Raen Optics has one foot — or perhaps, in its case, one eye — on the old world and one on the new.
While many firms are growing their businesses based on a direct-to-consumer model, Raen Optics has taken a traditional approach to distribution, building its business first at 500 clothing boutiques and surf stores worldwide before heading to department stores the likes of Nordstrom, where the brand just launched.
But the founders — brothers Jeremy and Justin Heit, who work together at the creative agency Libre Design as well —have capitalized on the rising interest in affordable and timeless styles that has also fueled its online eyewear competition. One of Raen Optics’ bestsellers, Squire, is inspired by eyewear donned by James Dean. Most of Raen Optics’ frames are priced under $150, although it has started a premium line that retails around $300.
“There is a modern classic megatrend. You see it in every restaurant, in bars, in clothing, in automobiles and in eyewear,” said Justin Heit, creative director of Raen Optics, which was established in 2008 in Oceanside, Calif. “We went through what should have been a depression, and I think that has shaped a lot of consumers’ buying habits and their desire for emotional connections. It’s pretty cool to see these new independent brands doing well. It’s just a new time.”
This new time enables new types of fund-raising for emerging brands. Raen Optics utilized CircleUp, a crowdfunding platform that connects upstart consumer companies with individual investors, to raise $915,000 to support its next phase of growth. Additionally, Heit said Raen Optics has secured strategic partners to invest in the brand, but he declined to disclose their names. The funding will go toward increasing production, stepping up marketing efforts and elevating Raen’s international presence. The brand plans to enter 15 countries in 2014.
“In the last three years, we’ve been growing at 100 percent every year. We needed to raise capital to keep up with the demand for production,” said Heit, who noted their women’s frames have been a big boost to sales. The Heits hope to keep that momentum going by releasing a style in collaboration with Abby Brothers for spring next year. “So, one of our friends recommended CircleUp to us, and it goes back into the whole social media, crowdsourcing idea of this new way of doing business…exciting for them and for us. Really, it was a little social experimentation that was successful.”
Although the money may have been raised in a manner that’s cutting edge, the production method it will pay for is decidedly not. Raen Optics’ frames take 120 days to make because they are handmade in Hong Kong instead of manufactured by a faster injection mold process. “The handmade finish is just so beautiful,” said Heit. “We love the traditional way of hand-making. It goes into the modern classic direction that’s the DNA of the brand.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast