Inspirer: Mike Dytri Founder of Ludwig Van
Mike Dytri, a graphic design and digital art student from the Phoenix Institute of Technology has achieved what most could only dream of in their lifetime. A once sponsored skateboarder, MMA fighter, Creative director for Adidas Combat Sports and owner of two labels, Subfreakie (SBFK) and Ludwig Van, he’s an entrepreneur that has pretty much done it all.
There’s no one more well rounded or as nice as Mike, and I was lucky that he was willing to take some time out to chat to me.
Tell me a little bit about your background. How did you get into streetwear and designing clothing?
From the age of about nine or ten, I started to get interested in what I was wearing. I was part of the Bboy culture and movement in the mid-80’s and it was part of the whole story. I was a member of the breakdance group Justice Crew (Detroit MI) and we travelled around performing with the NYC Swatch Watch Festival. Later I really got into collecting t-shirts as a teenager. From there I’ve always felt that what one wears (especially t-shirts) was an extension of yourself and says a lot about who you are as a person.
Why did you start your first clothing label Subfreakie (SBFRK)?
I wanted to combine my love of drawing and graphics with my love of t-shirts as a way of creative expression. Subfreakie (SBFK) was carried in all of the world’s best streetwear shops in the early 2000’s, Union, Collete, Ron Herman/Fred Segal and K-Bond (before social media). I sold the brand in 2003 to a subsidiary of LVMH and it was supposed to become a full-range apparel line. Unfortunately, it was shuttered soon after due to an internal embezzling scandal within the company.
How did you get involved in working with Adidas Combat sports and Storm Kimonos?
I was introduced to both companies through my friend Ed Soares. I served as Creative Director for both companies from 2013 until 2017.
You’ve collaborated with a few assorted brands over the years such as X Large and Vans. How did this come about?
Through my own label Ludwig Van I had previous relationships with people at both companies and there were some synergies there that made sense to collaborate. With Vans, it was based on some deadstock canvas pieces that I had been holding on to for about 10 years. It was a very interesting collaboration and there were only 300 pairs of made. They sold out in the first week and I’ve recently seen a pair on eBay for US$600.
Can you tell us about Ludwig Van? What influences your brand?
Ludwig Van was started in 2007. I wanted to combine two things I really liked. Beethoven and classical music and the Stanley Kubrick classic, A Clockwork Orange… the inspiration is based on the concept of not listening to anyone but yourself and being influenced by your own voice… much like Beethoven. He composed his most important works while deaf. That means he could not hear what others were composing and was not influenced by outside voices… I love that.
What have you learned from running your own businesses?
I’ve learned there are no shortcuts. There are no “free lunches”. The only way you will see success and is through sweat equity. Just as in life nothing that is worth anything comes easy.
What motivates and drives you?
Bringing a fresh voice to the culture. Working for myself. Succeeding or failing on my own terms.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
You have to work harder than the next person. Then you have to work some more. You need to understand how to control social media (not let it control you). Discipline is the most important trait to foster in yourself, through this you can do anything.
What’s next for you and what is your vision?
I’m going to release a concept called Vanguard. It’s a collection of Selvedge Denim kimonos made here in Los Angeles. They will feature Cone Mills selvedge denim and be both stylish and practical. The runs will be limited to only 100 pieces per offering and will all be made to order via per-book. Soon after this is launched I plan on focusing my full-time energy on becoming a full-time artist. I envision my day starting early (after dropping kids off at school) going to my studio, painting or thinking, then maybe some more painting. Maybe some jiujitsu during the day. Then more painting or drawing. I also will sell Ludwig Van in about three years’ time.
Huge thanks to Catherine Tran for organising this fresh interview with Mike Dytri from Ludwig Van.
If you would like to check out some sweet threads by Ludwig Van click here!