NEW YORK — Chrome Hearts LLC has acquired Optical Shop International, its decade-long eyewear licensee.
This story first appeared in the February 28, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Financial terms of the deal, which closes today, weren’t disclosed. During its 10 years as a licensee, OSI expanded Chrome Hearts’ distribution to nearly 60 countries.
Chrome Hearts, which won a CFDA accessory designer of the year award in 1992, will “consolidate oversight in all of its key product categories,” allowing for “more cohesion from a design perspective,” said Chrome Hearts co-owner Laurie Stark.
From an operational standpoint, there won’t be any major changes, except OSI’s management, now headquartered here, will report to Stark; her husband Richard Stark, with whom she co-founded the company, and chief financial officer Mario Lejtman.
Although its first store opened in New York in 1996, Chrome Hearts has roots in California. It operates a factory in Hollywood and has shops in Los Angeles and Malibu as well as a high-profile clientele that ranges from members of The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses to Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and even Karl Lagerfeld.
The company “grew up in an area where you have 10 friends and they’ve all become actors,” Stark said, explaining that Chrome Hearts doesn’t solicit celebrities for exposure. “We never reach out to celebrities unless it’s organically done.”
Best known for its rock ’n’ roll, biker chic-inspired fine jewelry, which represented roughly 55 percent of sales in 2010, Chrome Hearts is looking to expand its eyewear business, which accounts for 15 percent of sales. Other categories include apparel and home furnishings, which totaled 25 percent and 5 percent of sales last year, respectively.
Currently, Chrome Hearts operates 17 stores, five of which are located in the U.S., and its wholesale business encompasses about 2,000 specialty and department stores. With the recent acquisition, the company is eyeing markets in South America and Asia, with a focus on Brazil and China.
Ramping up expansion is a natural next step, according to Lejtman, who said the company, whose customizable glasses sell from $600 to as high as $10,000, has experienced “consistent sales growth since the recession began.”
“People are looking for high quality,” said Stark, asserting the recession benefited the company. “Customers are looking for something that is going to last them for many, many years.”