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A hockey player’s gameday attire inspires a Dallas young man’s apparel brand

Self-funded d.RT is being sold online at Nordstrom.com, Neighborhood Goods and a specialty store in Miami, with clothing costs between $40 and $220.

As a travel hockey player in Canada, Dylan Thompson learned at a young age that dressing the part was a big part of the game.

Each year, his parents would spend hundreds of dollars on suits, tailored to fit just right and not cut for the growing body of a teenager moving from middle school to high school.

That tradition of hockey players wearing dress clothes on gameday became the catalyst for a Dallas-based clothing line targeting young men. The self-funded brand, called d.RT (and pronounced dirt), is sold online at d.RT.com, Nordstrom.com and a specialty store in Miami.

While Thompson was the inspiration, it was his older sister and her husband who brought the brand to life.

Dylan Thompson
Dylan Thompson(d.RT)
Paula Brunson
Paula Brunson(d.RT)
Brian Brunson
Brian Brunson(d.RT)

“We want to fit in that middle area where we kind of gave all those kids a voice, and they want to look good, too,” co-owner Brian Brunson said. “That’s a big part of the d.RT brand. We want to have quality products, luxury products, but they are approachable for everybody.”

Thompson is now a freshman student-athlete at Lawrence Tech University in Michigan. He is the brand’s chief creative officer. He’s not involved in day-to-day operations because of school commitments, but his sister says he has a strong influence on clothing designs in the brand’s collections.

“He is the one that will pull all the inspiration together — the design, the colors for seasons,” Paula Brunson said. “He’s very heavily involved in that piece of it, which is great for him. It’s something he can even do from a distance.”

D.RT started out by securing space in Neighborhood Goods at Legacy West in Plano in 2021. Neighborhood Goods markets itself as a new type of department store that gives digital brands a chance to meet customers in the physical world without the risk and expense of opening stores.

Following a successful few months, d.RT expanded to additional Neighborhood Goods locations in Austin and New York. Nordstrom needed to fill a void in its young adult clothing category and began selling d.RT products online at Nordstrom.com in June, the Brunsons said.

When starting the brand, the founders knew they needed to find experts to help them learn the nuances of the industry. They turned to a seasoned consultant who helped them create their first prototype.

“We have experience starting up businesses, so we knew how to handle building the operations and marketing,” said the Brunsons. “Starting a brand is not inexpensive. We worked very hard to put our best practices from our experience in place to be as efficient as possible.”

The Brunsons declined to disclose d.RT’s sales.

Each of the co-founders — Thompson, his sister and his brother-in-law — brings unique expertise to the brand’s marketing, sales, operations and design.

Brian Brunson’s experience is in software and medical sales, but he also draws on his time as an assistant coach for Southern Methodist University’s basketball team in the late 1990s to understand what athletes need in a wardrobe. Paula Brunson’s background is in management and business development.

They said that mix makes them the perfect team to launch the brand.

According to the Brunsons, d.RT clothing is designed with longevity in mind. They developed clothing with a patent-pending technology that’s crafted to grow with the user. Each suit features jackets with a whip stitch hem for an adjustable sleeve and body length, and pants with a loop and button system for adjustable hems. The clothing costs between $40 and $220.

“A really big pillar in our brand is diversity — from the models that we use, the type of clothes. We are a young man brand, but a lot of our stuff could be unisex as well,” Brian Brunson said.

The men’s apparel market is growing globally, with worldwide sales expected to reach nearly $500 billion this year, according to Statista.

Like many companies doing business during the COVID-19 pandemic, d.RT faced its share of supply chain issues. The company’s first and second collections were delayed 18 months due to materials not being milled in the country, and shipping and port backlogs.

The Brunsons were able to airship a small portion of both collections from China and Turkey because they wanted customers to be able to get their hands on their product.

Now most of d.RT’s products are being manufactured in Portugal, which eases supply chain worries because the company is able to mill most of the fabrics there, the Brunsons said.

What’s next for d.RT? Possibly an expansion to where it all started.

“We definitely are considering an international expansion, eventually in Canada, because that’s my home,” Paula Brunson said.

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