MONTREAL — Dom Rebel might raise a few eyebrows with some of the more naughty slogans embellished on its T-shirts, like “Sex Box” or “Filthy Glamour.”
This story first appeared in the September 2, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
But that’s the definition of the brand, according to Justin Svatina, who cofounded Dom Rebel Threads here six years ago along with Don Nguyen.
Today, over 60,000 Dom Rebel T-shirts a year are designed and manufactured locally and sold in more than 250 stores worldwide, including several boutiques in the U.S., which accounted for about 30 percent of the $3 million in 2008 sales.
Now for fall, the label has launched a full collection including leather jackets, vests and plaid shirts. A children’s line is also in the works. But for now, Dom Rebel doesn’t plan to launch a women’s line.
“We plan to stick with men’s wear, where we feel the most comfortable,” said Nguyen.
Dom Rebel has a cult following and its T-shirts have been worn by several celebrities including Elton John, Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh, singers Craig David and former Spice Girl Mel C and actors Carmen Electra and Jamie Foxx.
The T-shirts sell for from $90 to $1,000 through four distinct divisions. Stores can only order three of each of about 70 detailed designs each season, and there are no reorders.
“We limit orders to create a demand,” said Svatina.
Only a small percentage of the T-shirts are of the vulgar variety.
“The slogans aren’t really in your face, because they’re sugar-coated with some type of design,” explained Svatina.
The brand, which stems from the Latin Dominus Rebellis (Master of Rebellion), features hand-drawn artwork and takes a satirical approach to the underlying message of freedom and rebellion.
“We created Dom Rebel with a specific concept to bring a new element of excitement to men’s contemporary fashion with a strong meaning behind it,” explained Nguyen.
Customers seem to embrace that philosophy.
“We’re getting a great reaction to the line. It’s a nice fit, well made and fun to wear and basically sells itself,” said Jason Fletcher, a sales representative at Atrium on Broadway, which has carried the line for the last three years.
“We’ve developed a unique customer since we started carrying the line over a year ago. They beg us to let them know about their new arrivals,” said Stacey Capobianco, manager of Shop 603 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “It’s such a different, artsy, edgy and cool line. Some of the T-shirts are made with Swarovski crystals.”
The partners do most of the selling themselves and rely extensively on word of mouth. They exhibit at Project in both New York and Las Vegas.