What is your role at Maui Jim?
Director of Global Brand Activation.
Can you explain how + why Maui Jim is different from other lifestyle eyewear brands?
Born on the beaches of Maui, Hawaii we are the only privately owned premium sunglasses brand in the world. It started in Kaanapali Beach in 1980 by creating the best polarized lenses on the market to deal with the truly harsh conditions in Maui. The sun, glare and beautiful colors really set the stage for the perfect place to design and test sunglasses. We still design and test our eyewear in Maui. Overall for Maui Jim, it is about our patent technology, having the best lens material on the market to protect your eyes against UV rays, the glare that comes off of shiny surfaces and making colors pop. That is something that no other brand can do by making colors pop the way Maui Jim does.
How is Maui Jim's heritage different from other eyewear brands?
The 'Aloha spirit' is something that runs throughout the company. It starts with our owner Walter Hester who has owned the company since 1991 and still resides in Maui. The 'Aloha spirit' is embedded in our customer service and with employees to bring that spirit to our customers. If you have any questions or concerns with our products, you can call Customer Care where you will always get a friendly live person to assist. They will fix a temple if it is broken, replace a nose pad for free. We pride ourselves on repairing product in three days or less. That turnaround time is completely unmatched in the industry.
Can you discuss Maui Jim's partnership with Grungy Gentleman?
The runway shows we have done together have been really great. It is something we have not ever done before at Maui Jim. Being a part of the fashion world and lifestyle has helped us grow. Sometimes a brand can be pulled into a direction of being sporty and outdoors focused. It is important to maintain versatility. Putting our styles on the runway at New York Fashion Week and showcasing different lens colors + shapes have helped us show our consumers how versatile Maui Jim really is. They also fit the Grungy Gentleman lifestyle and models perfectly.
Were there any specific Grungy Gentleman runway looks paired with Maui Jim frames that stood out to you?
Jake Filling, look #52 for the S/S 17 runway show. He went with the blue mirrored Wiki Wiki. It played perfectly off of his outfit with whites and blues.
Can you tell us about your journey that led to working at Maui Jim?
I come from the consumer package goods industry + worked in bottle water, spirits and skincare for many years. I lived in Germany for a while and the northeast for a long time. I started working for Maui Jim about two and a half years ago. It was a new industry for myself because it is luxury and optical eyewear. It was a new challenge and I wanted to do something different. The culture here is phenomenal.
How has the eyewear industry been different from your previous work experience?
With consumer package goods I was working with mass market and a different channel of trade. At Maui Jim, the Hawaiian lifestyle is apparent throughout. There is a laid back vibe, employees dress casual, our President wears flip flops and shorts every day with his feet up on the table. It permeates throughout the entire company so people love working in such a positive environment. Employees go above and beyond every day. They love the owner, company and product. The product is so easy to get behind because it is durable, excellent quality, helps you see the world in vivid color. Once you start wearing Maui Jim's, you just cannot go back.
What are your favorite travel destinations to wear your Maui Jim sunglasses?
Cancun, Mexico, São Paulo, Brazil, on the beach in Spain, California, Florida, New York. They are also great for driving. It eliminates glare and you can see everything clearer. I also wear Maui Jim's where I currently live near Chicago during the summer and winter.
Where would you like to travel with your shades?
I have never been to Australia. It would be awesome to go down there for three weeks. I would wear my sunglasses all day long. Their sun might be more harsh than Hawaii. Australia is an expanding market for Maui Jim. We are doing fun activations with the brand in boating, surfing and horse racing. I also would love to scuba dive.
Where would you like to travel with your family and bring your shades?
I want to take my kids to Maui. They have never been. I have had the ability to go quite a few times and a few of those times with my wife. But my boys have never been out there. I want to show them where Maui Jim started, Kaanapali Beach which is one of the nicest beaches in the world. I have some friends out there now, have developed strong relationships with Maui Jim employees who live there and know some of the locals. So it would be fun to take my kids out there. I would teach them how to paddle, canoeing, snorkeling and take it all in.
What are your favorite activities to utilize Maui Jim eyewear?
As a lifestyle brand, we have many different styles that work that go from leaving the boardroom to the beach to the golf course. I have a few different pairs that I like to do different things with. I am an outdoor activist and love playing golf. When I play golf I wear my rimless HT green lenses. It makes everything brighter and greens easier to see. When I am out in bright sunlight, I like to wear my Mixed Plates which have a grey lens. For really bright sunshine it is excellent, only allowing in 10% of light. It helps cut down the glare and harsh sun that is coming in to fully protect your eyes. They are also amazing for sporting events. I have been to a number of baseball, football and golf events where they have improved my vision at the game.
What have you seen change in the eyewear industry from a style perspective?
The materials have changed and improved. As technology get's better, Maui Jim continues to put money into what is the best technology out there. We seek the clearest lenses at the lightest weight possible with great impact resistance. Four of our lens materials are patented so nobody else can utilize our dynamic technology. Our latest two are called Maui Pure and Maui Brilliant. Brilliant just came out this year and and it is the clearest + lightest weight optical lens on the market. We are always looking to improve making colors pop and make the light come through clearer. We pride ourselves on eyes easily adjusting to light and frames feeling comfortable. From a fashion stand point, Maui Jim has been working on improving over the past decade. In the past, Maui Jim was known for the rimless, sporty style that became so popular in the 1990's. Our owner Walter hired a designer Richard Walker who made his mark from doing all the eyewear for the Matrix movies franchise. His futuristic thinking along with Walter worked well. They came up with new designs together to be more on trend and fun for our consumers to wear. Consumers always loved the lenses but sometimes wanted something more specific. Our frame materials have come a long way over the last five years to catch up to our state of the art lens technology. We are using materials like magnesium, which is a light weight metal in the temples and in the bridge of the sunglasses. The reason Maui Jim uses magnesium is because it stays cold all of the time. When you are at the beach, you can leave your sunglasses on the sand for 2 hours and the frame will stay cool.
What have you seen change in the eyewear industry from a retail perspective?
For retail it is all about trends. You have seen brands recently like Ray Ban get behind the front side flash mirror style in 5-10 colors to put on the front side mirror. It makes the eyewear fun. Right now we are seeing a lot of round shapes becoming popular. Double and triple bridge frames have become popular. Also contrast between frame and lens has allowed the actual sunglasses themselves to pop more.
What can we expect next from Maui Jim and Craig LaManna leading the way?
One of the big things for us coming up is we are moving into the optical world. Maui Jim now offers clear lens prescription glasses as of November 2016. We will be offering a nice assortment of frames with proprietary lens material that you can only get through Maui Jim. They are available currently in 60 shops across the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. On the sunglass side, Maui Brilliant will be offered for prescription lenses starting in the first quarter of 2017.