MONTREAL GAZETTE FEATURES: COREY SHAPIRO AND THE VINTAGE FRAMES COMPANY IN MONTREAL
It was a shock this morning to see our company not only in one article, but two different articles in today's Montreal Gazette. We have been featured in many mags, and newspapers from around Canada, but never our home town Montreal Gazette. A picture of Corey Shapiro our owner and hombre was plastered across the front page of The Gazette, as well as the front page of the Arts And Life section. With quotes from Perez Hilton included in the article, the city has been standing up and applauding The Vintage Frames Company and their work. We took the liberty to take actual pictures of The Gazette so you could share in the excitement. The whole article is also able to be read after the jump...
COVER OF THE MONTREAL GAZETTE
COVER OF THE ARTS AND LIFE SECTION
PAGE TWO OF THE ARTS AND LIFE SECTION
Corey Shapiro's vintage frames can fetch up to $25,000. He says his eyewear is loved by celebrities such as Rihanna, Katy Perry and Jay-Z.
Photograph by: Phil Carpenter, The Gazette
MONTREAL - Corey Shapiro is a purveyor of cool.
In a nondescript office building in Côte St. Luc – a place not exactly known for its cool factor – Shapiro sits behind his ginormous Mac computer screen (cool) and talks about an industry he has virtually created (cool), all the while dropping names of celebrities like Katy Perry and Jay-Z, who he says really love his product (very cool).
The industry he has created is for vintage eyeglass frames, and Shapiro, at 28, is establishing himself as the go-to guy for everyone from stylists to frame companies to the celebrities themselves.
His Vintage Frames Co. courts such an exclusive clientele that his business card doesn’t say what he does, and if someone doesn’t know, he takes back the card. They’re just not cool enough.
He is so good at what he does that he kind of makes you wish you needed glasses – which is why vintage sunglasses are such a big part of his business.
No, vintage does not mean used in this case. Shapiro scours the world for unworn, dead stock from the 1950s to the 1980s that is pristine. While it may be hard to believe there is ample back stock to obtain, Shapiro says the frames hail from an era before discount stores would buy up manufacturers’ overstock. So he has found that there are perfectly good frames just sitting there.
They are not easy to find, however, and Shapiro won’t reveal how he does it. Still, he’s managed to create a collection of about 150,000 frames.
But the challenge in sourcing these kinds of vintage frames is what makes the prices high, he says. His frames start at about $500 and go up to $25,000 for a pair of 24-carat gold and genuine buffalo horn Dunhill frames. Hey, cool doesn’t come cheap.
Shapiro has always known he wanted to make his mark in the fashion industry. He started collecting vintage sneakers when he was 13 and eventually opened a vintage sneaker store on St. Laurent Blvd. But perhaps Montreal wasn’t ready for vintage yet. People would wander into his store and say: “I don’t know if you know this, but you’re selling old sneakers.” Eventually, the store closed.
With his shaved head, bushy beard and major gold bling (vintage Chanel, natch), Shapiro clearly has a look that resonates with the people he’s courting. And these days, he’s keeping some pretty splashy company.
By his account, he’s been selling to people like Rihanna, rapper Rick Ross, DJ Khaled, Pharrell Williams and actress Taryn Manning, just to name a few. Not long ago, he said, he was in Florida with Diddy (a.k.a. Puff Daddy). He’s met Beyoncé. Gossip guru Perez Hilton has become a devoted fan of Vintage Frames, and Shapiro describes him as a good friend. This is one of Hilton’s recent tweets: “Dear Corey, you are amazing, my hero, sunglasses to die for, merci, Perez Hilton.”
Hilton said in an email that Shapiro “is not only a great guy, but also a very smart businessman! He’s created a niche for himself in the world of vintage frames. He is THE go-to guy in that market! Celebs love him! I love him!”
When the Black Eyed Peas came to town recently, Shapiro said he called will.i.am and invited him to come by. “He’s a vintage glasses connoisseur; it would be ridiculous for him not to come,” he said. However, will.i.am wanted Shapiro to meet him the next day in Ottawa, but he couldn’t because, Shapiro said, he was flying out to meet Jay-Z. (Apparently Jay-Z trumps will.i.am, just so you know.)
Having such an elite clientele has its downside. Shapiro is compelled to be open 24/7 and has been known to get calls at 3 a.m. from unhinged celebrities who – gasp! – have broken or lost their frames.
He’s not open to the public, but Shapiro has just begun selling some products online (www.vintageframescompany.com). And he has partnerships with stores in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco that sell some of his stuff. In Montreal, he works with only two high-end fashion stores: Alain Assedo and Three Monkeys.
This all started thanks to Shapiro’s funky grandfather, Lionel Portigal. Portigal loved his Cazal 951 glasses, which Shapiro calls “the most iconic frames ever made.” Made in the ’70s, they were large, had side windows and could be adapted for boating or racquetball. The model was worn by Sammy Davis Jr., MC Hammer and Stevie Wonder.
About six years ago, Shapiro decided to turn the frames into sunglasses for himself. “People just went nuts over those frames,” he said. “They really made a statement.”
That was the beginning of his new career. He began researching and sourcing the industry, felt there was a void he could fill and parlayed the cool factor he had already been honing with his sneakers into a new industry. Things moved quickly for him because he was already connected with the hip-hop scene, and that was the right crowd to get things moving. The rest, as they say, is history. He has been so successful reviving the Cazal brand that the company recently gave him his own model.
Shapiro believes it was the product itself – being unique, exclusive and expensive – that opened doors to the Hollywood A-list crowd, as opposed to one particular celebrity establishing his credibility.
“Celebrities have a guy who makes their cakes, a guy who makes their jewellery; we just became the glasses guy,” Shapiro said.
As he got into the business, Shapiro discovered that there’s really no recorded history of the eyewear industry. By collecting catalogues of frames from the past several decades, Shapiro has created a timeline. Eventually, he wants to publish a book on the history of fashion eyewear.
His next goal is to create his own line of eyewear.
What makes his vintage frames stand out, he said, is the quality of the products back then – the type of metals used and the acetate. Even high-end frames now aren’t made like they were 20 or 30 years ago.
Meanwhile, he’s still stealing frames from his grandfather whenever he can. “He’s so cool,” Shapiro said with a wistful sigh.
He should know.