Fresh off headlining the fashion show of Westword's Artopia on Saturday night, local clothing brand DVLP announced yesterday that it will close its doors. The brand, which carved out its niche with eco-friendly materials, domestic manufacturing and relaxed but stylish designs, expanded quickly and went international in 2007, maintaining lines in its own stores and other retailers across the country, in Europe and South America and becoming one of the fastest-rising stars in the Denver fashion scene. But with the recession taking its toll, retailers closing down and key investors pulling out, says DVLP CEO and co-founder Rustin Coburn, the company, which has from the beginning been a proponent of sustainable practices, can no longer sustain itself.
And that's particularly disappointing for Coburn, who found a calling of sorts in DVLP.
"Growing up," he says, "I was always more of a classical artist. I went to school for business, but I wanted to start a creative company and do something that would be fun and eventually profitable, and I was always interested in fashion. So we kind of started as a side project, making some shirts and sweatshirts." The company, then based in Durango, where Coburn was going to school, quickly gained a loyal following, and within a couple of years, DVLP was a presence at trade shows. In 2007, he moved the outfit to Denver and started expanding, everything from the clothing line to the distribution to the volume of output.
Unfortunately, that expansion happened to coincide with a major economic recession. "We started a bunch of new accounts, the economy crashed, and we were just one of those brands that was on the bubble," Coburn laments. "We were close to making it really big, but not quite a stable investment, so when the economy went, we just had a bunch of people stop putting in orders and go with the big brands, had a lot of shops go under -- some of them owing us a lot of money. We were working on some new sustainable fabrics and a new vision, but three weeks ago we had a quarter-million-dollar investor pull out.
"The debt was just too daunting," he concludes.
Currently, DVLP has moved out of its offices and will soon close its shop, and for the next couple of months the company will be liquidating its inventory, continuing to sell online and with other retailers at deeply discounted rates -- as in, like, 70 percent or more discounted. But Coburn assures us that it's not the last folks will see of DVLP. In the immediate future, the brand is collaborating with Falling Whistles, a group devoted to "whistleblowing" atrocities in the Congo, for a show and festival on March 26 -- stay tuned for more details on that.
And Coburn says that when the dust of closing down an international business settles, he plans to keep following the dream. "At some point, if the time is right," he says, "I'm hoping to re-release DVLP; otherwise, I'll take my experience of what worked well and the values of the company and try to start something new."