don't doubt dertbag

photo by martz gilbert

Veering from its history of artistic authenticity, it seems the world of streetwear is clouded by hype more than ever. The DIY-fueled legitimacy that flourished in Shibuya or NY in the 90’s sits in stark contrast to brands set on improving their Instagram following over developing a real identity. On the one hand, I can’t blame them--the internet has brought affirmation into the palm of their hand, and with it, a sort of ambitious spirit that otherwise may not exist. But when it comes to putting yourself out there in a creative field (clothes, music, art, etc), you have to stand for something and take risks.

 

I bring up this climate of transitory streetwear entrepreneurship to Phil Post, creator of the brand Dertbag, during our Facetime discussion. Speaking on his beginnings just a few years ago making tees for himself and his friends, he says: “No one was telling me to do it. It was just me wanting to do it because it was fun; it was a release for me. I created my own reality when I was doing that. And that’s what Dertbag is now--my own reality.”

 

The youthful atmosphere of the brand’s imagery, cuts, & color choices allude to Phil’s age, but the caliber of execution is far beyond that of other 21 year olds. Head to his webstore and you’ll see dozens of items varying from tees & raglans to socks & jackets, most of which are sold out. Each garment seems to be made to last, in its timeless style and construction. How is it that among thousands of emerging streetwear brands, Dertbag has consistently emerged as something different?

“Everyone has their niche. You just gotta be true to yourself. Be who you want to be; produce the shit you want to see.”

Among many factors, I note that Phil’s trust in himself is a prime contributor to his creative & professional progression. From an early age, Phil was home-schooled due to Crohn’s Disease, but instead of using the large amount of free time to hang back, he grinded away on creative endeavours. He taught  himself how to design, make videos, take pictures, among other things, before moving on to produce his own shirts. Along that path he has developed a distinct perspective & work ethic, one that undeniably contributes to his success. With nearly a decade of intense creative research and practice under his belt, one can understand how his sense of affirmation is internalized.

 

As trends flare and fade, Dertbag keeps on its defiant path forward--each season revealing new facets to Phil’s world, while still keeping the mood of the brand cohesive. Hell yeah a Cam’ron shirt & collegiate-style track suit can exist in the same universe as some cropped corduroys & a tie-dyed graphic tee. In a sense, Dertbag’s references to such a wide variety of influences is reflective of how the internet allows the American teen to build their identity now--we are no longer confined to certain preset character types (punk, jock, nerd, etc), but rather we composite our own taste through an array of mediums.

 

Considering the unique place that Dertbag holds in the streetwear world and Phil’s hunger to learn new skills, he likes to maintain control over all facets of the business. During our conversation he mentions that he was about to head to Dertbag’s Atelier--an apt name in light of the genreless nature of the workshop/storefront. To start his day, he planned to work on graphics for the Spring collection before shipping out some orders from his webstore. Running a store, sending orders, coordinating production, communicating with accounts, fleshing out graphics, taking photos.. all in the job description for Phil. When asked why and how he maintains such a handle on the company, he says “I take pride in it. I don’t trust people with my vision, I just trust myself more.” The cohesion of the brand comes from his dedication to every facet of the process.

This is coupled with the fact that it has never been easier to juggle these jobs. Phil mentions his grandfather was a graphic designer in the 50’s, an occupation which at the time required a great amount of time & experience; nowadays someone can download Photoshop/Illustrator and make some solid graphics in just a few sessions. The days of expensive film and developing are long gone for videographers, so why not teach yourself how to edit film in Final Cut? With nearly every artform is being simulated digitally, the learning curve has been greatly expedited.

 

This DIY-route will help you build a set of diverse skills, but also reduce the size of your team and put more burden on your shoulders. If you feel things getting a little stressful, or you want to incorporate someone else’s perspective, there’s no shame in bringing in a trusted homie. Phil mentions frequently letting friends shoot his clothes, contributing to the visual output of Dertbag. Beyond that, he has released product featuring designs by his peers: “Sometimes I freelance my friends who are artists so I can give them some bread and they have shirts that go all over the country, all over the world. I think that’s a cool thing”. Even his “official” collaborations are mostly him working with friends--Dertbag has dropped product with other young designers like FTP, D’emploi, & Poshgod in recent months.

A recurring lesson he’s found in his years is to keep your brand’s development organic. There’s no real long-term benefits when you press possible wholesale accounts, pay for a blog feature, or force a production connect. The idea of paying someone to rock your clothes is brushed off as a waste of money by Phil, who has built genuine relationships with prominent artists who dig his work. Tyler, Robb Banks, and the Ratking dudes are among the many who’ve reached out to support Phil.

 

The leap from screen printing tees to cut & sew goods isn’t easy for a lot of new brands, but Phil cites a trip to LA as being the unexpected breakthrough he needed to make the jump. What was supposed to be a quick trip, turned into a 6 week stay where he and a close friend developed samples for Dertbag by bringing thrifted pieces to their manufacturer. It seems that sometimes your biggest marks of progress as a company come at unexpected times. The hunger to articulate the brand in different ways, and an openness for how to do so, are major contributors to Dertbag’s natural development.

One of Dertbag’s more recent milestones was landing an account with the legendary retail outlet Dover Street Market. From CDG to Undercover, Sacai to Raf, DSM truly serves as a gauge of what’s crackin’ right now, and it’s no fluke that Dertbag is included. The only other stores you can buy Dertbag at in the states are the Atelier in Connecticut, and a homie’s shop in the LES called Good Company. This careful selection of storefronts differs from that of other brands who may attempt to build a large stocklist for the sake of appearing popping or influential. By working with those accounts who genuinely appreciate and want to carry your brand, you can insure a more connected experience for the customer; instead of just being product on a shelf.

 

I’ve grown to truly appreciate those who have the tenacity and skill to thrive by doing what they love. While the state of streetwear may appear crowded by fleeting brands, Phil has positioned himself to make a living by remaining true to himself. From an early age, he has used the surge of creative/philosophical energy that many find in their youth to his advantage--along the way developing a skillset which allows him to articulate his vision in a variety of mediums. When asked what keeps him pushing forward, he says, “You just gotta impress yourself; over and over and over again.”

 

Check out for Dertbag’s Spring Collection here.