How Duvin Became a Favorite of Celebs, Athletes, and Musicians
About 2,500 people showed up at Duvin Design Co.’s pop-up inside the former Lombardi Seafood fish market in Winter Park, Fla. last Friday to snag pieces from the brand’s collaboration with the Orlando Magic NBA basketball team.
The 13-piece collection of mesh shorts, swim trunks, button-ups, T-shirts, and hats – taking inspiration from the team’s retro memorabilia and logos, redone with the Duvin Design touch – was set to be sold through Feb. 19 during a week-long pop-up shop. Instead, the pieces ($39 to $75 at retail) sold out during the Feb. 10 launch event. A second release the next day at the Magic’s game against the Miami Heat also sold out.
“It got a little out of control,” said Duvin Co-founder and Creative Director Austin Duvall. “We were expecting a good amount of people to show up. When we’ve done events in the past, we had pretty good turnouts, and we had been releasing imagery of the collection every week on Twitter and Instagram, so we knew there was pretty big buzz.”
Duvin Design Co. calls itself the “Internet’s Go-to Beach Brand.” Yet, those spotted wearing the line indicate a reach that’s extended far past the sand and surf to Hollywood celebrities, musicians, YouTube stars, and professional athletes. The question is what’s next for the Florida-based business, now in over 100 doors, after seeing 100% year-over-year sales growth in recent years. Plenty, it appears.
Duvin expanded into sunglasses on Tuesday, with the $89.50 Sun Seeker in three colorways. A women’s line launches in summer. In late summer, Duvin will release a footwear collaboration with Puma. Long-term, the brand could delve into art, furniture, a coffee table book, and potentially brick-and-mortar.
“For us, I think people enjoy our perspective on design and how we’re approaching things, so we’re looking to branch out separate from the clothing. I think that’ll always be the core of the brand, but (expanding to) interesting things where we can tell the story on different, unique products,” Duvall said.
Duvin – which was launched in 2011 by Duvall, Shaun O’Meara, and Garrett Watzka – is sold in mostly East Coast, Southern, and Gulf Coast retailers, along with stores in Japan, Australia, Costa Rica, Taiwan, Spain, and Canada.
“It’s funny, we ship a ton of orders to California, but we don’t have a ton of retail partners out there at the moment,” Duvall said.
Florida, Texas, and California account for the bulk of e-commerce orders. The brand also sees demand from New York in the warmer months.
Duvin recently hired a sales rep in California and about 10 to 15 doors are expected to begin carrying the brand in the spring.
Revenue is currently dominated by online direct-to-consumer at roughly 70%. However, Duvall said that could change as the brand plans to focus more on wholesale after receiving a small outside financial investment just before the pandemic.
“We had a lot of retailers early on, but we were just selling out of product really quickly online so we couldn’t keep retailers filled. We’ve fixed those issues and financially we’re in a much better spot, where we can stock a lot of product,” Duvall said.
Duvin sales really took off after Chase Stokes’ character John B on the hit Netflix series “Outer Banks” wore Duvin’s Beach Day button-up shirt. It helped that Stokes went on to describe the shirt as “an iconic John B shirt” in a Men’s Health interview in 2021.
“That first hit cleared out our warehouse,” Duvall said. “Things like that started happening where celebrities were wearing our products and calling it out, and the growth happened that way.”
The brand doesn’t establish formal relationships with celebrities and does not pay them to wear the product. In some cases, pieces are seeded; other times, the celebrities find the brand on their own. Because of that, Duvall said, it can be challenging to ensure there’s stock on hand after a celebrity plug, but the business has so far kept up with fulfillment.
Aligning with celebrities and athletes was never an intentional part of the business plan. Instead, it happened organically.
“Once we started to see a few of them trickle in, we started to take it more seriously,” Duvall said. “Originally, we didn’t think of it as an option because we didn’t have the budget.”
However, the brand’s vibrant colors and playful patterns worked in its favor, catching the eye of celebrities looking for unique pieces to wear in photographs.
The music artist Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio, known as Bad Bunny, was the first big name to wear the brand in his new music video with DJ and producer Diplo (née Thomas Wesley Pentz) – and he found Duvin on his own. Duvall recalled his phone blowing up after that video was released and described it as a surreal experience.
After all, Duvin was bootstrapped for the first several years of its life, first starting with a few tie-dyed T-shirts sold in Duvall’s parents’ store, Curl Surf, to test what worked and what didn’t.
The founders also sold shirts out of their cars before they jumped to trade shows, beginning with Surf Expo and then Agenda, Capsule, and Project.
The initial reaction from buyers at that first show was tepid.
“People were questioning it a little bit. I think it was a combination of it wasn’t as on trend – the style, with all these pastel colors – and we didn’t have a ton of experience at the time,” Duvall said. “So the product and the design was nowhere near where it is today. We were still figuring out how to operate on our end, but over time, as we got our foot in a few doors and there was sell-through, we could show people how quick stuff was turning over.”
The original idea behind Duvin at the start was to fill what the three founders saw as a hole in the market for “fun, bright clothing” that was different from the brands dominating store assortments at the time of the company’s launch.
“At the time Volcom, RVCA, Quiksilver, Billabong—people were just coming (in store) and they wanted those big logos on their clothes, and that was what they were buying,” Duvall said. “It was hard to sell other products. Now, I think there are so many new brands popping up every day, able to set up a site on Shopify and Instagram, and it’s competitive.”
It has helped that the founders’ interests and experiences run the gamut, which partially explains the diverse fan base the brand has today.
“We grew up playing sports. We grew up at the beach surfing but all our interests expanded over the board and we all were very interested in streetwear as well,” Duvall said. “We have a very beach look, but in terms of operating with the drops and DTC model we definitely see it more on the streetwear side. So we try and blend those two worlds.”
Duvall believes the brands that compete the most effectively today are the ones whose marketing teams are “pulling the curtain back,” as he described, having direct, unfiltered conversations with consumers.
To that end, Duvin highlights other content from around the web under a “Magazine” section of its website, offering a glimpse of what the individuals behind the brand find to be interesting reads. Topics range from defining dive bars and music playlists, to neighborhood guides and artist spotlights.
“When we started, we were trying to act like a big brand and not have people know who we were, trying to put on a show to compete with these large surf brands,” Duvall said. “Showing the faces behind the brand, what our thoughts are, it’s almost like the exact opposite approach. Rather than doing this elaborate marketing scheme, people are more interested in stories.”