Latest headlines got you feeling like you're in a WTF-themed Mad Libs nightmare? All of those "unfriend me on Facebook if you voted for that person" posts getting you down? (You know you've seen at least one this week.) If the bad news bears have you wanting to hide your head in the sand these days, allow dude.be nice to brighten up your day by way of your closet.
Based in Los Angeles (Whittier, to be exact), the mindfully manufactured brand creates positivity-promoting basics for women, men, and kids, like its classic "dude, be nice" tees ($34), sweaters that remind wearers to take it easy ($49), and the wearable "nice is…" collaboration ($34) with poet Lora Mathis. But that's not all: The self-proclaimed "creators of conscious culture" are on a mission to inspire people to help others and become active within their communities. To set an example, DBN helps others commit random acts of kindness — like celebrating a hard-working potato farmer named Jorge, serenading unsuspecting strangers on the street, and thanking a beloved high school coach, to name a few, then shares it all on its YouTube channel.
Even cooler: Everything's made in an ethical, fair-wage factory in Los Angeles, ensuring that every penny of your dollar does good, too.
Here, we sat down with president Veronica Tolentino — who co-founded the brand with her childhood friend and DBN CEO Brent Camalich — to find out more about her inspiring label, how she went from working in fundraising to fashion, what she loves about her hometown of Whittier, the easiest ways that we can all spark change through kindness, and more.
Read on below, then shop dude.be nice online here.
Where are you from, and what makes your hometown unique/what do you love about it?
I was born and raised in Whittier; I own a home here with my husband and son. My city has charm and style and culture. There are so many incredible, small businesses that are sprouting up. There is a strong sense of community here. You run into friends everywhere.
What was the conversation that led you and the CEO to create the brand?
The name and logo were actually created by someone else. The CEO jumped at the chance to build a brand around it. He'd been looking to build a company with a strong mission. I came on very shortly after with 10 years of nonprofit fundraising experience. I was fresh off of a career shift into fashion. I'd experienced the world of social service and then had a taste of the fashion industry and was looking for place for those two passions to intersect. The idea of dude. be nice came around at the perfect moment. There is nothing else I'd rather be doing than building a social minded clothing brand we hope will leave a lasting impact.
How has LA inspired DBN?
I am deeply inspired by my own community and the communities that surround me. My dad was born and raised in the projects in East LA, my mother was born in Mexico and moved to Whittier with her family at a young age. Community is an important part of who I am, so I don't need to look far for inspiration. We relaunched our line recently — everything is now made in a female-owned, ethical and fair wage factory in South Los Angeles.
There are very strong LA, family, and community themes in our graphic designs. Our Wish You Were Here tee has a chest graphic with the map coordinates of LA area. Our Fiesta tee has a graphic of a redrawn photo pulled straight from my family photo album. The image was taken at a family party in the 1970s in the backyard in an unincorporated area of Whittier. My mom is at the front, a teenager in bell bottoms getting ready to hit a piñata. My uncle is holding the rope. We will always rep our roots in all we do.
Why was it important to you to open your HQ in your hometown? How does it give back?
I feel like my community has given me so much — it has shaped me in wonderful ways. Both Brent [the CEO] and I felt that we wanted to invest back into the community that gave us so much. Most brands move to industrial areas but we felt we could bring some attention to this beautiful city through our platform. It's also given us an opportunity to work with local organizations and help strengthen our community. We do our best as a team to volunteer monthly with a local organization. Brent and I also make personal efforts to offer our time and resources to local people and organizations as often as we can.
In your experience, what are some of the easiest ways to spark inspiration through kindness?
Kindness creates connection. It can open minds and bridges gaps. When we connect, we find compassion for others but also for ourselves — which sounds cliché, but it's true. Those connections can inspire big change. If we can look for ways to treat ourselves and others just a bit better, we might be surprised at what we learn. Self-awareness and empathy is a great place to start. There is a lot there in those two words to unpack, but just being a little more mindful of what they mean for our lives is major.
How have each of you put your unique backgrounds to use in DBN?
I've always been fascinated with self expression through personal style. This led me to closely study style and the way it relates to identity. Since I was a little girl, I'd grab stuff from my mom's closet and cut it up and rework it. Although it made my mom crazy, she encouraged me. I'd go vintage shopping or head to the thrift store and try things and explore.
I've also always been concerned with social justice and social issues — which is how I found myself in the non profit sector immediately after I graduated. Brent spent time in journalism and working at a youth summer camp, and then most recently, in marketing. All of that experience and education has created a really interesting balance. We do approach things differently and see life through different lenses but we've learned from each other and have a lot of respect for each other.
What are some of your favorite hidden LA gems for shopping, eating, and playing?
Of course, I need to shout out some hometown gems first and foremost. I've been shopping at Melrose Vintage since I was in high school, it's an awesome place to shop vintage. I always go to Local Fixture when I need to shop for a gift (or when I want a delicious matcha! They have a coffee bar!). One of my favorite places to eat in Whittier is at Pizzamania, it's iconic in my hometown. My other favorite place is The 6740 — good beer, awesome food (vegan options, too!) and great atmosphere. I've partied there with friends and had lunches with fam, lots of great memories are made there.