Denzel Dion On The Highs And Lows Of Building A Brand From Scratch
The designer talks size inclusivity, his influence on belly button cutouts, and more.
The Clutch is a monthly column written by the fashion aficionado, Hunter Shires, better known online as High End Homo. Keeping up with the ever-evolving fashion landscape can be a daunting task for many, as sifting through archives of runway shows, editorial campaigns, and pop culture requires a significant time investment. Hunter will give you the 411, and is dedicated to doing all the dirty work for you.
Denzel Dion is an undeniable powerhouse, tracing his origins back to the golden era of Vine—a platform that ignited his remarkable journey. Adapting seamlessly to changing times, he has woven himself intricately into the cultural media fabric. Notably, he's made his mark through the highly acclaimed podcast "We Said What We Said" with best friend Rickey Thompson and a former YouTube channel where he fearlessly critiqued prom dresses and meticulously analyzed red carpet fashion.
Denzel wields a comedic prowess that ignites uproarious laughter, embodying an entertainer with a wittily subtle sense of humor that consistently evokes smiles. His knack for provoking hearty laughter while connecting intimately with his audience is a testament to his charismatic presence in the entertainment realm.
In my conversation with Denzel, we delve into his journey of building a brand from scratch, navigating the highs and lows of the design world, his personal style choices for day-to-day life, carving out a niche in an industry not traditionally tailored to him, and much more. And so, without further ado, let us celebrate the icon that is Denzel Dion.
Hunter: When you wake up, what are you most excited to wear?
Denzel: To start, I’m all about wearing everyday shit by incorporating my staple pieces. I just love things you can wear all the time. Recently, I’ve been wearing my pointed toe mules ever since I made them. I have big ass foot (Size 13 to be specific), and it's hard to find shoes that size for men. I’ve also been living for my mini-bags, they eat. Otherwise, black jeans, a black tee shirt, and I’m out the door. I don’t really dress up, I’m a dress down type of girl. The real fashion girls have a uniform. When we do pop out, we pop out.
Hunter: Trust me I’m a size 13 like you, so I empathize with that challenge. It doesn’t seem anyone carries bigger than that. The fashion girls live in a uniform, it’s how we survive especially in this insane economy. Mixing black and white tees with a $600+ pair of denim does the trick especially when you add a NOID bag and cunt boots to the look. Uniforms are all about investing, we’re not going on SHEIN to buy a new outfit for every event we go to, that’s so unsustainable.
Hunter: What has it been like finding space for yourself in an industry that doesn’t often design for you?
Denzel: It’s been very eye opening. I realized that brands don't carry big sizes because it's a lot of money to make. It’s a standard thing that bigger people “can’t be fashionable or can’t look chic” if they’re big.
Hunter: “If he wanted to, he would” type shit.
Denzel: Just because you're skinny doesn't make it fab. I like how there are bigger sizes in the modern age. I’m at a standstill as of now because how big can I go being a small brand? You cannot really accommodate everyone because it’ll be like well what about us.
Hunter: It’s not just your job as a small independent designer. It’s not just one person’s job within this industry. What pains me is seeing brands put Paloma who’s arguably one of the best high fashion models right now, in the worst look possible that isn’t even sold in stores in that size. This performative bullshit pisses me off. Being from the Bronx, then moving to Los Angeles at a young age for your career, I was wondering what you define as the 3 key differences to style from the east to the west coast?
Denzel: I love layering, I don’t even care if it’s 90 degrees. I play with my wardrobe by mixing textures. It always adds an extra element to a look. Even though we love a mono-chromatic outfit, I typically am mixing tones. I’ll wear a baggy ass sweatsuit with a pair of heels, that’s just me.
Hunter: Playing with texture is my kryptonite. If you get it you get, if you don’t you dont. I’ve been wearing sweat shorts with boots recently around my neighborhood, it’s been exhilarating.
Denzel: I love mixing casual with formal, a leather jacket and a train skirt.
Hunter: How did the idea of your brand come to be? Was it obvious? You were going to go into fashion?
Denzel: I’ve always wanted to start a brand. I knew that in high school when my guidance counselor said “You’re a fashion designer”. In my case, it was honestly just me being obese and not finding anything I wanted to wear out in the world. I always saw brands making clothes that I wanted to tweak, so I was like let me just make my own clothes.
Hunter: It’s definitely challenging being a bigger girl and not seeing your sizes on the rack. You really said if you ain’t going to do it, I’ll do it. Props to you for not seeing what you liked out there and pursuing your dream.
Denzel: My question was always, “Is this possible?”. I’ve always had a deep love for the Olsen twins. They were on the scene, now they’re behind the scenes, they’re just those girls.
Hunter: They’re legit the man (mothers) behind the curtain. You can’t touch them, you don’t even know where they are, M-I-A BOOTS. Where are the Olsen twins right now? Nobody knows. It is no secret that we have been seeing exposed belly button cutouts ever since your Fall/Winter 2022 collection. How does it feel to see big designer brands following suit at their most recent Fall show as a small designer?
Denzel: What’s so crazy is I started off with belly button cutouts in 2020, and brought them back in 2022. It feels normal, I knew this was going to happen. Right when the first collection dropped, the girls just didn’t get it. A few interns let me know that I was on the moodboard for some of the on schedule brands. The thing about the internet is, you never know who's watching. It’s inspiring, it’s flattering, and you see the time stamps.
Hunter: Since it has been such a short period of time since your brand dropped, that is crazy. I’m glad you’re collecting your flowers.
NOID Fall/Winter 22
Hunter: As you have only somewhat recently started your brand NOID, what are some examples of the high and lows of being a designer in the modern day landscape of the industry?
Denzel: One of the highs is the shock factor of people not knowing I’m the designer of my brand. I like when people feel good in their clothes and appreciate my art and work. My brand is based strictly on the brand and not the person behind it. For lows... I would say I feel like I have to work 10x harder because I’m coming from an influencer-based career and fashion is all about politics. It’s another obstacle to get to where I should be, but it's all in the journey. People think I have a crazy big team and I don’t, it's legit like 3 people. I also didn’t know about coming into the fashion space, people have investors and the money side of it. The big part about running the brand is the start-up money to run a brand.
Hunter: I think it’s interesting that you talked about not being the face of the brand because Margiela didn’t ever show his face and same with Peter Do right now, it's not about who you are, what you look like, but it’s about what you create.
Hunter: As someone who used to be the king of red carpet reviews, what was your own favorite look of yours?
Denzel: I loved my outfit I wore to the Oscars last year. It was so simple, the silhouette was there, the outfit was made in a day and a half. It was good because it was so me, less is always more.
Hunter: Even at Prada right now, the detachable collars are so simple yet so effective. A little detail that really works is all we really need. And who right now can you always count on to show up on a carpet?
Denzel: Someone who hasn’t had any misses is Taylor Russell.
Hunter: I snap my fingers in agreement. I would also say Kelela eats. In your eyes, who do you think is the modern male and female blueprint?
Denzel: Male.. hmm I’ll say Alton Mason. And Female, I’d say Rihanna for obvious reason. It’s the obvious answer, but no one does it like her. I also like models who can dress outside of what they are put in.
Hunter: When designers are taking inspiration from Rih like with the styling and pants at the latest Schiaparelli Couture collection, that's when you know you’re the blueprint. If you could take over as a creative director for any fashion house, dormant or active, which would it be?
Denzel: Ummm, me personally because I love a challenge. I’d like to make an old house fab again. That’s the goal for me just knowing I turned it out.
Hunter: I mean look at what Maximilian is doing at Ferragamo, it's so fresh and exciting. A REVIVAL.
Denzel: Even Daniel Lee at Bottega, that was a resurgence. I feel like I would lowkey eat Moschino up.
Hunter: Are there any collaborations for you and your brand on the horizon?
Denzel: I would be interested in doing a puma sneaker collab, maybe bags, or even jewelry.
Follow along with more from Denzel Dion here.