Daniel Beckerman started Retrosuperfuture in Milan, Italy in 2007. The brand kicked things off with three silhouettes, but has since then built up its catalogue to include 22 different styles. The eyewear label became a hip-hop mainstay, with its luxurious frames getting co-signs from heavy hitters like Big Sean, Kid Cudi, and Kanye West. No stranger to collaborations (Retrosuperfuture's done stuff with A.P.C. and Carhartt in the past), Beckerman and company have recently branched out to work with artists like Keiichi Tanaami.
The eyewear company founder dropped by the office, where we talked about the brand's beginnings. He also discussed the Tanaami collab, and who he dreams of working with in the future. He even talks about bootlegs of his recognizable silhouettes on Canal Street, and makes a case for why you shouldn't mess with cheap sunglasses in the first place.
How's it going?
Good. [Picks up an old issue of Complex with Katy Perry on the cover] You know, I have a funny story about Katy Perry. She wanted a pair of sunglasses, so I asked my music editor what I should do and he said, “No, don’t do that. But the same record label has Hot Chip," which was bigger at the time. So we went with them, and suddenly Katy Perry became huge with that album and "I Kissed A Girl."
So I remind him every time: I tell him, "Thank you, man, for giving me that great advice.” And he always says, "Yeah, but I didn’t know. That song wasn’t very good.” But he’s a very good guy, and he still discovers really good bands.
Have you sent her sunglasses since?
No. Actually, all our endorsers are people who buy them. Sometimes they contact us, but very rarely. David Beckham's agency contacted us and said he wanted to have this particular pair of sunglasses, but we didn’t have them online. So they asked if there was any way they could have them. And because I only had a few, I wanted to be sure that it was the real agency. I asked my PR to write them back and to ask for an agency e-mail, since they were using a Gmail account. So they wrote from the agency e-mail and I said, "Maybe it’s true," so we sent him the sunglasses.
After two weeks, a Romanian guy said he had pictures of David Beckham in our sunglasses. He was going to send them if we gave him a free pair of sunglasses. I thought it was a very weird, very funny situation. I asked my PR girl to find the photos on the Internet, and we did, so I never sent the photographer the sunglasses. I thought about it though, because it was funny.
Is there a specific celebrity who you were thrilled to see wearing your sunglasses?
Kanye West was obviously amazing. He really wore them a lot, everywhere. All the time I was looking at his pictures and he had black Flat Tops on.
Beyoncé is exciting, too, because she’s pretty cool. She’s Beyoncé. She’s everything. But honestly, every time it happens is exciting. Also—when I see people with my sunglasses on the street, I’m excited.
Have you ever gone up to somebody and asked about their eyewear?
Yeah. Recently, I was in Milan and saw this girl who had my sunglasses on, but I didn’t recognize the color. So I went up to her and asked to see her sunglasses. Come to find out, they were made by Zara.
I went to stores on Canal Street, and they have a wide selection of my silhouettes. And they’re particular ones, so you know it’s them. They're cheaply made, but I’m fairly happy because when I stop seeing bootlegs, it probably means that the brand is slowing down. And if somebody wants cheap sunglasses, they won’t buy mine. But eventually, they’ll want to buy the real deal.
And there's just a difference in the quality of the sunglasses?
Yeah, and you know what, it’s actually dangerous. I used to buy cheap sunglasses.
What separates the cheap stuff from the high-end shades you put out?
When I started to do sunglasses, I realized how dangerous the cheap ones are. When you put crappy lenses, it darkens the light, but it doesn’t protect you, so your pupil gets bigger. So it’s better not to wear it than to wear it.
How did the collaboration with Keiichi Tanaami come about?
Keiichi Tanaami is a very important Japanese artist. The design team likes him a lot and proposed the idea, and I liked it when I saw it. So we contacted him and did it. It was perfect for our collection because the theme was Japanese motorcycles. He was excited, so we did a capsule with him. Now we’re doing a custom motorcycle as well.
I imagine you're not selling these bikes?
Keiichi Tanaami will probably do a custom art on the gas tank, and that’ll be very cool. We bought a motorbike—the Dominator—and we broke it down and we’re putting it back together. I wish I could send it to the store and have an exhibition, but I don’t know if I have the time to do that. But we’ll release it online because it’ll be super cool. And then I will keep it.
Are there any other brands or celebrities you'd like to work with?
We would love to work with Beyoncé, obviously, who wouldn't? In terms of brands, you know what we would like to do? We would like to collaborate with Nike. If we manage to do a Nike one, I’d be very happy.