SEEING EYE TO EYE
A FLOOD OF NEW LICENSES CONFIRMS THE CREATIVE VISION OF EYEWEAR DESIGNER SHANE BAUM.
Byline: Katherine Bowers
The client arrived at Baum Vision with a sack full of Sixties-era frames for inspiration and said he wanted something “nerdy” and “scientific.” An offbeat assignment, to be sure, but it got eyewear designer Shane Baum’s creative juices flowing. The client was quirky sportswear and accessories designer Paul Frank, and the result of his collaboration with Baum can be seen at Vision Expo.
“[For Paul Frank Optometrics] we ended up with something [influenced by a] 1964 Cannes Film Festival, kind of Aristotle Onassis, [with] oversized rectangles,” said Baum.
Creating eye-popping glasses for Paul Frank is just one of several projects Baum’s fledgling company, Baum Vision, has on its plate.
The Newport Beach, Calif.-based company recently inked a deal to oversee production for Stussy eyewear. Another client is Jeff Yokoyama, who founded Maui & Sons clothing company in the Eighties. Baum and Yokoyama have spent the past year fine-tuning an eyewear collection for Yokoyama’s latest venture, men’s clothing brand Modern Amusement. The corresponding eyewear brand, set to debut next spring, will be distributed primarily in Japan, to capitalize on the brand’s cult status there.
Baum also designs the men’s and women’s eyewear collections for Australian sportswear brand Mooks.
But for Baum, the deal with Paul Frank Industries is the most significant. The company, which is also located in Newport Beach, put Baum Vision in a rarefied league when it named it as one of only two licensees, along with Fossil Inc. for watches.
But Baum says he doesn’t have visions of IPOs dancing in his head. He’d rather be known for design vision and quality.
“I don’t want to be nose up in the air about it, but I can’t just take some hot name brand and make ‘me too’ frames,” he said. “I can’t be proud of that.”
Baum’s design philosophy is to be “counterculture to what’s happening in the marketplace, with a nod to what reasonably looks good on a person’s face.”
In that sense, working with Paul Frank was an excellent exercise in going against the grain. “You learn when Paul gets a tingly feeling about something, not to fight it, even if it seems a little haywire,” Baum said. “You’ve got to trust his intuition.”
In the Paul Frank collection, for example, Baum is particularly proud of the frames that have a space at the temple to snap on one of Paul Frank’s signature characters.
“If you’re in the mood for Julius [Paul Frank’s signature monkey], you can snap him on. If you’re going to a wedding, for instance, you can snap on one of the other characters,” Baum explained. “I don’t think that’s been done before in eyewear.”
The frames, wholesale-priced at $75, include a set of four Paul Frank characters, including Julius, Clancy the giraffe, Ellie the elephant and a skull-and-crossbones. Wholesale prices range from $70 to $115 for limited-edition styles.
The colors of Paul Frank eyewear are also counterculture, with plenty of reds, oranges and golds.
“We took some chances on the colorations,” Baum admitted. “We’re bringing out some [frame colors] not seen since the Eighties.”
Although he drops eyewear references with the surety of a pro, Baum found his calling through happy accident.
Lacking direction after college, Baum started out in the warehouse of a buddy he knew, sportswear designer Mossimo Giannulli.
“I knew Moss from the beach, and I heard he was looking for someone,” Baum remembers. “Next thing [I knew], I had a 14-year-old kid teaching me how to fold shirts.”
Giannulli soon tapped Baum for a position in the rapidly growing company’s new eyewear division. When Baum’s reinterpretation of a $4 pair of vintage sunglasses became one of the best-selling styles of the next season, Baum was hooked. He eventually became vice president of the eyewear division, which reached $4 million in revenues before being licensed to Italian firm Marcolin.
Baum and Giannulli parted amicably in 1998, when Baum joined Optical Shop of Aspen, an 11-unit retail chain that has a custom business and the rights to distribute brands such as Matsuda, Hiero and Kieselstein-Cord abroad.
Although he claims his plate is currently full, Baum was recently spotted playing golf with Giannulli, fueling rumors that the two may be discussing future collaborations.
“Moss and I remain close friends,” said Baum. “I would love to work with him again in the future.”