From Rihanna to Robert Downy Jr., the catapulted onto the fashion eyewear scene in a major way in 2008 and has been creating a buzz among bespeckled celebrities and fashionistas alike ever since. But at an approachable price point and with a meticulous attention to detail, it's no wonder this brand has been shading clients globally. I sat down with Co-Founder and Creative Director Justin Heit to learn more.RAEN brand
LM: Why don't you give me a snapshot of you and the company.
JH: I've had an entrepreneurial and creative drive since I was young and have wanted to start my own brand since the age of 15. I was born and raised in Oceanside, CA, so my roots in the Southern California action sports culture coupled with my passion for design inspired and influenced me in many ways. It's truly what lead me to create the brand alongside my brother, Jeremy Heit, and our friend, Jordan Percy. RAEN, is an independent, American eyewear brand that is designed in Southern California. We are passionate about every step of the handmade process, and our search for an authentically unique, yet wearable and functional style is what fuels our drive to continuously evolve and invent. Our goal is to provide timeless, tangible, quality items that function within our active lifestyles and those of our consumers. We not only create the eyewear, we are the consumers, and our friends and family make up our team.
LM: I know you started at Nixon, what inspired the move from Nixon to starting your own design firm to now RAEN.
JH: As the first Art Director at Nixon, I was able to fine tune my creative experience and oversee global advertising in addition to managing in-house designers and development. It was an incredible time where I was able to really grow as a designer. In 2005, I knew that I was ready for next steps and was able to take my knowledge of graphic design and brand strategy to start my own design firm - Libre Design Agency. I love being able to take brands that I believe in and bring them to life. This is really what catapulted me to the next step.
It was in the summer of 2008 that the idea of RAEN was born. It was a natural progression, and I always knew that I wanted to start a brand of my own. We saw an opportunity to create premium handmade eyewear with a modern, classic aesthetic.
LM: What was your favorite part about starting RAEN?
JH: For me launching RAEN was fulfilling a lifelong dream, but also was inventing a timeless, wearable product that functions within our audience's active lifestyle. As a team we are continuously evolving to meet the needs and desires of our consumers. It's a space that I get to spend everyday being creative in. It's also particularly special to me to have a company with roots in the community we were raised and to work with family. Now it's crazy to see the glasses we design on not only ourselves, but on the likes of Rihanna, Emily Ratajkowski, Robert Downey Jr. and more.
LM: How did you think of the concept and what or who was your inspiration?
JH: We saw a void in the market for premium handmade optics at an affordable price-point. We recognized this need as an opportunity to offer the product I'd envisioned. This allowed RAEN to stand out and grow in the market. I had a clear vision, aesthetic and product design in mind. At the time, the trend was large sunglasses with big logos and we had the foresight to see that a more minimalistic and well-designed aesthetic was coming. We wanted to create eyewear that our friends would wear and that would last.
LM: Talk to me about the branding and aesthetic of RAEN.
JH: RAEN was built on the modern classics. Our initial storyboards for the brand back in 2007 consisted of modern architecture, minimal design, negative space and timeless photography. Optic frames from the 50's and iconic silhouettes from the 60's and 70's have inspired our collections as we expanded. We're always thinking a step ahead and are excited to be working on our SS19 collection now. On the branding side, we represent authentic California - dressed up, yet casual and relaxed. This is seen throughout elements of the brand, including our e-commerce site and packaging. Specifically we use accents of California Gold, along with amazing imagery, shot by our team and friends.
LM: What brands are you currently obsessed with and why?
JH: I am currently fascinated with the shift in high fashion with brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci bringing on Creative Directors that appreciate and come from street culture. It's the first time in a while that I've seen more luxury fashion actually connect with younger generation and current street/skate/surf scene. It's great seeing the masses appreciate something that I've grown up with and is such a part of my day-to-day.
LM: What is your take on the future of RAEN? What's next?
JH: The future of RAEN is always exciting - our global reach is currently expanding. We're exploring opportunities in EU, where the independent eyewear is thriving. I'm excited for our new designs to drop and new partnerships coming down the pipeline!
It seems that the future is so bright, this brand's gotta wear shades...how convenient.