You might not know the name Corey Shapiro, but you’re actually quite familiar with his work and his staggering archive of eyewear. You’ve seen his pieces on everyone from Lady Gaga to Pharrell and basically every other boldface name in the entertainment industry. Not simply a collector, stylist, and purveyor, Shapiro is also an historian. With a degree in fashion history from the venerable FIT, he approaches his field with a scholar’s love and passion for the material at hand. However, Shapiro is also a shrewd entrepreneur and his newly opened L’Archive is the latest gem in his quickly growing empire.
I was recently invited to slip behind the hidden door at L’Archive (can you spy which part of the staggering shelves above it could be?) and join him and his staff for an afternoon in his Wanka-esque office. With walls made of boom boxes and the sign from the original Versace store in Milan, Corey acted as professor and tour guide as he walked me through the stunning shop space and INSANE on-sight archive.
Tell us a bit about the vintage frames company and how it has evolved over the last 10 years
Vintage Frames Company was birthed from a combination of failures and dreams. Originally, Vintage Frames Company was based off of a frame that I took from my grandfather. At a young age, I swapped the lenses from one of my grandfather’s Cazal prescription frames and turned it into what I was known for. After a failed sneaker store, or a sneaker store that was too advanced for Montreal at the time, I turned my vintage digging skills to eyewear. There was a real lack of personality in the eyewear industry at the time. Technological advances were the focal point, and fun bold frames were a thing of the past. Instead of being excited by the eyewear shopping experience, people felt pressured and bored. The determination of the company was to make eyewear fun again again. Instead of fitting frames to someones face, we developed the concept of fitting frames to their personality.
What is your typical day like, it must be hard to juggle all your companies!
My days start off bright and early with my semi-insomniac son sticking his hands in my eyes to tell me “DAD it’s WAKE UP TIME”. After a quick stop at Starbucks, I usually get my lawyer on the phone to see where we are at with various trademarks and acquisitions. My first stop is always my barbershop Notorious. Every morning, bright and early, I am on my hands and knees making sure the shop is spotless for when my barbers come in. I then make my way down Notre Dame Street towards Vintage Frames where I peacefully get to bask in my 90’s hip-hop and sing lyrics of which I don’t always know. Once i’m done with my rap mornings I sit down, take a picture, and write my Instagram daily #MorningInspiration passage for @VintageFrames. My staff arrives at 9am where we commence the day with staff meetings and the occasional jokes at my assistant Julz’s expense. Thankfully we get our deliveries early in the morning so we can sort through and send out glasses to the various artists and music videos that we are working with at the time. Notorious Barbershop opens at 11am where I like to be anxiously waiting for my barber’s arrival. A quick pep talk there, with once again jokes at my assistant Julz’s expense, then I am off to oversea Juicyyy Lab our upcoming endeavour on the way. The middle of the day is filled with thousands of emails, texts, calls, screaming, laughing, and sometimes more jokes at my assistant Julz’s expense. Since most of my friends are entrepreneurs that specialize in different areas then myself, I pow wow with them throughout the day. We act as our soundboards and help talk through the daily hurdles. Unfortunately my day doesn’t start at 9, and I have yet to see it end at 5. I truthfully wouldn’t know what to do if I was provided those parameters.
How did you get inspired to open a barbershop and juice bar?
My brand Vintage Frames is based off one ideology; LIVE AND LOVE WHAT YOU DO! Unlike other companies who sit there thinking of different stunts, our whole life is a series of real stunts. Nothing we do is contrived, and our companies are very real. I always hated lazy people. I grew up with too many people who would sit around and say what should be done. Instead of listening to them, I believe in getting up and doing. My partner in Notorious Barbershop and Juicyyy Lab has the same philosophy. P-Thugg is one half of an electro funk duo. We have rather similar interests and live a certain life since we travel so much. It started off that whenever we were in different cities at the time we would always meet at a barbershop. When we would return to Montreal, we would find ourselves constantly asking where to go and get shaved. Notorious Barbershop is a result of that get off your ass and do type of attitude. Instead of continuing to wonder, we built. Juicyyy Lab was birthed from a similar idea. The international travels and cold pressed juice bar rendez-vous. Once again, instead of saying what was missing, we got off our asses and made it happen.
Where did you get the inspiration for the look of the Archive?
The idea was based partially on my profession, and a little bit on batman. My real profession is a fashion history major. I took the time to study fashion periods that weren’t as important to other people, and niches that seemed less relevant to most. The basketball court (a sport which I don’t play) was symbolic of you stepping onto our ground. When you enter Vintage Frames you are on my court! The archive was a nickname that was given to Vintage Frames Company amongst the industry. World wide we are known to have the most diverse eyewear archive. The book wall at such an overwhelming height, with such an overwhelming amount of volumes, was meant to symbolize our vast knowledge in the eyewear segment. When you put those two things together with the golden chandelier it made the refined look of the archive. Where Batman came in to play was with the notion of the hidden door. Every man wants to have a “bat cave”. I figured it was symbolic of my entering my fun house of an office where I can bring my insanities to life.
What brands do you carry and where are they from?
We are the anti Luxottica and Safilo. Our complete archive is comprised of over 3000 brands and about 250 thousand units. The collection is made up of our world wide travels, each frame has a story of the acquisition behind it. We carry all the designer brands that a current store would have except in their vintage form. For example, we cary Ray-Ban but when it was made in the quality manner by B&L, not the butcher form of Luxottica. The brands are so diverse that it is impossible for any type of person to not be able to find a frame that fits them. Our price points are so varied that we can fit any attitude, and any budget.
What is your gotta have it pair of sunglasses ?
I am a big fan of Ultra and Cazal. Ultra is one of the boldest of sunglasses brands. It is an actual sunglasses brand, not a licensed one from a fashion house. They have the guts to design based on their feelings, and bring their emotions into a product. Cazal is such a detailed brand of the 1980’s that it actually most relevant today. Their designs were way ahead of their time paving the way for modern day designers like myself. Mostly now however, I wear the Vintage Frames by Corey Shapiro Sunglasses line. It is my home brand that I have been working on for about five years now. It will be available in store at L’Archive.
You are known for your pen in your hat, any special reason for it?
I often visit places throughout my travels where people are known to cary weapons. In many places in the USA weapons are as common as wearing a pair of underwear. I figure if they get their weapons of choice, I should be able to cary mine. I believe that the pen is truly mightier than the sword. There is nothing that knowledge cannot overcome even in the most hostile of situations. The pen on my hat has become my trademark and weapon of choice. It often throws people off where they are not sure what to make of a dude with a Mont Blanc pen on his baseball cap. What started off as a convenient place to not loose my pen very quickly turned into my most important trademark.
You travel a lot – where is your favourite destination and why?
It really depends. I fortunately and unfortunately travel for work. The cool thing about it is that I have a life in each city I go to. Every time I land, I feel like I am at home! My favourite destination oddly enough is a sushi place I fly to almost weekly in NYC called New York Sushi Ko. A 12 seats Imakasa that I call home. It is the one place I can let loose and know that the same energy I want to give will be given back to me in the form of the most intimate Japanese sushi. It is my spot where I can unwind and forget about the world around me.
Who are your style icons or what brands do you like to wear on the day to day?
My style icons are the old men that use to eat at Snowdon Deli when I was growing up, and Dapper Dan. The king of harlem, and the kings of Montreal industry. It is from them that i have pulled most of my inspiration for my fashion. My favourite sneaker brands are British Knights, Christian Louboutin, and Ewing. My denim brand of choice is Balmain. I would say that really what you would mostly find me in is matching head to toe Bape sweatsuits. I’m a big matching patterned sweatsuit fan no matter how obnoxious it may seem.
Your known for being incredibly fashionable, what is your #1 must have for any man?
I think a statement piece. I believe that every man should have something unique that people always should expect them to have on them despite the occasion or dress code. For me, you will always find me in a huge Vintage Frames or Notorious chain no matter what the attire. Suit, jeans, sweatsuit, or even shorts, always with the big ass chain. Obviously not everyone is meant to be trucking around a kilo of gold, but you get the point.
You have 48 hours in Montreal, how do you spend it?
With my son. Every chance I have i spend with my 3 year old Cash. He is my inspiration and the reason I get up in the morning. I try my hardest to be the best role model no matter how grey a situation may get. He grows so fast that i’m afraid to blink! All the rest of the things in life are bullshit when you have a kid. In his eyes I can do no wrong, he is my greatest cheerleader, and biggest fan.