‘The Curse of Von Dutch’: Who Are Bobby Vaughn, Mike Cassel, Ed Boswell, and Tonny Sørensen?

Von Dutch probably brings many people back to the early 2000s, when you couldn’t turn the television on without seeing a celebrity in a branded trucker hat. What most people don’t know is the true story — or what some call the curse — behind the Von Dutch brand.

Hulu presents The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For, a three-part docuseries exploring the brand and lives of the men who claim they created it. Meet Mike Cassel, Robert “Bobby” Vaughn, Ed Boswell, and Tonny Sørensen. 

Ed Boswell, Robert Cassel, Robert 'Bobby' Vaughn, and Tonny Sørensen in 'The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For' docuseries
Ed Boswell, Robert Cassel, Robert ‘Bobby’ Vaughn, and Tonny Sørensen | Hulu

Von Dutch was a pinstriper named Kenneth Robert Howard 

Kenneth Robert Howard, better known by his artist moniker Von Dutch, was a motorcycle enthusiast, artist, pinstriper, and metal fabricator. Howard is credited with creating “modern pinstriping” in the 1950s, known for his spider-webbed designs, the flying eyeball logo, and the custom Kenford truck. 

Howard died in September 1992 from alcohol-related complications. After his death, his two daughters, Lisa and Lorna, survived him and started the Von Dutch clothing company. Later, they sold the clothing rights to Cassel and Vaughn, two major subjects of the Hulu docuseries The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For

Who founded Von Dutch clothing: Mike Cassel, Bobby Vaughn, Ed Boswell, or Tonny Sørensen?

Thanks to Howard’s daughters, Cassel and Vaughn started using Von Dutch art to create a clothing brand. By the early 2000s, almost every celebrity was wearing Von Dutch. Vaughn and Cassel take credit for building the brand into what it became, with Cassel running the business and marketing while Vaughn cultivated relationships with celebrity brand ambassadors.  

But if you ask Los Angeles art dealer Boswell, he’s responsible for creating the legendary Von Dutch brand. “Don’t tell people that you created the Von Dutch clothing line,” he says in the Curse of Von Dutch trailer. “Tell them what really happened.” At one point, Boswell was working with Cassel and Vaughn, who he claims conned him out of the brand. 

Then there’s Sørensen, another party claiming responsibility for the success of Von Dutch. The Taekwondo champion and Danish entrepreneur got involved with California car culture in the 1990s. When he discovered Howard’s work, he wanted to make a movie about his life. That’s when he crossed paths with Cassel. 

Later, Sørensen became an investor in the Von Dutch brand and eventually CEO. Sørensen allegedly expanded Von Dutch’s offerings to include jeans, accessories, and more. 

Most of the brand’s looks come from designer Christian Audigier

While Cassel, Vaughn, Boswell, and Sørensen take credit for the trajectory of the Von Dutch brand, one man is responsible for designing many of the iconic Von Dutch looks. Christian Audigier was a French fashion designer who helped attract the attention of the biggest celebrities at the time until his exit from the company in 2004.  

Girl wearing a Von Dutch trucker hat
Von Dutch Trucker Hat | Hulu

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Later, Audigier started the Ed Hardy fashion brand, inspired by tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy. Audigier died in July 2015 after being diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood cancer. 

Stream ‘The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For’ on Hulu 

If you can believe it, there’s even more to learn about Von Dutch, including the legal battles, court settlements, ties to Nazi Germany, and murder charges put against one of the men from the brand. After a decade of backstabbing and bloodshed, Cassel, Vaugn, Boswell, and Sørensen’s lives will never been the same. 

Learn more about Von Dutch in The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For. All three episodes are available on Hulu now.