Fresh. Original. Unique. It seems like these words are getting thrown around less and less in Streetwear. Enter LUDWIG with its self-heralded â€œStreetwear 2.0.â€ Featuring bold, unorthodox graphic tees, paired with Cut & Sew pieces that are sophisticated in design, detail, and quality, the brandâ€™s first collection has single-handedly renewed and refreshed a tired industry. Like the Barack Obama of clothing lines, LUDWIG has raised the status quo and ushered in the next great chapter of Streetwear culture. Format caught up with the companyâ€™s Founder and Creative Director, Mike Dytri, to discuss LUDWIGâ€™s innate unconventionality, and his views on the current state and future of Streetwear.
â€œIt is recognizing that there is mediocrity in all of us underneath the skin nobody is perfect, or brilliant all the timeâ€¦not even Beethoven.â€
Format: LUDWIG is obviously named after the classical composer Beethoven. Why was he chosen to define your brandâ€™s identity?
Mike Dytri: Originally I had been kicking around the name â€œOrchestraâ€ only to find out that there was already a French company with that name, and they produced clothes for young musically gifted children- the kind of young, savant types that become musical prodigies.
That led to thinking of Beethoven. I have always been a fan of Ludwig, ever since I first saw â€œA Clockwork Orange.â€ I got really into studying classical music, specifically Beethoven. His music was used in such a clever way in that movie. Thatâ€™s where the name comes from, as far as the reason it was chosen to define our clothing line, well there is a lot there, its deep, his life story, his compositions, neurosis etcâ€¦ itâ€™s a very rich territory to delve into. There is never a lack of inspiration with Beethoven.
Format: Before LUDWIG, you ran SUBFREAKIE for nearly 10 years. Why did it end? In what ways is LUDWIG a spiritual continuation of sorts, and in what ways is it entirely different?
Mike: Actually I sold SUBFREAKIE in 2003 to an Italian company called, Rossi Moda. They were actually purchased by the LVMH group. I never intended it to end. Only after the sale, one of the partners in the company embezzled a ton of money and that was the end of it.
LUDWIG is an extension of me personally, as was SUBFREAKIE, so with that I guess you might find some parallels.
Format: SUBFREAKIEâ€™s graphic anthology, Bitches Brew, was recently released. Tell us a bit about its significance to you, and its rather unusual packaging.
Mike: This was the last project I did for SUBFREAKIE before the collapse of the company. It was actually released in 2003, in limited distribution to some select bookstores and to Japan only. I had great joy producing this book, and Iâ€™m looking forward to â€œThe 9th,â€ the book Iâ€™m working on for LUDWIG.
The packaging is just an extension of the packaging that I used to do with the SUBFREAKIE T-shirts. SUBFREAKIE was the first company to market graphic tees in vacuum-sealed bags, (as well as use American Apparel tees as its custom block) so Iâ€™m sure that I will always be vacuum sealing one thing or another. I think it is really cool when you get something that is vacuum-sealed, makes you want to keep it, and not open it.
Format: How would you describe the landscape of the current Streetwear scene and market?
Mike: Like driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, it all looks the same, but if you stop along the way, and check stuff out, you can find some pretty interesting stuff.
Format: There is an understated simplicity to LUDWIGâ€™s collection that weâ€™re starting to see more and more of in Streetwear. Hiroshi Fujiwara started â€œUniform Experiment,â€ and even Bape has toned down significantly. Where do you think this sudden maturity is coming from?
Mike: We are getting older. He and I are close in age, thatâ€™s probably the reason. Everybody wants to feel like they discovered something for themselves, like they are in on a secret. And if perhaps you see somebody with the same gear, you want to feel like you two are in the know- kind of like a private club. If you can make people regard your brand that way, you have a winner. It used to be like that before all this â€œStreetwearâ€ got all homogenized and thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m trying to build with LUDWIG.
Format: Originally, LUDWIG described itself as â€œStreetwear 2.0,â€ but recently the line changed on your website to â€œ%#@&wear**2.0.â€ Why?
Mike: I suddenly realized I didnâ€™t know what the hell â€œStreetwearâ€ was, however, I knew that I wanted LUDWIG to be the next level of â€œthatâ€â€¦whatever â€œthatâ€ is.
Format: While every other clothing company on the planet is producing fitted caps, LUDWIG is putting out a fresh take on the classic Bowler hat. How did that come about?
Mike: When there is a lot of rubbish out there, itâ€™s not too hard to maneuver around it. It is an obvious nod to the droogs who sported them in Clockwork, it is also one of the most essential pieces in a proper manâ€™s wardrobe, and that is part of the LUDWIG brand ethos, proper attire.
Format: One LUDWIG shirt features the word â€œMEDIOCRITISTâ€ printed over an unusual skull graphic. What does that image represent?
Mike: It is recognizing that there is mediocrity in all of us underneath the skin nobody is perfect, or brilliant all the time- not even Beethoven.
Format: Do you think clothing is a viable medium for self-expression? Why or why not?
Mike: Yes, I do. The t-shirt has always been my favorite form of self-expression. I have collected them for years, and have purchased them right off the backs of people on the street. Now though, I am trying to explore other areas of clothing for the same purpose, it just seems like everything has been done on a t-shirt, and it becomes a vicious cycle of â€œone-upping.â€
Format: How will LUDWIG continue to develop, both creatively and commercially?
Mike: Well, hopefully in an interesting and creative way. Itâ€™s a balancing act as I have stated before, since you want to build a brand that makes people feel like they are in a select club, but at the same time you need to be commercially viable to sustain business, and survive. At the end of the day it is a business, just like anything else, donâ€™t let anyone tell you different.
The ones who have made it know that the business side (or at least have people around them who do), what LUDWIG is all about, figuring out that balancing act. I want it to be the Black American Express of the premium casual menâ€™s market.
More Info: http://www.ludwigvantheman.com