words and interview by Dersu Rhodes
I hear a honk and startled I turn around. I see a black car and I pause tentatively as the tinted window starts to lower.
“Dersu!” Luiz looks back at me through the window. He’s a big smile of hurtling energy, contagious in his incredible stoke for life, “I got your shades brother!!!” he says laughing.
He tips his bag and empties the boxes onto the seat as I stick my head through the window. They are black cases, with ‘Valley’ printed on them.
“Bro. This is my sunglass company I’m rep’ing. Valley Eyewear. So sick. Grab a pair.”
Valley Eyewear feels weird and premium as fuck.
His staccato tone is quick and determined. He’s excited about sharing with his friends. I grab a pair and start to look at them, their thick frames, solid and heavy. They feel premium as fuck and the “V” de-bossed into the arm is impactful yet subtle. They are fucking weird.
“I can’t wear these man,” I say, looking into his side mirror. “I look like an alien or Lady Gaga.” I grab the next pair and try them on. “Dude I look like a chick.”
I finally settle on a black pair, slightly matte with a shiny black nosepiece. They have smooth surfaces with batman-costume ridges and silver mirrored lenses that leave people staring at their reflection when they talk to you. Septum written in a haunted house font is engraved in bright white on the inside of the arm. The V is silver, looks like bones, and is layered with a clear 1.5 mm finish. The hinges are solid and unwavering. I look at myself in the mirror.
“These are fucking weird.”
The Valley Eyewear creator himself, Michael Crawley.
I’m sitting across from Michael Crawley. The founder, owner, design director, marketing director, creative director, photographer, stylist, producer of Valley Eyewear. The husband, father and son of a loving, creative, beautiful family. A friend to designers, musicians, surfers, entrepreneurs, gypsies, models, actors, and even tattoo artist dark-haired beauties.
“I’ve never been happier than I am now with what I’m doing and it seems like we can do whatever we want. I have so much energy and I feel like everything is moving so fast. I sleep 4 hours a night, after my wife and kids go to bed, I’m up drawing, writing or thinking up the next project.” Michael says smiling. The corners of his eyes creased in a grin that hasn’t broke many times in the last years.
Why Valley Eyewear doesn’t want to be a surf brand.
“Why didn’t you want to design for the surf industry?” I ask him.
“Well we were featured in Monster Children MC continues. “We came to the US a year ago and did a trade show. We did Agenda and we thought, ‘shit, we’re not a surf label, what are we doing here?’ I want the brand to be more fashion forward and a little bit more eccentric than a surf label, the surf industry is too safe, nothing we do is ever going to be safe.”
“I’ve never been happier than I am now with what I’m doing and it seems like we can do whatever we want. I have so much energy and I feel like everything is moving so fast. I sleep 4 hours a night, after my wife and kids go to bed, I’m up drawing, writing or thinking up the next project.”
“These glasses are fully unisex, and it sometimes makes them hard to wear,” I state, recollecting on the length of time it took me to feel comfortable wearing my pair.
“A few of our silhouettes are more female driven, and yeah for some people they are tough, but that’s sort of what we want, not to be easy.”
“So how have you been able to maintain a brand with such a small team and raise a family at the same time?” I ask him suddenly changing gears.
“My whole thing has been to create, to shoot photos and my wife is the business head and keeps it together.”
“But what’s it like working so closely with your significant other?” I ask.
“Amazing. I said to her when we started that this is going to be amazing, or it’s going to suck. It’s been amazing, it’s brought us closer to together. We have two kids, 3 and a half and 6 months. We have an office down at the beach and the kids can play there and it’s set up as a satellite office so anyone can come and work, a sort of creative hub.”
“I like the dark, New York Rock look. People ask me if it’s Goth and it isn’t really that, it’s more dark and bold.”
I look down at my watch and it’s already been an hour. I look down through the window of “The Bear Room” a room that’s name was formed in Brooklyn after a magazine walled, thick-glassed fish tank of a room, home to a massive stuffed grizzly. The Venice beach Los Angeles version of the room is more of an elegant lodge-like eagles nest, looking out into the massive space that is VICE; twenty six editing suites, a theatre, an imported bar from Philadelphia that took 14 of us to lift the marble and thick wood onto the lower frame.
Michael adjusts himself sort of awkwardly on a couch that is two couch widths wide. He rubs his hands a bit nervously and looks at me.
Instagram star Kat Von Dee wearing Valley Eyewear.
“So tell me about Kat Von Dee,” I say smiling, “besides that she has 2.2 million followers on Instagram.” I laugh.
“Well she jumped on our website and bought five pairs. I contacted her and we’ve been in touch.” Earlier that day, MC and his crew had found themselves at Kat’s House spending time with her. “She’s so cool, so smart, and down to earth. She invited us to her house and everything, she’s got the best energy.”
The infamous Kat Von Dee wearing Valley Eyewear on her Instagram
“Do you have any other fans like that, people that sort of rep your brand?”
“Well there was a lady who bought 57 pairs of sunnies online. She went to a store in Hawaii that we sell in and bought 24 pairs straight up. She was online buying 5, 5, 10, 5. I finally contacted her and said ‘thank you so much, I appreciate the business do you mind me asking what are you doing with all of these sunnies?’ She replied and said, ‘Hey I’ve been wearing Prada since the 60’s and I love my eyewear and I want to have a collection in each house.’ She was so nice about it.”
I’m laughing out loud at this point. MC is so humble, kind and present and I can hear the respect and thankfulness he has for this lady. But seriously, I’m not kidding, if you’re out there and you read this, we’d love to photograph you for a campaign in one of your favorite homes wherever you are with your collection styled amazingly and photographed by MC himself.
“So what about the goat skulls?” I ask thinking of the way that MC displays his sunglasses, usually propped up on jawbone or skull of some sort.
“I get them all from a lady up in Western Australia, she collects them off of her property, bleaches them and sends them to me, my office looks like a cemetery!” He says laughing out loud. “I like the dark, New York Rock look. People ask me if it’s Goth and it isn’t really that, it’s more dark and bold but I love how our customer base has been so varied.”
“There are guys like Black Math who have been doing lots of stuff for us and Attak from the Netherlands, we all met on social media and now it feels like we are forming these armies of creatives and having so much fun. Although sometimes stuff we’ve done, people get the shits, like when we nailed that girl to the cross naked, I put it online and the hate mail I got was out of control. I said to people that it wasn’t an attack at any religion and Jesus wasn’t the only person nailed to a cross.”
Black Math yet another Australian force to be reckoned with.
“When we nailed that girl to the cross naked, I put it online and the hate mail I got was out of control. I said to people that it wasn’t an attack at any religion and Jesus wasn’t the only person nailed to a cross.”
“So what about the future of Valley Eyewear?” I ask.
“We’re trying to expand into Europe and the US, We’re working on a jewelry collection, and some furniture.”
I think to myself that I can’t wait to see what the jewelry line looks like and their first public release will at @enkshow in Las Vegas.
So far all of their marketing has been done through social media, and it’s obvious that it’s worked, now launching in a few very selective trade shows, it’s exciting to see what will happen due to the exposure in a new channel.
I stand in a house in Venice with part of the Valley family. We gather around a table full of great food and conversation. I bounce around the room as I’m introduced to someone talented and inspiring every new moment. Drag Mondays sit on the couch, denim sleeveless jackets and leather, long hair and metal gifted fingers. They have come along for the ride to play a few parties and rock out in Beverly Hills.
Richie from 7 Artist Management excitedly recounts the photo shoot they did in the LA river basin with no budget and heaps of passion. Chrissi Hernandez who lived in SF Art Directing at Sephora for three years on the digital marketing team and has just moved to Venice with her husband, even Kristi Mcknight who has grown up in the surf industry learning from one of the godfathers and legendary business men of the surf industry. They all have one thing in common, MC, a man who all compliments leave shy, and who’s work ethic and love for life has already spread into the wings of his children.
Valley Eyewear represents an era of straight-forward cutting-edge creativity.
As I look around the room I see the young creatives of this era. The era of free, powerful, exciting, cutting edge creativity. The era of forward fashion, in embracement of all races, sexual orientations, and religion. The era that welcomes darkness, the “weird” kids, art, love, festivals, and music. The era that is ruled by creatives hell bent on stripping away restrictive structure yearning to create together.
I get the best looks these days walking on Abbott Kinney to grab lunch, or outside of a restaurant. I even findd myself in Oceanside checking the surf one weekend and a 65 yeah old looking salty longboarder slinks slowly by me in his wetsuit holding his board under his arm. I watch a small high tide wave slowly roll in.
“Those are cool man. Real cool,” he says, startling me, his long hair dripping with beads of saltwater as he studies the mirrored lenses. It seems no matter how hard MC looks to the black heavens of high fashion it seems he won’t ever truly be able to leave behind surf culture.
Follow Valley Eyewear & more: