In The Press: Authority Magazine "5 Things You Need To Lead A Successful Fashion Brand"
Original Article and Interview by Authority Magazine and Candice Georgiadis
Many in the fashion industry have been making huge pivots in their business models. Many have turned away from the fast fashion trend. Many have been focusing on fashion that also makes a social impact. Many have turned to sustainable and ethical sourcing. Many have turned to hi tech manufacturing. Many have turned to subscription models. What are the other trends that we will see in the fashion industry? What does it take to lead a successful fashion brand today?
In our series called, “5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand Today” we are talking to successful leaders of fashion brands who can talk about the Future of Fashion and the 5 things it takes to lead a successful fashion brand in our “new normal.”
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Austin Duvall.
Austin is Co-Founder and Creative Director of Duvin Design Company, a Florida-based clothing brand that he started almost a decade ago. The brand has since been nominated for “Surf Industry Breakout Brand Of The Year”, featured on Highsnobiety, Esquire, Men’s Journal, GQ, Barstool Sports, In Style (among others), and can be seen on athletes, celebrities and tastemakers from all over the world.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
Igrew up in Orlando, Florida. My dad was a professional water skier (Sammy Duvall), so I grew up on the water and around all the companies he was sponsored by. Companies like “NO FEAR” captured my attention from an early age. They had unique products and athletes from every sport wearing it. My dad also had his own line of apparel and ski equipment, and that entrepreneurial spirit was passed down to me. My mom also has an amazing eye for design and fashion, so growing up with them both gave me a pretty unique perspective.
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?
My parents owned several surf shops and I started working for them in college. I worked everything from sales and buying to merchandising, which gave me a unique perspective on what was working and what wasn’t within the industry. I eventually started to feel like there was an opportunity for more fun and bright clothing in the market.
I later interned with Billabong and some of their brands like Element Skateboards and Von Zipper Sunglasses. At the end of the Internship, Johnny Schillereff (founder of Element) asked me what department I enjoyed the most, and I came to the realization that while marketing and design intrigued me, it was really Johnny’s position that I wanted.
After that, I started Duvin and it’s been growing ever since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Hard to choose the most interesting story but a milestone quickly comes to mind. Similar to the day you first see someone wearing your brand in public, I remember the first big celebrity wearing Duvin. My phone started exploding and Bad Bunny was wearing Duvin in his new music video with Diplo. It was a bit surreal seeing something we started by selling t-shirts out of our cars being worn on that big of a stage.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
1. Consistency — it’s been a long road of ups and downs, but we just kept showing up. There have been so many brands that started and stopped over the years that had really great looks and stories, but just couldn’t keep the pace going.
2. Flexibility — While my main focuses were always design, product, and marketing, I had to keep my hands in everything from finance to the warehouse and even customer service. It’s tough to make decisions for the business if you don’t understand everything operationally.
3. Creativity — I always strive to have a unique point of view for the brand. I think that helped us stand out through the years when competing for both consumers’ closet space and retail shelf space.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
When we started developing Duvin, brands were concentrated in California and New York. A lot of them were cold weather focused and used muted colors. We have always felt like Florida was underrepresented — the amazing vintage imagery, pastel color palettes, beaches, and sunshine. We wanted to use high quality breathable materials with unique designs that paid homage to where we grew up and where we still live.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.”
- Naval Ravikant
Honestly, I could have probably put 10 different quotes from Naval here. I really enjoy his frame of thinking. But I think this is the one I consistently find myself falling back on. There were several times in the business where we tried to take the shortcut or make the “easy choice” and the problems just compounded and got bigger and bigger. I’ve found that, almost always, taking the tougher route ends with the best result.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
It’s starting to feel like all brands are jumping into new categories and telling stories you wouldn’t expect. Workout brands make dress shirts, dress shirt companies make casual wear, a leisure brand like Duvin makes workout shorts and moisture-wicking golf polos. It’s becoming more and more about your customers/audience and them getting behind your point of view, regardless of in which category it’s applied.
Can you share how your brand is helping to bring goodness to the world?
We try not to take ourselves too seriously. It’s obviously been a stressful couple of years and we try to provide content that people enjoy, make them smile, and provide products that they truly are excited about and feel good wearing.
Can you share with our readers about the ethical standards you use when you choose where to source materials?
We manufacture all over the world, from the US, to Mexico, to Peru and China. All our factories are WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) certified. The majority of materials are sourced through the factory and go through their standards to meet current certifications.
Fast fashion has an advantage — that it is affordable for most people — but it also has the drawback that it does not last very long and is therefore not very sustainable. What are your thoughts about this? How does your company address this question?
It’s a tough situation. I understand both sides of it and to be honest I’m not sure I have the answer for it. For us, we try to make high quality products that last a long time while still staying affordable for the everyday consumer.
Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand”. Please share a story or example for each.
1. A Unique Point of View — There are so many brands that already exist and new ones launching every day. What will make your brand stand out? What will make people want to associate with the brand? Early in the process of trying to sell to retailers, I truly began to understand that. There’s limited shelf space and if they already have something that tells a similar story or has a similar aesthetic, then there’s no reason to add your brand. Same thing applies with DTC. Make it stand out, make it easy to digest, and you have yourself a winning formula.
2. A Customer-Centric Approach — Our goal has always been to make the customer 100% satisfied with the experience. Even at a higher cost to us, we’d rather pay up and go above and beyond. On top of it being the right thing to do, it really starts to compound. We’ve see repeatedly that if we can fix any problems a customer may have, they end up being our most vocal advocates.
3. Ability to Identify Talent — Find your weaknesses and then find the right people that can fill those gaps. We spent a ton of time in the early years trying to grind out stuff we were bad at. Once we started hiring the right people (full time & freelance) is when the business started to grow much faster.
4. Content Creation — People want see behind the scenes more than ever. What story are you going to tell? Are you going to show them your journey as a founder? I’d pick one, maybe two platforms and go all in on content. There is only so much product you can create, but there is an endless amount of content to be created. No matter what business you go into these days, turns out it’s also going to be a content company.
5. Passion — I’d say there are a lot faster and easier ways to make money than fashion. I think the driving force must be that you really enjoy it and have a passion for the industry. Those are the people that I see having the most success.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
As the legend Wim Hof would say, “Just breathe, motherfu**er”. Every once in a while, it’s good to be reminded to take a step back, take a breath, and reset.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Our Website is DuvinDesign.com, or can follow along at @Duvin on Instagram, or @DuvinDesign on Twitter.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.