Los Angeles streetwear brand Defyant is looking to grow up and rebrand under new ownership.
Forget T-shirts on blanks, although that’s still an aspect of the line. When owner and creative director Joe Jihoon acquired the business, he decided he wanted to refine the look. That was three years ago. Today, Defyant’s latest capsule perhaps best signals where the brand is going as the downtown Los Angeles company is in the midst of moving to expanded, 40,000-square-foot headquarters near Vernon, Calif.
“When I first took over the brand about three years ago, I looked at the landscape and to me it felt like the brand was stuck in that high-schoolish environment. I’m not knocking other, similar brands in the space because that’s what they do and if that’s what they want to do, that’s fine,” Jihoon said. “But I took over the brand because I loved the name Defyant and wanted to stay true to the name because that’s always been my attitude. So at the end of the day, I just wanted to graduate [the brand] from high school.”
Jihoon, who originally moved from New York to Los Angeles to be a filmmaker, engineered a new camo print for Defyant that uses silhouettes of people in martial arts poses or ballerina dancers to create the pattern that’s on various windbreakers and anoraks. Other pieces, such as drop-crotch carpenter pants with color-blocked pockets, shirt jackets and a kimono-style wrap jacket, show the range of where Jihoon hopes to continue moving the brand, which is now made domestically.
“I didn’t want to just slap a logo on our stuff and resell them at a premium,” Jihoon said. “I wanted to offer new designs, something really unique that’s not identifiable by a logo but by the way they’re cut, silhouettes and the print. We feel like these design elements give us an authenticity and a platform to stand on and say that claim that we’re actually elevating the look. Not just be a cookie-cutter operation.”
Jihoon, although his aspirations started off in Hollywood, has always been close to the garment industry. He had success selling some screenplays, but an inconsistent paycheck pushed him to explore apparel, an industry a number of his family members have been in. Jihoon knew the ins and outs of production, importing and other aspects of the business and began selling T-shirt blanks. The previous owner of Defyant, which launched in 2006, was a former customer of Jihoon’s previous business. He ultimately sold the company when another opportunity arose, which is how Jihoon now finds himself at the helm of a streetwear brand that in the past has been seen on Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber and Sean Combs, among others.
The refined Defyant line has allowed the company to boost its prices, with the collection ranging from $50 to $300. T-shirts, which prior to Jihoon’s acquisition, would have retailed for around $25 to $30 are now $40 to $50. Hoodies that previously sold for $50 to $60 are now around $100 to $120, some of which have embroidery. The line, which didn’t have much in the way of outerwear under the previous ownership, is boosting that category, with coats priced at around $300.
The company, with its new legs, is still small. The business sells direct through its web site in addition to boutiques, such as Brigade L.A., Hue Los Angeles, JY Society, Blvck Caviar, Garmentory and Proud Angeles. Jihoon would prefer distribution be well controlled, with a focus on mostly boutiques.
“I really don’t want my stuff everywhere. I don’t want to oversaturate the market by aggressively selling to this store and that store,” Jihoon said. “On the other hand, in the long term, it does have to make money. Right now, I’m just slowly rebuilding the brand. One of the things about Defyant is, although it does have a long history, it never became so big that people instantly recognize the brand. It gives me room to rebuild it and reintroduce it.”