Meet Your Maker: Justin Heit of Raen Optics
Born on simple grounds and inspired by their own experiences and adventures, Raen Optics specialise in authentic and innovative eyewear, offering nothing but timeless style in a forever changing industry. The label first breathed life in 2008, and has since established itself as a leader in the eyewear pack, with their focus on producing handmade and heartfelt eyewear remaining a key driving factor for the label’s success and reputation.
From the development of amazing and unique collections, to acquiring a team of incredible ambassadors, Raen continue to take on the world, incorporating their character into different subcultures all around the globe.
We caught up with the man behind the magic, CEO and Creative Director of Raen Optics, Justin Heit.
Justin, you started Raen in 2008. What’s your current role and what does it entail?
My current roles are polar opposites of each other. As a CEO and a Creative Director, half of my time is spent managing the logistical side of the brand and the other is insuring that the brand DNA is consistent through out product, marketing and sales. I prefer the creative side.
What first inspired you to start your own label?
We’ve always been fascinated with eyewear and saw an opportunity and a niche in the eyewear space. I had just left my job at Nixon as Art Director to set up our Design Agency, Libre Design. Eyewear at the time was lacking style and craftsmanship, so that’s how Raen was formed.
Where are you based?
We’re based in North County, San Diego. We launched in Encinitas and we recently moved to our hometown of Oceanside.
You’ve recently teamed up with Deus Ex Machina for a great collaboration and have also done so with Poler in the past. What’s the best thing about working on these projects?
It’s awesome to collaborate with like-minded people and brands that are doing great things. All of this came from collaborating with my friend Dustin Humphrey, one of the creative geniuses at Deus’ Temple of Enthusiasm in Bali, when we started collaborating on photography and athletes. It’s natural to do these collabs with great friends.
How do you pick the specific styles for each collection?
Before we design any product we work off a product matrix through segmentation that includes fit and gender. Then we go back into our brand DNA and continuously build on the family of frames within our existing collection.
Give us a rundown of what the Raen x Deus collaboration is bringing to the market?
We launched the collection with The Arlo. The new frame stems from our classics meets modern design and is truly an evolution of silhouettes we’ve done in the past.
You’ve got some great ambassadors for the company including Josh Kerr, Alex Knost and Danny Fuller just to name a few. What do you look for when on the search for people to represent Raen?
Our ambassadors are much more than surfers with stickers on their boards. A lot of what they do outside of the water whether its art, photography, music or business, all tie back into who Raen is and what we stand for as a brand. They are all the perfect fit.
Where do you and the design team find inspiration for new collections?
We’ve always looked to mid-century design, whether is architecture, furniture or other accessories; we appreciate hand built, custom products. Charles Eames said it best, “The best, for the most, for the least.”
Describe your workspace?
We are in a 12,00 sq. ft. building on Coast Hwy 101. It was built in the 50’s and was originally the North County Tribune’s headquarters where they designed, printed and distributed the newspapers. We’ve retro fitted it to be an open, collaborative workspace that houses Libre Design and Raen. It’s hot in the Summer and cold in the Winter. Some people may even say it’s a little bit haunted.
Walk us through a typical day at Raen HQ?
We get in around 8:30am and head down to our favorite coffee cart, Captain’s Grounds. Once we get back it’s a morning full of emails, approvals, our dog barking at the UPS man and your occasional designer cruising by on skateboard. Then its meetings, quick surf at lunch, back to emails and more dog barking at the Fed-Ex afternoon pick up. Even more approvals, emails, digital, photography, our daily “How to Take Over the World” meeting, then grab a pint of Saint Archer out of the conference room, say our farewells and home. Then we wake up and repeat.
Describe the Raen crew in three words…
Humble. Creative. Family.
Give us a brief history of Justin Heit.
Born in Long Beach, raised in Oceanside, travelled and was inspired to design and build brands. Graduated SDSU, Art Director at TWS, Art Director at Nixon, got married had three amazing kids, launched Libre in 2005, Raen in 2008 and have been busy ever since.
Tell us something about you that people may not know.
I’m afraid of heights and my last name is Heit.
What will we see you wearing from the latest Raen collection?
What do you get up to outside of the office?
I spend as much time as I can with my family in the water. My kids are just now starting to enjoy surfing and there’s no grater joy then being able to be in the water with my children and sharing that love for the ocean with them.
Talk to us about the process behind first putting pen to paper and designing a new style, to the end product being in your hand?
It goes back to our product matrix, segmentation then we get into style and colors. We pay close attention to details like fit, and the overall technicalities. Then it’s internal reviews, sampling, ambassador involvement and then it’s ready for the market place.
What’s next for Raen?
We are excited to launch our new RX collection for 2016 along with our ambassador, Alex Knost’s, three-piece collection.