Organic. The term has been engrained within us in recent years, scattered on packaging along grocery stores and littering the pages of fitness magazines. In the case of Duke & Winston, a clothing line built directly within the heart of The City of Brotherly Love, the reference has little to do with the produce isle, but rather creator Seun Olubodun’s own brand philosophy.
His self-described “high-end prep” brand is named after his lovable bulldog Duke and childhood hero Winston Churchill and is reflective of his youth spent in the English countryside. The idea was conceived from stumbling into a Johnny Cupcake’s on a trip to Boston. Seun was blown away by the originality, packaging, and creative marketing of the brand and left inspired to create his own line. He went back home to his IT job, quit, sold his car and began chasing his dream to become the next Ralph Lauren. Unbeknownst to Seun, it wouldn’t happen overnight.
Similarly to Ralph, he started by selling his product directly. He rented a stall at the Piazza in the Northern Liberties on the weekends for about $50 a day, selling around 40 or so shirts. He then bought a van, painted his logo across the side and branched out to other festivals throughout the Philadelphia and Jersey Shore regions, attending nearly 60 shows in 2010 alone. The road wasn’t easy and the van broke down a lot, but Seun & his bulldog never did. Seun describes it as almost comical, the frequency of which him and Duke found themselves on the side of the road with an inoperable van. He even considered a social media contest rewarding the followers who spotted them in their lawn chairs patiently awaiting their rescuers.
Duke & Winston began at the onset of the social media age and Seun wasn’t at first well-versed in the technology, which made word of mouth marketing and Duke appearances vital to the line’s success. Although arduous, Seun believes it was all the face to face time that has afforded him the loyal following he currently enjoys… and the fact that Duke is the face of the brand. Today, Seun isn’t as interested in the creating of clothing empire. He is more influenced by the idea of creating a sustainable brand that is a Philadelphia staple. And so far he’s done just that.