Like tipping back a pint of your favorite microbrew or buying a hammer at your neighborhood hardware store, choosing a new pair of sunglasses can be an exercise not only in seeking out supreme quality—but also supporting the underdog.
Our third and final installment on up-and-coming, innovative, artisanal sunglass brands features RAEN (pictured top and bottom, above), a California design collective that saturates each pair of handmade shades with equal parts crashing surf, advanced optics and 1950s Americana. Keep reading for a closer look, including a Q&A with their creative director.
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PART 3 of 3: RAEN
Handmade in: Oceanside, California
Claim to fame: Modern Technology, Mid-Century Inspiration
We spoke with: Justin Heit, Creative Director/President/Co-Founder
MEN’S SHOP DAILY: What does your job consist of?
JUSTIN HEIT OF RAEN: “RAEN is an emerging, independent brand—which means I wear multiple hats on any given day. That said, my background is deeply rooted in design and brand building, not P&L spreadsheets. On the creative side of the planet here, I work with our product team on maintaining the brand’s DNA, while continuing to push things forward through product, marketing and sales. I also work alongside our brother design agency, Libre Design, on all digital, print and environmental branding.”
How would you describe RAEN’s aesthetic and approach?
“We distill modern classics from vintage styles and beyond. Mid-Century cues, including architecture, furniture and automobiles, are evident in all our designs. Working with classic lines and shapes allows us to produce timeless optics that are always relevant, vibrant and inspiring.”
How are RAEN sunglasses made? What are some details of the materials or production process that customers should know about?
“RAEN’s original point of difference was quality in the manufacturing process. The emphasis on design is reinforced by the materials we use to build our ideas. All of our frames are handmade with the highest-quality zyl acetates and metals, and finished with market-leading optics by Carl Zeiss vision lenses. Each season, we generate custom acetate combinations unique to our line. Every frame is hand-finished, and much of our cutting is hand-guided. This makes a huge difference between our high-end, hand-tooled frame, versus the injection-mold frames out there. The difference is really something that has to be felt and experienced to be fully appreciated.”
Why is it important to own a high-quality pair of sunglasses?
“Quality over quantity. The sunglass is the most crucial accessory, because it’s the focal point of your character and personality, whether from a distance or up-close and personal. The face is the focal point for any introduction or interaction. If you’re wearing sunglasses, they’re speaking to your aesthetic before you’ve said a word. The comfort and fashion statement you carry with a well-designed, handmade frame not only portrays your authenticity, but also feels great.”
What are a few of your favorite pairs of RAEN sunglasses currently?
“The ‘Remmy’: a modern, lightweight frame that’s unparalleled in design for both sexes. The ‘Squire’: a classic silhouette inspired by the timeless frames in the ’50s. The ‘Lenox’: bold, sturdy design—these modern frames are quintessential for all men.”
[Even the ‘Handmade’ inscription detail is done with style.]
What inspires you and your brand?
“Mid-Century modern design from the ’50s really moves me personally and inspired the birth of RAEN. The goal of the brand was to create only authentic, innovative optics that rely on intrinsic values and create a timeless style. Similar to a well-produced Wes Anderson film.”
Who are your top three eyewear icons of all time?
“Billy Murray in Moonrise Kingdom. Bob Dylan in the ’50s killed the cat-eye Wayfarer. And Kate Moss in aviators.”
[A minute and 45 seconds will suffice—but we could spend all day watching RAEN’s expert craftsmen shape sunglasses.]
To what locations do you recommend wearing a pair of RAEN sunglasses this summer?
“San Diego to start—cruising around a town as diverse as SD, that does summer year round, you have to have your favorite silhouettes nailed. Palm Springs—this town bleeds mid-century. With the right combination of silhouette and acetate, you can, too. Road trips—doesn’t matter where you are or who you’re with, the right pair of frames will inspire endlessly. The experience of traveling itself—of wandering and seeing the world from a different perspective—this all plays an integral part in who we are.”
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[Photos by Justin Abbott]