Corey Shapiro is the larger than life figure behind Vintage Frames.
Not a typical businessman in any sense of the word, Corey Shapiro makes his living travelling the world, selling rare and collectible eyewear. You might recognize Corey by his signature MCM luggage kit, or oversized glasses perched underneath the hat brim that more-often-than-not has a Montblanc pen clipped on purposefully. You also may have caught Shapiro on a recent episode of GQ’s Most Expensivest Shit showing a pair of diamond-encrusted, $50,000 shades to 2 Chainz. When he’s not jet-setting, Shapiro stays busy by cooking up collaborative eyewear with the likes of Fabolous and Metro Boomin.
Corey’s personal brand and his approach to business have cemented him as somewhat of an institution in hip-hop and in the music industry in general, and he’s famously outfitted a spread of celebrity names including YesJulz, Lady Gaga, Amber Rose, Rick Ross. We hit Corey up with some questions to get to know his business and lifestyle a bit better.
Please tell us what you do in your own words.
I’m the owner of Vintage Frames Company. Vintage Frames Company is the world’s largest purveyors of designer vintage sunglasses and eyewear. The company resides in St-Henri Montreal, right down the street from our barbershop; Notorious. I am the owner, operator, janitor, and purveyor of fine goods all at the same time. I’m rather well known for my renegade, in-your-face business antics, mixed by out-of-the box entrepreneurial experiments.
How important is word of mouth for your brand?
Our whole company was started on word of mouth. Oddly enough, I was adamant about not having a website for Vintage Frames Company until about five years into it. The exclusive nature of the product travelled by reputation like wildfire through the industry. Anyone can “exist” online and manifest their existence, but true word of mouth is priceless.
You have a fairly unique business, you travel and sell rare goods to celebrities and musicians. What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The best part of the job is travel, while the worst part of the job is travel. I get to meet the most unique individuals in the most unique places around the world, and thats awesome! Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as picking up and going. Travelling with valuable assets on commercial airlines is a fine art. Using ATA Carnets for declaration of goods to cross borders is something that most can’t compute. I am blessed every time I have to travel, but plagued at the same time.
What are your most important travel tips?
My travel essentials are pretty bananas. There is something to be said about making statements in airports. Knowing people at every inch of your local airport will always insure an easier passage through. I have a complete set of everything which is just for travel. My passport holder has a separate checklist of things that I cannot forget. An abundance of chargers is always key, as well as having devices to charge them, should you need.
Who are your most important clients?
I’m sure you want me to say a specific celebrity, but the reality is all my clients are treated like celebrities. I don’t care if you’re spending $150 or $1500 with us, every single person who interacts with any of my companies is as important as the next.
For those of us who aren’t celebrities, do you also sell frames that are more affordable?
Our frames start at about $149.99 in store and online. The misconception is that all our vintage sunglasses are in the thousands. The reality is, our prices are comparable to most optical shops around the world. With over 250k vintage frames in stock, i’m fairly certain we can fit anyone’s budget.
What were the best and worst business decisions in getting where you are now?
The best decision is always trying something even if it means failing. Unlike most, when I fail, I have succeed at trying! As a business grows, it’s very important to watch who you let into your circle. There are many occasions when people have come to work for me and tried to emulate the business on their own. It’s not even detrimental to my business, it’s embarrassing to watch people try to make vintage frames a sort of costume that they think they can just put on and succeed. Always watch what type of clowns try to be part of your circus.
Can you talk us through some of the other things you collect – art, books etc.
Fuck, what do i not collect? I collect vintage Cadillacs, boomboxes, vintage sunglasses, and watches mainly. I have so many cars around the city that I often forget where they are. My office looks like a giant playground of my childhood fantasies that we have collected in one space. I tried to cut down on some of the collections that I have, but my five-year-old just informed me that he “wants to be a collector too.” Fuck my life lol.
- Photography: Paul Labonte/Highsnobiety.com