Curse of Von Dutch, The: A Brand to Die For (Hulu)


Emmy contenders this season are focused on the downfall of or investigations into large corporations and institutions: Hulu’s The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For, Netflix’s White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch, Netflix’s Downfall: The Case Against Boeing and Amazon Prime Video’s LuLaRich.

The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For is a docuseries about a fad show that was defined by nostalgia and true crime.

It looks at the rise and fall of the iconic label known for its trucker hats.

In the early 2000s, everyone from Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff to Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears wore the brand’s caps, as well as their jeans and jackets.

“Von Dutch was iconic for Y2K fashion,” Paris Hilton says. “That was, like, our uniform basically.”

It was so popular that NBA legend Dennis Rodman claims that “everybody on the planet had Von Dutch.”

However, the true story behind the apparel company, which was founded in 1999 by Michael Cassel and Robert “Bobby” Vaughn, is stranger than fiction.

Directed by Andrew Renzi, the three-episode miniseries chronicles the rise and fall of the company behind the trucker hats on the heads of every celebrity at the turn of the century.

As promised in the opening minutes, the story leads to a co-founder being tried for first-degree murder.

It’s one full of turmoil from the get-go, with 3 men, in 3 separate interviews, trying to claim credit for “creating” Von Dutch.

“They didn’t know how to run a business,” one person notes.

In the decade between the brand’s inception and its implosion, the docu offers tales of drugs, gangs, shady contracts and threats of physical violence.

The brand itself is so inextricably associated with a fixed spot in time that the sordid tale feels like a reflection of the era itself.

Renzi has collected subjects who know the story. He speaks to the founders, their friends, family members and former colleagues, along with celebs like Paris Hilton and Dennis Rodman whose support helped take Von Dutch from an underground name associated with hot-rod culture to one of the hottest logos.

The Hulu series claims Von Dutch was a possible money laundering scheme with one person hinting that the company was once worth “north of a billion” dollars. “Fashion’s the easiest to launder money,” Vaughn notes. Later, cofounder Cassel hints that the company once did business with a woman connected to Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

However, shady business practices weren’t the only problem the company had. One of its cofounders was charged with first-degree murder — though, those involved with the company debate over who really founded the brand inspired by Kenny Howard, known as Von Dutch, an American artist and member of the Kustom Kulture movement.

Howard’s daughter sold the Von Dutch name to Cassel and Robert after Howard’s death in 1992. But L.A. art dealer Ed Boswell claims that he is the one who really created the legendary brand. “Don’t tell people that you created the Von Dutch clothing line,” he says in the trailer. “Tell them what really happened.”

The series tries to get to the bottom of the unbelievable story of how the fashion line went from trendy to tragic over the course of a decade. “When the money comes, people go sideways,” Cassel says.

There’s the story about a murder that, though committed by a man integral to the early days of Von Dutch, has very little to do with Von Dutch.