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South Tulsa, California. You won’t find it on a map, but you’ll find it on nearly all of Danzy Design Studio pieces — neatly tucked into a patch, or screen-printed on the back of a tee. It’s Marshall Danzy’s world, and we’re just visitors. Raised in the midwest and currently in Los Angeles, Marshall is the man behind Danzy Design Studio and a jack of many trades. His vintage-inspired sweat sets have been worn by Emily Ratajkowski, Hailey Bieber, Michelle Obama, and Irina Shayk, to name just a few, and his signature pieces caught Jenn Bandier’s eye on Instagram back in 2019. A few (ignored) phone calls later, the two were connected, Marshall set to work tie-dying pieces for a Hamptons event, and it was a done deal. We called Marshall up to get the scoop on him, his brand, and his new exclusive capsule. The man, the myth?, definitely the legend…Marshall.
Marshall: I'm also very excited. I call BANDIER my fashion family, so it's always fun to collaborate and come up with ideas with the team there. I am Marshall Danzy Taulbert, I'm originally from South Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I founded DANZY in late 2018. The brand had another name prior to, but when my style started to kind of change, the things I was sketching and designing started to change, I felt like I needed a name that was more concrete. Like a Fendi, like a Chanel, I wanted something like a stamp that could last forever. And I was like, "My middle name sounds kind of different. Why don't I just use that?"
And the rest is history.
Did all the paperwork and I just made the switch right in the middle of another clothing line.
When I moved out here in '04 there was a sneaker brand that was hitting big — Pharrell and Kanye were wearing them. I really wanted these shoes, but they were expensive and I was horrible with money, so I couldn’t afford them. I went to Walmart, bought white Velcro shoes, and painted them in a similar style. One day I’m walking down Melrose, looking around in stores, minding my own business. I hear this person running behind me, yelling at me. He goes, "You, with the shoes. Where'd you get those?" I was like, "Oh, I painted them. What's up?" He asked if I wanted to start selling them. Immediate yes. So it began — I was buying $9 shoes at Walmart, custom-painting them, and then selling them on Melrose. That then turned into custom t-shirts, which led me into screen-printing. I was printing t-shirts in my garage and my bedroom. But I didn't know it was possible to do that full time. Back then, it wasn’t how fashion is now. As an African American man, I didn’t know I could make a living like that. It was really just a hobby. There was no Virgil at that time. There was nobody in that same world to really look too.
At that time, I was also working in TV production, and that’s when I was introduced to BANDIER. In the summer of 2019, I was an associate producer on a reality show, and I was responsible for transcriptions. I was taking notes, writing dialogue in real time, and furiously typing away on my phone. I keep getting this call from an unknown New York number. I'm declining, declining, declining. They called maybe four to five times.
Then I get a text message saying, "Hey, this is Jayne Harkness and Jenn Bandier. We'd love to hop on a call with you." I knew what BANDIER was because they were about to build a storefront on Melrose, so it clicked. I stepped outside and called them back…They had found me on Instagram. They wanted 100 tie-dye pieces for a Hamptons event in two weeks. It was full speed ahead. But I did it. That time period was wild. I was tie-dying stuff in the trunk of my car on my lunch break. Those tie-dye pieces were the first thing I sold with BANDIER.
When I was a kid, there were all these quilts in my home throughout my childhood. When I changed the name to DANZY in 2018, I called my parents and they told me about my great-great-grandmother Danzy, and her quilting, her craftsmanship. She had these big looms. It was a social thing as well — people in the community knew that she sold these quilts, so they would go straight to her. At this point, I was doing everything by hand, distressing three hundred pieces by hand. It was perfect synergy. I was like, oh, this makes total sense. I thought it was cool to have an African American woman, alive in the early 1900s, to have their name Danzy now in the world.
Back in 2017, distressing was starting to get big right around that time. I was playing around with it, and I was very, very, very hands-on. I always wanted everything to have a one-of-a-kind, vintage feel. I try to maintain that today. With the screenprinting, it’s still all hand done. I go to places that don’t use machines, people who actually put that paint on the screen. And I still screenprint in my kitchen. I’ve always wanted my clothes to feel like they could be in the 90s. Like my kids, whenever I have them, and their friends, they pull that vintage screen-printed DANZY piece out. It’s thread worn, it’s well-loved, it’s sick.
Do you create all your pieces yourself?
I still very much am a small business. I creatively concept and start everything, I test color and sketch and design in my own home. Then I take to production. I hope that inspires someone. If it’s just me doing this, anybody can do it, really.
The first piece is my almond oil sweat set with my DANZY farmer's market screen print. I became really obsessed with farmer's markets when I got out here. I’m from Oklahoma, so I don't even remember seeing them when I was there. I thought it was so cool. I'm also very obsessed with merch. So I combined my two obsessions and made farmer’s market merch. And then in the address I put my mother's name — I always try to give a little homage to family. My mom, Barbara, grew up in Arkansas at 120 Jackson Lane. So the address for the market is 120 Barbara Lane. That's one of my favorite pieces. I also like the Danzy Estates Polo Club pieces. I'm obsessed with Ralph Lauren and Polo — I watch the Ralph Lauren documentary about once a week. In his documentary, he says he wanted to create this world to aspire to. I took that to heart. My patches and tags say South Tulsa, California, which doesn't exist. I'm trying to create my aspirational world, to create an actual place. So you could live in Danzy Estates and play at the Polo Club, or go to the farmer’s market in South Tulsa, California. I'm creating a world, and I gave it a name.
The world of Marshall Danzy: South Tulsa, California.
It's always in my head.
My inspiration is legitimately everywhere. I'm very into interior design, but from an aspect of people within spaces. I’m thinking, "Oh, what is she wearing while at home on that distressed leather chair? What is she wearing when she’s walking through that chevron wooden floor hallway? Is she wearing a long Oxford?" In culture, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Princess Diana, Ralph Lauren and everything he’s done with classic, Americana style.
When I’m creating collections or pieces, I also turn to four of my close girlfriends. They all have different styles and taste. I’m smart enough to know I don’t know everything! So I love bouncing ideas off of them, asking their advice, how they’d style a piece. They’re my brutally honest and terribly paid Board of Advisors. When I say terribly paid, I mean free. And they remind me of that.
What have been some notable moments in your career?
For me, the best moment is when my parents walked into a store in LA and they saw my pieces. They were blown away. And to have my mom see her family name — that was incredible. They were hearing about it, but that’s different — it's like, they understand it, but for them to walk into a store and see something of their son’s creation was a full circle moment for them. They always kind of saw this creative thing in me, but didn’t know how it would turn out.
Other moments — it was crazy when Hailey Bieber first wore Danzy. Emily Ratajkowski, too — that was big because I’ve always liked her style a lot. And then getting into Bandier was great. I remember driving by the spot on Melrose, before the store was built. They just had the advertisements. And I was like, "Man, it'd be dope to be in that store..." A year and a half later Jenn B called.
If you're an entrepreneur, wanting to start your own business, I say, don't do it for the money, and truly, truly, truly be obsessed with what you’re doing. Because it is hard, it is tiring, it is stressful. I woke up last night at 2:00 AM because I thought I forgot to tell the dye house the correct yellow for an upcoming order. Little things like that. But when people ask, I say, "I'd rather be stressed over building my own empire than building somebody else’s." I say, be obsessed with what you do, and just start. Don't try to be perfect. I got lucky that I was naive enough to just start and learn on the go. Had I known all the things I had to go through to start, I never would've started. I made a lot of mistakes, forgot to do a lot of things, but I started. Nobody really knows what they're doing. Go. Just go.
SONGS ON REPEAT: Anything Notorious B.I.G, Nipsey Hussle, Kendrick Lamar. 80s pop music. I've also been into NSYNC's Girlfriend remix with Nelly.
SPOTS IN LOS ANGELES: Los Feliz Flea Market. Ronan Pizza, Bacari, La Poubelle, Great White in Venice, Hollywood Farmer's Market. Silverlake Flea Market. I love Abbott Kinney, the street in Venice. I always walk up and down that street just to see people.
MUST-HAVE SNEAKER: The first sneaker I begged my parents for aggressively was a pair of Jordan 4s when I was in second grade. And I remember I wore them in the class, and you couldn't tell me I was not Michael Jordan walking in that class. I was king of the playground. Couldn't touch me. Nowadays I'm getting really into Reebok, the Exofit Low.
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