This week we have the amazing opportunity to speak with David Castro, owner and designer of the crowns of the culture brand, DUNGEON FORWARD, to learn more about what has inspired his creations and how he ensures royalty emanates throughout his collections.
Let’s talk about how the past year has shaped your brand.
Yeah, Dungeon Forward itself is like from the dungeon forward or from nothing to something, that's the name of the brand. Our primary focus is headwear, and our mantra is crowns for the culture. We create the dopest headwear this side of the universe, most innovative storytelling headwear ever seen in your life. And we are competing head-to-head with whomever you could imagine. We are literally the top of the line, pre imminent headwear brand that’s global now. We actually have an accountant in Paris now, which is like, what?
Wow, that’s amazing! So tell us about your story.
So my story, I'm an architect by trade. I left the corporate arena in 2019 after building up Dungeon Forward. So my last day was November 1st. November 15th my manufacturers were telling me about the coronavirus and I'm like, damn. But it was the perfect situation to be in as a CEO of a budding organization because you're starting out with worst case scenario. And so, we found ways to mitigate issues that we had with production on the front end. We made some new relationships and then 2020 was like our best year at that time. And so we took the lessons that we learned in 2020 and brought them into 2021.
We dropped our first collaboration with Airhead which was really nostalgic for me. And that was the beginning of 2021, which was a delayed launch because production [in 2020] was impossible. That was an impetus push behind the brand that started giving us this massive momentum. But right before that, we did this collaboration called art black with four different artists from different places. Melissa Mitchell went to fame and that landed in Complex Magazine and was on TV. So that elevated the artists that we work with, black artists. It elevated our brand and we just started getting a lot of exposure.
Throughout the duration on the year, there were other challenges but at every step of the way, we were able to mitigate it. I think that rained true to our team because we were constantly trying to figure out how to navigate this landscape where people are at home. Shifting strategy to direct to consumer but also, still trying to maintain focus on designing the best head wear on the market. I feel like 2020 was validation and 2021 was like a projection of what the future looks like.
It all truly reflects where you are right now. So, what do you think has been the secret to your success so far because it's been explosive, it's been impressive. You're global already! So, what is the secret?
One thing I'd like to make clear is that this is not an overnight success for me. I've been playing in this space for over 10 years. And I think you start out shooting shots all over the place and then you become a sniper and then you begin to understand what's meaningful to you.
And even now it's very important for me to edit and make sure I always return to our mantra of 'crowns for the culture' and keep our focus on storytelling and innovation. Because every now and then, you'll see a trend and you might want to chase that trend and forget that that's not what you do. And I think over the years, I was just tapping into our personality, our mantra and our belief system of what it is that we bring to the market. And also understanding the value of that. I think people start to feel the authenticity of the brand and want to be a part of it. And to me, I think that's where the success comes from.
I love that you’ve mentioned the product and the ethos around it because, from an observation, the reference to the crown and royalty must be part of your success that people are buying into. So talk a little bit about the crown and royalty ethos and how that ties into your product.
Yeah, for sure. So the reason that I decided to focus on headwear, was because for one, I looked at it like a crown and I felt like it was always an afterthought. Like if you look at the typical headwear, Nike has a logo slapped on it to be a companion to the rest of an outfit. It's not the thing that started the outfit. So, for me, when I think about street wear, it informs what we consider, right? So, if you look at the Louis Vuitton, the Fendi the Prada, etc, they're always taking cues from the most authentic creatives, which are typically people with the least amount of resources. And as a result of having the least amount of resources, you have to be creative to express yourself, right? So, for us, we're that culture. We’re an embodiment of that. And that's what we embellish our crowns with. So, we design them from the ground up with the intention to make those people feel as royal as we believe they are.
I want to close with talking about, your products. We have your story. We have the ethos. So, the actual product, the hats the crowns, tell us about the manufacturing or the design of them. What makes them special?
So, one of the things that we do is to be innovative in the construction. It took about two years to figure out how to make right. First, it took about six months to even find a manufacturer that would make it because, for them, it's like if I make it once and you never make it again, it makes no sense for us to invest the time in developing the product. And then after that, we had to adjust and adjust and adjust. It took about two years to get to a point where we were confident in the fit. That investment in time into the development of this product is what really separates us from the rest.
That's where we want to go in the future is creating pieces that are authentically Dungeon Forward, that are original to Dungeon Forward, that are proprietary to Dungeon Forward, but that are meaningful to the culture that we serve.
Awesome! Well, I’m just glad to have had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with you today.
I'm appreciative. So, thank you.