Company founder Austin Duvall knows the market
but still, somehow, believes in fannypacks
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 31 July, 2014 - Austin Duvall’s passion for being in the water started at an early age as his father was a professional water skier. Growing up and surfing in Florida, working as a buyer and manager for his parents surf shop, interning with companies like Element and VonZipper really shaped Austin and positioned him to co-found the unique Duvin Design Co. brand.
His background in the industry drove him and his friends to mix business and pleasure by becoming business partners and starting surf-influenced Duvin Design Co. From these roots the brand has branched out to create surfboards with the same fabric inlay as their button downs and tank tops. Interesting and creative, the brand has a bit of an X Factor missing from many of the ‘Lifestyle’ startups peppering the trades show circuit these days.
You come from a surf shop background as your parents owned a shop. What’s the toughest thing for shops and what advice would you give someone starting a shop?
I think turnover rate is huge, especially for shops with a strong local customer base. They need to keep the product fresh, but if you have a low turnover rate then cash gets tied up in the product not moving and you can't bring new brands in. Eventually that process starts to snowball. If you are paying attention to the turnover rates by category and brand, you can figure out when to go big or pull back.
The Duvin design inlays in boards are cool. In fact, inlays are enjoying a renaissance of sorts these days. What do love most about the medium?
We take pride in finding and creating very unique prints. I think that is one of the things that really sets us apart. With the inlays, it gives us a unique way to showcase what were doing and also gives people a different outlet to connect with the brand. It’s also very cool to see people developing that “surf anything” mentality that is strongly associated with the fabric inlays.
Austin Duvall © Duvin Design Co.
What is that you do professionally that you are most proud of?
Creating a brand with my life long friends, and figuring out a way to operate from Florida. A lot of people looked at us like we were crazy when we started; I now know why. The past 2.5 years have been about as crazy as it gets. The resources locally are so limited for what we are trying to do, so there has been a huge learning curve and a ton of traveling. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I love the puzzled look on people’s faces after they see the brand and then I tell them we are based in Florida.
Tell us what has been your biggest mistake?
Assuming that whatever I think is cool at the time will be what sells. Everything is about timing, and I'm pretty sure the few duds that we have had will be big hits down the line hah.
What did you learn from that mistake?
When we first started the brand, it was for us. We couldn't find a brand that had the complete style we were looking for, so we started Duvin. But as the brand has grown, it has become more for our customers. I've learned that at the end of the day, finding a good intersection between what we think is happening and what our customers want is key.
Is there something going on in the world that makes you scratch your head and think: “But this is soooo important! Don’t they get it?”
Fanny packs! They are just way to practical to ignore. Just kidding, I think it is just super important for everyone to do his or her own thing. The more individualistic people are, the better for the industry as a whole. Surf whatever you want, wear whatever you want (preferably Duvin!), and just be creative.
Tradeshow business © Duvin Design Co.
Share with us your biggest Rocky Balboa moment.
Walking down the street and seeing a complete stranger wearing something I designed for the first time. It was kind of surreal, but in a way it was validation that what we’re doing is legit. When you first start out, you don't normally get to see the end consumer, as we are shipping to our retail partners or shipping from online orders. So as we have grown, seeing more and more people wearing Duvin is a great feeling and we appreciate all the support.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Selling shoes?
I’m very much into the concept of entrepreneurship, and creating things from my point of view. Being creative and trying to figure out how to design and present products that people actually want is really fun to me. It is constantly changing and something I luckily get to deal with every day. So I guess if I wasn't doing this I would be trying to start another company of some sort.
At the SIMA Image Awards wtih sister © Duvin Design Co.
OK, you get to drop into five moments in history – surf or otherwise. Please name them and why.
- Slaters first title, so I could walk around the beach telling everyone how he would win 10 more.
- A few years back, to when we were starting the brand. It would be really funny to hear all the ideas we had running around back then.
- 1991, so I could figure out a way to make an appearance in the movie "Point Break"
- Would go back to 1946 to shake Louis Renard's hand for creating the first ever bikini.
- I was too young to fully remember my dad competing (water skiing) but it would be awesome to go back and watch him win one of his world titles