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Shady Business

Here is an article featured in the December 2008 issue of Riviera Magazine about RAEN Optics and it’s creators from Libre Design:


Shady Business
Modernist sunglasses! Rock band collabos! Meet the young guns of Encinitas’ Libre Design
| By James Reed | Photography by Peden + Munk |


RAEN MAKERS Top: Shots from the ad campaign for S.D.’s new RAEN Optics. Below, from left: Jordan Percy, Justin Heit, Micah Dunham and Jeremy Heit of Libre Design at the famed Encinitas boat houses.


The latest cool-kid designers out of North County aren’t looking to the waves—yawn—for inspiration. Nope, when the outrageously hip guys’ guys at Encinitas’ Libre Design set out to create their new sunglasses collection, they went straight to Frank Lloyd Wright and Mid-century Modernism for aesthetic mojo. After all, as surf-fueled fashion continues to evolve (see the grown-up incarnations of DC and Sanuk), sunglasses are becoming the accessory of instant social status in SoCal. Why else would Tom Ford choose shades as one of his first post-Gucci projects? And instead of boxy, ubiquitous bro shades, Libre’s just-launched RAEN Optics line amps up classic silhouettes that wouldn’t be out of place on Bob Dylan’s scruffy mug. That means handmade vintage shapes, ingenious “side windows” and tortoiseshell styles. No wonder they’ve already got orders in from Japan and Australia.


“We love style characterized by simplicity, democratic design and natural shapes,” says Justin Heit, Libre’s founder and creative director. “We’ve designed the shit out of everything, from the glasses themselves to the packaging.”


Heit, 34, should know what works for the action sports intelligentsia; he’s the former creative director of Surfing magazine, which enlisted Libre for its redesign, right down to the logo and the paint on the office walls. The other brains behind the brand? Former competitive cyclist Jordan Percy; Micah Dunham, a Washington state native; and Justin’s brother, Jeremy, a former pro-surfer. Oh, and a recent 20-something hire known only as “Flash.”


And if sunglasses cred doesn’t arrive till it meets the flash of a paparazzo, then RAEN has got clout to spare. For its Polaroid-inspired “Through the Eyes Of” ad campaign, the members of indie rock band Modest Mouse joined the fray. In the swell category, they’ve got a book collabo underway with pro surfer Rob Machado and legendary surf filmmaker Taylor Steele, and they count Xcel Wetsuits as a client. A full-service design agency, they are also renowned for their collabos with clients like Iceland’s moody rockers Sigur Rós.


But you would never know it strolling through their Encinitas office just above the ocean at D Street. Replete with beach cruisers, boards and everything save the Big Wednesday poster, it might as well be a flop pad. But that’s precisely the point.


“Encinitas will always have a humble, underground mentality,” says Dunham. “Designers, musicians and athletes are making a splash worldwide out of this small community.”


RAEN Optics are available at Fowler’s, 731 S. Hwy. 101, Solana Beach. 858.436.7016 and