Detroit streetwear brand David Vintage mixes unique dye designs with city pride

You can catch it at upcoming art festivals, including hands-on workshops

Sep 7, 2023 at 12:35 pm
click to enlarge David Vintage will host dye workshops at the Detroit Shipping Company in the coming months. - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
David Vintage will host dye workshops at the Detroit Shipping Company in the coming months.

While we hope that outsiders with negative perceptions of the city are starting to believe that “Detroit Is Back,” real Detroiters know that “Detroit Never Left.” Local streetwear brand David Vintage is most known for using both of these statements on their garments.

The clothing line was conceived by Detroiter Joseph David in 2015 during his senior year at Michigan State University and is now popular for doing all of its dye work, pressing, and staining in-house.

The “vintage” in David Vintage doesn’t refer to vintage clothing, but rather the brand’s core value of entrepreneurial legacy. “My grandfather was one of the first Black salon owners in a city in Ohio. It’s always been wanting to pay homage to him. His name is David. So that’s where the brand really comes from,” David says. “My grandfather's first name is David, and my middle name is David, so he represents the OG David. He’s the ‘vintage’ of David Vintage, so it really is me paying homage to my grandfather.”

The founder has been a fan of fashion since childhood. Now, his brand is his life. He resonates with the statements “Detroit Is Back” and “Detroit Never Left” as he feels that both represent different feelings for people about the city.

“The ‘Is Back’ I feel like now more than ever, everyone kind of gets that. The energy downtown is very exciting, so I think that's why that’s important, especially for folks that are out of town,” David says. “Come to the city and check it out before you just make assumptions, essentially.”

click to enlarge “Detroit Never Left” is “to me the essence of the city,” David says. - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
“Detroit Never Left” is “to me the essence of the city,” David says.

While this may be the perception to outsiders, real Detroiters should know that the city has always been here and been great.

“The ‘Never Left’ is the one I feel resonates the most and that’s because we are back, but the only reason we can be back is because we never left. It’s Detroit’s foundation that’s so important. It’s legacy,” David says. “The ‘Never Left’ is to me the essence of the city and the way it can be interpreted I think is pretty cool because it’s expanded so far. The ‘Never Left’ is the citizens that held it down, that literally never left, and folks that we don’t want to overlook.”

After having consistent pop-ups at the Rust Belt Market in Ferndale and the Detroit Shipping Company, David Vintage now has permanent residencies at both locations. The shop is open at Rust Belt Market on the weekends and Tuesday through Saturday at the Detroit Shipping Company.

While David is the main person running the operations of the brand, he says “Mama Vintage” also supports and that there are managers, who he calls “dye masters in training,” that help run the shops.

Soon, the small business plans to begin hosting regular dye workshops at the Detroit Shipping Company, where attendees will learn about the history and techniques of dye work and leave with pieces of their own. David describes the event as similar to a “paint and pour,” but a “dye and pour” instead.

click to enlarge Joseph David, the founder of David Vintage, pictured in the brand’s Detroit Shipping Company shop. - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Joseph David, the founder of David Vintage, pictured in the brand’s Detroit Shipping Company shop.

David Vintage will be present on Saturday at Detroit’s Dally in the Alley festival and from Sept. 22-24 at the DIY Fair in Ferndale selling graphic tees, hoodies, home goods, mugs, accessories, and artwork. At Dally in the Alley, there will also be a space for customers to participate in hands-on dye work.

“DV really loves Dally. Dally is always a vibe,” David says. “We’ll have our staple items … and then we’re also going to have an area to do a dye workshop with us where you’re going to be able to dye some pieces live at Dally.”

The history and versatility of the dying process is what David loves so much about it, he says.

“There’s absolutely the fashion element to it, being able to wear cool pieces that make you feel whatever type of way, probably better about yourself, and there’s the science portion to it as well where there's a scientific process that has to be followed if you want to be able to replicate the pieces consistently,” he says. “I think there’s just so much history to tell of the dyeing process and ecosystem from traditional American dye work, Japanese shibori, African, Indian dye work, and even natural dyeing as well. There are a lot of things to explore to showcase this to people and the cool thing is it’s hands-on and that allows people to really be engaged with the dye workshop, so that’ll be fun.”

The brand has also always appreciated the thought of one-of-one pieces, and dying allows them to create those unique pieces at scale.

“We’re utilizing sodium hypochlorite, which is known as household bleach, and then we’re playing oxidation levels to be able to lock in our colorways. We’re following a pattern when we do that staining, but all the pieces are unique,” David says. “We’re able to replicate it in a way that more people can have unique pieces.”

In October, David Vintage will host a friends and family kickoff for dye workshops at the Detroit Shipping Company, then have consistent events following that. Tickets and more information for these workshops will be available online.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected many small businesses, but David says that the fact David Vintage was able to withstand it proves that the brand has a sustainable business model.

click to enlarge David Vintage’s pieces are emblazoned with messages about Detroit. - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
David Vintage’s pieces are emblazoned with messages about Detroit.

“At our core, we’ve always been digital. We’ve always had a pretty nice process online so everything really for us shifted online,” he says. “We brought a good amount of manufacturing in-house, all our dye work is in-house, we’re pressing up all our hats, and we’re pressing up all our shirts, and doing some selling work as well. So if anything, we brought a lot of work in-house as a result of COVID.”

Nonetheless, the founder sees the importance of providing customers with valuable in-person experiences as well.

“I just think we’re at a time where people really value doing things that are important and fun and people will seek those types of things out,” David says. “I think for retail, it’s going to be important that we provide really cool experiences for shoppers and consumers so I think that’s where I’m wanting to do more experiential things … I think just creating cool experiences and trying to create a platform where we can showcase, not only our work but the other great talent in the city that’s doing cool things.”

When it comes to fellow artists in the city of Detroit, David says the love goes both ways.

“I think the essence of Detroit, there’s just something real about the city, from a fashion perspective. Real recognizes real. It’s real love when people embrace your product and you got people rocking your pieces genuinely, it’s pretty cool,” he says. “I just really love and appreciate fashion and love to be able to share that with everyone.”

David Vintage regularly drops new pieces, which can be found online at davidvintage.com.

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