Q&A: Corey Shapiro Of The Vintage Frames Co.Fashion — By JGM Staff on April 5, 2011 at 5:00 pm
Interview By Briana Strong
Jungle Gym recently had the pleasure of chatting with the very cool Corey Shapiro, owner of the Vintage Frames Company. The Canadian frames cognoscente drops jewels about from where his passion for sunglasses derived , his personal favorite frames, and how the Vintage Frames Company single-handedly dominated the sunglasses industry. Being the largest vintage sunglasses supplier in the world, celebrities have been flocking at the chance to be seen in a pair of the exclusive eyewear; Jay-Z, Diddy, Lady Gaga, and Rick Ross , just to name a few, have all been rocking sunglasses from the Vintage Frames Company. Needless to say, Corey, with such a larger than life personality and style to match it’s no wonder his company is a star on the rise, and why the competitors might as well hang it up; flatscreen.
JGM: WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND VINTAGE FRAMES COMPANY? YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN A MILLION DIFFERENT THINGS, WHY SHADES?
CS: Well, you know, because we’re shady people [laughs]. I guess there were a couple of inspirations; I grew up in the fashion industry, not in the optical industry. My grandparents ran a high end men’s wear importing business, and my father ran a licensing business that basically did all the vintage concert t-shirts, not being vintage at the time, but all of these older shirts you see now. My grandparents and father would travel around the world and constantly bring back sneakers that basically weren’t released in Canada, and I became a sneaker collector legitimately at around 12 or 13 and when I was about 15 I started dreaming about having a sneaker store. I had an incredible collection. Many people weren’t into it [because] where I’m from in Montreal, it wasn’t even a thing, and when I was 18 years old I opened a sneaker store in Montreal. There were a lot of vintage sneakers, dead stock stuff, which was an absolute incredible failure. The city was not ready for it. Not only were they not ready for it, they were not trying to hear it. Dudes who are from Montreal who now write fashion blogs on the international level about street wear culture or sneaker culture used to come into my store like Steve Urkel and be like “Hey, I don’t know if you know, but you’re like selling old sneakers.”, and I’m like awesome, thanks for the heads up. Needless to say, that did not work out well. At the time Nike basically caught on to the fact that collecting sneakers was a potential clientele to market their products to, and they started releasing, you know if you were an Air-Force 1 collector, originally they would have a release once every week, or once every two weeks, whatever the release date was, twice a month, that type of thing and you’d save up your money, get the Air-Force, it would be at Footlocker or Champs or whatever. Now, Nike, if you’re an Air-Force collector was releasing 25 models each with ridiculous clowns on it and happy faces, Halloween editions, birthday editions, just gave birth to my friend’s kid addition, it was just insane. And they basically had trained the clientele of men for the first time to be truly into collectible fashion. At the time I had taken a pair of my grandfather’s older Cazal glasses, swapped out the prescription lenses and started wearing them as my signature thing, and it started to become my statement since I was super skilled in digging for sneakers and for vintage sports wear clothes I decided to flip it to glasses and went after the sneaker market and big collectors at the time who you know thought they were really cool because they had all these sneakers and I went at them basically telling them that if they didn’t have a pair of sunglasses that uniquely matched each pair of sneakers in their box then they weren’t even like in the fucking ball game, and to not even talk to me. And you know you bruise a lot of dudes egos like that real quick and that kind of birthed the Vintage Frames Company. We basically attacked the sneaker collecting market with a new product which was a lot of these vintage frames.
JGM: WHAT SETS VINTAGE FRAMES COMPANY APART FROM OTHER SUN GLASSES COMPANIES?
CS: We’re maniacs [laughs]. What sets us apart is that none of us are actually opticians, we all have very different backgrounds; each of us has a rather unique specialty. At the forefront of everyone, we’re all fashion history lovers, and or majors, and we have very different policies, we have a very different way of running the office, we’re a younger dynamic team, me being the oldest one at 28. Our staff is from 18 years and up, and basically we have a philosophy with our staff, where we allow them to have quite a bit of freedom as long as they take responsibility for their actions whether they’re good or bad. So, basically any time we make a decision as a company, whether it’s a typical business decision or something we kind of go out on a limb to try, we’ll stand behind that decision whether the outcome is positive or negative. And we have an overwhelming amount of stock, we have an overwhelming amount of passion, and we have probably the most elite clientele in the world, and we were the ones that basically opened up an industry. Not that we were the first to sell vintage eyewear in the world, we were not, but we were the first people to attack this side of the market and kind of breed a new collector of vintage sunglasses. Glasses in general, besides vintage sunglasses or vintage eyewear in general, besides the fact that they’re exclusive are they’re made quite a bit better; a lot of the factories that were producing goods at the time are now bankrupt, or don’t have production, or closed, so those are definitely the things that would make us different than any eyewear company. We also don’t follow eyewear trends, we make eyewear trends. We don’t fit glasses to someones face, we fit glasses to someones attitude, which is a very different approach. When you walk into Sunglass Hut they tell you how it looks on your face, you walk into our office, if you’re lucky enough to be there, we tell you how it looks with your walk, or how it looks with your talk, or your whole mentality.
JGM: THE PRICES ON YOUR WEBSITE RANGE FROM AROUND $100 AND UP, DO YOU PRICE THE GLASSES THIS WAY SO YOU’RE ACCESSIBLE TO ALL AUDIENCES? WHO IS YOUR TARGETED CONSUMER?
CS: Basically the Vintage Frames Shop is a separate entity from the Vintage Frames Company. We have about a thousand different models on the Vintage Frames Shop which is basically targeted at more of a global audience where we have still probably another 25,000 different styles, not to mention if we have some quantity of each, which we do sometimes, or we don’t in others, we reserve that stuff for collectors and for private clients. So, what you’re seeing on the internet is a curated section for a more accessible price point. If you walk into our offices or you have the pleasure of having us travel to your house, office, or whatever it is we have glasses that range in the hundreds to $25,000 range, so it’s a very broad price, and I don’t think that a $25,000 frame would sell on the internet.
JGM: DO YOU CUSTOMIZE FRAMES?
CS: We do customize frames for certain clients. We do restore a lot of the lenses to make sure that the lenses are perfect, and we have been known, for lack of a better word, to soup up frames where we would add diamonds and gold and that type of stuff to it, again for a very specific clientele.
JGM: WHAT’S YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITE FRAME AND WHY?
CS: The frame that started my business was the Cazal 951. It was a frame that my grandfather wore, a lot of the older gangsters in the city and all the established heavy dudes used to wear that frame back in the day. MC Hammer, amongst other celebrities that were influential in my growing up. I would have to say that that would be my personal favorite. Cazal was even nice enough, [and] honored us to be the first company to ever do a collaboration with them where we were allowed to do a limited run of 50 Cazal 951′s in an exclusive color way. The other frame that I quite like is the Ultra Goliath which we also had an opportunity to play with. I like Ultra as a brand; every glass that Ultra makes is super large, it’s well made, and when you look at the frame, even down to the script of the writing of the names on the arm, like a frame like Reckless or Sudan, or Goliath, or the Hawk the font is even dynamic and exciting, and every time you put them on they’re huge on your face, very well made, they’re very present, and they definitely make a statement. So I would say my favorite glass is probably the Cazal 951, and my favorite brand is probably Ultra.
JGM: CAN WE EXPECT ANY COLLABORATIONS WITH VINTAGE FRAMES COMPANY AND OTHERS?
CS: A line’s going to be coming out with Rick Ross very shortly. We’ve already done a Cazal and one Ultra model, and one Caviar . We have another collaboration coming out with Ultra, Emmanuelle Khanh, we have a special frame that we’ve just produced from scratch coming out, so we’ve done quite a bit of collaborations and we’re going to be basically releasing a minimum of four collaborations every year.
JGM: WHO WOULD YOU LOVE TO SEE IN VINTAGE FRAMES THAT YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY WORKED WITH?
CS: Probably Rev Run and DMC. Honestly, I’m an enormous RUN DMC fan, they are one of the major influences of our business, style wise, and I’ve never done business with Rev or with DMC. DMC kind of made the Ultra Goliath popular, amongst Robert Deniro in Casino and other people, but I think that they would be kind of a milestone in my business. We’ve worked with all the major players; Jay-Z, Gaga, Diddy, Ross, but I think heritage wise I would probably say Run DMC is my fuel that we’re missing in the mix.
JGM: YOU HAVE TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN, I THINK THEY’D TOTALLY BE OPEN TO THAT.
CS: Oh yeah, I’m going to make it happen. Hopefully when I get married I’ll try to bring Rev to marry me and really fuck up the set. [laughs]
JGM: DO YOU PLAN ON EXPANDING YOUR OFFICES INTO THE U.S.?
CS: We do have offices in the U.S. currently. We have just recently expanded to our online presence and we are expanding our wholesale accounts. We have in-stores with different boutiques and a lot of high-end optical as well as high-end fashion boutiques around the world carry us. We’re going to expand that. Whether we open up another office in the states I’m not quite sure of. It’s kind of a busy year for us with the TV show, I have a kid coming, and all kinds of collaborations, so I would probably say location wise that we wouldn’t be expanding to other offices.
JGM: CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE REALITY SHOW?
CS: I can’t really talk much about it, but Amber Rose invited me to be a part of her “Behind Her Shades” TV show on Vh1. I’m going to be on that show and I can’t really go into it more than that but I definitely will be able to in a couple months.
JGM: ANY LAST WORDS FOR OUR READERS?
CS: I would say that you know, especially in this industry, we’re really the originators of it and we worked quite hard, countless nights, 24 hours a day to achieve such status in the industry, and the services and the products that we offer are bar none and they can’t be copied they can’ t be faked no matter who comes into the game, and that’s why we’re so well respected in the eyewear industry. Especially coming from a standpoint of not being doctors, or not being opticians, or optometrists. And you can always expect that we have new frames coming in everyday. Our staff is working 24 hours a day to expand the website, to expand our services, to expand our knowledge to pass it on to our clients whether they be celebrities, jet setters, or the average kid, or man, or woman who just want to have a quality frame that’s different than Sunglass Hut. We are the one and only Vintage Frames Company. How’s that for arrogance?
JGM: THAT’S TOTALLY DOPE.