Inspired to start his own clothing line, Seun Olubodun quit his job working for a Web design company and launched Duke & Winston in 2009.
Olubodum would drive around a van and sell his T-shirts at various trunk shows until slowly developing a showroom — out of his own home.
Guests gathered recently in what used to be the living room of Olubodun’s two-story apartment, to view the new fall line for his official grand opening. With the room filled with shirts, ties and decorations, including pictures of Winston Churchill and Olubodun’s dog “Duke,” the grand opening proved to be a good opportunity for both new and frequent shoppers.
Olubodun sleeps in a room directly above his showroom and is grateful for the opportunity to sustain his business.
“My landlord was like, ‘you could open a store here,’ and I thought, oh that would be pretty cool, so over the last seven months, I’ve been slowly transforming the living room to a store,” he said. “It’s cool — it’s a unique thing, I still live here. I live in the back room in a small study. I live, work and sell at one place and I’m only paying one rent.”
Born in England, Olubodun moved to Philadelphia at age 14 and attended Cheltenham High School and Temple University. Now 30 years old, he maintains part of his upbringing and incorporates it in his brand.
The name “Duke & Winston” was named after his bulldog Duke and British politician Winston Churchill, who Olubodun learned a lot about during his studies at school in England.
He thought it would be unique to combine British history in the title of the store’s name and felt the two names went well together. With help from a friend at an advertising company, he was able to lock down his logo with the bulldog, top hat and bow tie. Since then, it has caused Duke to draw a lot of attention.
“Duke is my bulldog that I’ve had since he was born. He’s five years old and I got him when he was 5 weeks,” Olubodun said. “He’s like my little mascot guy, the whole line is based after him and his image is the logo — he thinks he’s a superstar; everyone wants to take his picture.”
Shoppers enjoyed petting Duke, browsing the showroom and mingling over food and drinks.
Eric Iacone, recent Temple University graduate, shops at Duke & Winston and has been drawn to Olubodun’s brand. He was pleased to see the outcome of the grand opening night.
“It’s been beautiful, all these people have come out to support the brand and it really says a lot to the way Suen has approached everything — making it a Philly-based company,” he said.
Inspired by the Johnny Cupcakes company, a T-shirt company founded by Johnny Earle in Boston, Olubodun has big goals for his company and aims to open stores in various cities.
Duke & Winston has grown through website sales, various trunk shows and through the store. Now able to employ workers, Olubodun would recommend to anyone looking to start their own company, to research and map out concrete ways they can be sustainable. He’s excited and exploring ways to expand.
“I would love to have stores like what I’ve had downstairs in other key cities,” he said. “Right now it’s a T-shirt company — but I’m slowly adding all these things to it.”