Interview by Jeff Alexander
Shawn Peterson’s dedication to his craft has Dogpile Clothing continuing to earn accolades from international artists and loyal customers. The independent California-based company has earned its reputation for offering quality, made in USA apparel for over 20 years.
“I have always been passionate about stencil art and I attended junior college for art. I worked at London Exchange back in ‘88, in Costa Mesa. I learned a lot from the experience and went out on my own from there,” reflected Peterson.
Drawing on his admiration for The Clash, Peterson set out to create a line that would be more than a mere label on fabric.
“We pay homage to them and through our company we work to promote the message of standing up for your beliefs. This is something we have always worked to carry out during the height of Dogpile,” said Peterson.
Despite having to downsize his staff and close the warehouse, Peterson continues to carry on Dogpile with his wife. The duo relentlessly work to preserve the company’s original vision without sacrificing quality.
“Today, it’s just my wife and I running things. I know our prices aren’t the cheapest but if you look around, the industry as a whole so much has changed over the past 10 years. Fabric suppliers and companies have moved overseas and to me that’s selling your country out. Who profits from that? How does this help with what’s going on with regards to our economy and unemployment?”
He added there are many ripple effects when a company chooses to take business overseas.
“We’re proud to continue making our stuff in the U.S. We may be small but it’s our decision.”
Asked if prospective buyers ever complain about pricing, Peterson stated he has received some e-mails but feels the criticism comes mostly from younger people.
“From time to time we have gotten asked about our prices but we’re not getting rich here. There are a lot of expenses that go into a company and the manufacturing process. We could take our business overseas but that is something we do not believe in. I think the term ‘sellout’ is bullshit and it seems to come from younger people. Nobody is innocent and there’s corporate influence in almost everything you do.”
For Peterson, Dogpile remains a balancing act of realizing you’re part of an industry yet doing something creative.
“I feel very attached to my company and what we continue doing. Some might criticize this as a bad business decision but I don’t feel that way. We have done a lot of tradeshows and I feel it’s important to get out there and to network.”
Fashion has earned a reputation for being a competitive industry but Peterson believes there’s a level of camaraderie among businesses.
“I definitely feel there’s camaraderie and some bonding that goes on within the industry. We feel competition is healthy and with that there’s a realization that we’re all in it together so to speak.”
Peterson’s sense of unity has always manifested itself through his designs as well as his work environment. He stated the warehouse always welcomed artists from Duane Peters to Roger Miret. Peterson shared some impacting stories.
“For sure those were fun times! Duane Peters would drop by and share his conspiracy theories and stuff. With him, you never know what you’re going to get but he has a giant heart. I remember when Roger Miret came and I made him a shirt on the spot. My wife was pregnant with our daughter and Roger was talking about his wife and stuff. That same night my wife went into labor and I just had to call him from the hospital. I think he helped bring that moment along,” laughed Peterson.
Of all his positive friendships with artists Peterson’s reflection on his relationship with Dee Dee Ramone seemed to impact him the most.
“That was truly special to me. Dee Dee had called me out of the blue one day and we just struck up a friendship. It was very flattering that he wanted to work with me on doing a clothing line. We were going to call it Lobotomy. We finally met and it was really great but the sad thing was he died like three days later. It was such a loss but I was just proud to know him.”
Dogpile’s warehouse wasn’t always an exclusive home for punk artists. Peterson was proud to share that even Madonna was an admirer of his fashions.
“That was an interesting experience. I was in New York at a trade show and got a call saying that Madonna’s stylists were at the warehouse. I really thought it was some kind of joke but the stylist purchased some of our stuff. I have magazine pictures of Madonna wearing our clothes,” laughed Peterson.
Today, Dogpile soldiers on mostly as an online shop but with Peterson’s uncompromising vision intact.
“We still have great relationships with stores and think of ourselves as a boutique line. I would like to do more limited edition stuff and plan on doing more in the future.
When I go to a show and see kids and bands wearing our stuff I’m flattered. I think it makes all the hard work worth it,” affirmed Peterson.