant,’ Andrew explained. ‘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.’ 

On the outside, the billion dollar brand seemed liked they had everything. But in reality, one of the creator’s said it felt like ‘snakes consuming each other.’ 

Many disagreements broke out between Tonny and Bobby, and eventually, things got so bad between them that Tonny went behind his back and bought out Bobby’s stake in the company – ultimately firing him. 

Michael and Tonny eventually started to feud too, and Michael was also forced to part ways with the brand after Tonny told him he’d have to pay $2 million if he wanted to stay.

‘They took this thing that I created, my baby, and they prostituted it,’ Michael said in the series.  

In the years that followed, Christian and Tonny kept releasing as many products as possible, including kids’ clothes and even pet accessories. But this ended up backfiring on them.

‘When you see dogs wearing Von Dutch, it’s just not cool anymore,’ Andrew said.

Tonny eventually sold his stake in the company and Christian cut ties with the brand in 2007.

Andrew added, ‘They kind of exhausted themselves. They made a bunch of money and it was a successful company, but it was at the expense of longevity.’


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