Michael Crawley, founder, VALLEY Eyewear
wake up every day excited about what the day will bring ...
Authentically bold, Valley Eyewear has enjoyed a stratospheric rise to fame over the last few years thanks in part to the swag of celebrities including Kanye, Chris Hemsworth, Rihanna and Gwen Stefani that have been spotted sporting his shades. The brand’s popularity isn’t at all surprising once you get a gander at the latest collection but what is perhaps more surprising is the man behind the lenses. Michael Crawley is a Gold Coast lad who started designing sunglasses with his wife Tenielle as an excuse not to take a marketing job, it has grown into something beyond either of their wildest imaginations and is now firmly entrenched in boutique and mainstream stores around Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand and USA. For a man who has the world at his feet, he is ridiculously down to earth. He had a chat with The Weekend Edition Gold Coast as he was setting off on another adventure abroad.
Where do you find inspiration?
I seem to find inspiration from travel. I have always travelled, since I was about 16 years old and I am on the road a lot during the year with photo shoots and trade shows. I think that’s been a huge contributing factor to the success of VALLEY is that I have experienced a lot and seen a lot of different cultures and lifestyles. I have gotten influence and inspiration from a lot of my favourite cities and cultures that I have come across along the way but I always seem to reflect back to places like New York. I’ve spent a lot of time in the lower east side around the rock bars and Delancey/Bowery areas and I guess that has been a huge inspiration for the direction of the brand.
How did it all begin for VALLEY?
I actually started designing a sunglass range in my kitchen after leaving a past employer. I had gotten a redundancy pay out and I wasn’t really sure what the next steps were for my career and people kept asking me what I was going to do next and when a guy called me I told him I was going to start an eyewear label. After that conversation I had convinced myself that I was going to do just that. I had designed a small line of eyewear previously and had learnt the basics in France of how to pull together sketches from paper to production so I just started trying to find a factory to make these crazy sketches from my kitchen bench into reality. After that I paired up with Italian optics specialists Carl Zeiss and then there was no return, the wheels were in motion and VALLEY was born.
Can you describe what it feels like to see someone like Kanye wearing shades that you made?
It’s crazy, I remember when I first saw images of Gwen Stefani rocking our frames online after being shot by paparazzi I was freaked out. It’s always insane to see people you admire or celebrities wearing something you’ve made, it’s pretty awesome! I guess it’s all come from friends of friends who know these guys and also happen to be close friends of ours. I think that once people see our frames are hand crafted not made from plastic injection moulds and they’re bold and sometimes adventurous, people have a respect for the product.
You managed to get Kat Von D to play piano in her Hollywood Hills mansion, in front of Slayer’s production team, can you tell us how on earth that came about?
Kat is actually a really good friend of mine, we met initially over social media but then started emailing each other and chatting. I’ve been and hung with her in her office, tattoo shop and house when I have been in LA. We always talked over dinner that we should work together on a project and on my last trip I flew in to LA and we set up this rad shoot in her mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Her house is one of the most intriguing houses you’ve ever seen with taxidermy, melted candle wax all over the floor and the most amazing artwork everywhere. Anyway after we were shooting for a while Kat just started playing the piano and I just started shooting motion of her playing. When I got back to Australia I emailed her a rough cut of the clip and she kind of stumbled on a tiny bit of a song and being the perfectionist she is, she called me straight away and said she loved it but felt her playing had let the clip down. So she called up Kerry King from Slayer who just happen to be down the street with the band recording their new album. Kat borrowed their production team to reshoot her scene for the VALLEY campaign and within hours it was done. I couldn’t believe it. And she did it all as a friend because she loves the brand and what we do. She truly is one of the nicest most genuine people I know.
What do you consider to be your career highlight so far?
I guess the career highlight so far would be seeing how well VALLEY has grown as a whole, people have really embraced the eyewear and also our collection. We have gotten this little cult following with the brand and we have recently had a lot of offers for collaborations and partnerships from the most amazing artists, brands and people from all over the world so that’s pretty amazing. The brand being recognised for doing something unique.
What’s the best part about your job?
The best part about my job is that I don’t really have any set rules, in saying that I work all day all night on VALLEY but I love it and I’m doing what I am passionate about so it doesn’t feel like I’m working. I have the freedom to do anything at the drop of a hat, like I can pack up all my gear and jump on a plane and go and shoot the next phase of our Prism campaign in the desert in LA tomorrow if I feel like that’s what we should do. Also the fact with VALLEY, I can bring in anyone that I like or that I think could be a positive contributor to what we do. I have partnered with a great bunch of artists from around the world to form this little network. I have a team in the Netherlands called ATTAK and an artist in Melbourne who goes under the name THE BLACK MATH and an LA based artist Jesse Draxler who all contribute to our campaigns. That’s another great part of the freedom of VALLEY is that there are no rules, anything is an option. I send these guys images I’ve shot and they totally mess with them and put their creative spin on the images and it brings back this raw and crazy element to VALLEY which is totally insane.
Can you tell us about your next adventure?
Well I’ve just returned from a trade show in Germany, Italy and we threw in a photo shoot in in Austria and Munich. I’m taking off to Hong Kong on Sunday to work on some new designs and source some new materials for a collaboration frame I’m hoping to release later this year and also finish off the final touches on our new Optical collection due for release in June/July this year.
If you could design a pair of glasses for someone living or otherwise, who would it be?
It would be a hard choice between Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kurt Cobain, either one of those guys would be amazing. Maybe I could just design a frame for the entire 27-club which includes those two as well as all the greats that unfortunately joined that list including Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and River Phoenix. All of those amazing and talented artists that all died at 27.
Can you tell us about the very first pair you made?
I recently picked up the first prototypes I made and I was like “these are horrible!”, just like anything you do I think you always want to improve on your last thing or creation and continually make it better each time.
So you still have them?
I sure do. They’re still in the glove box of my car for some weird reason.
What is your personal definition of success?
Just being able to be creative and come and go as I like, success to me is also about lifestyle. I wake up every day excited about what the day will bring, I can’t ask for much more than that. Our office is right on Currumbin beach and I look at the ocean and can surf out the front any time during the day, I absolutely love it.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Go with your gut feelings and don’t over think it. Every time I do I always seem to resort back to what I initially wanted to do or decided on.
Do you have a favourite in the Valley collection?
The DB is a favourite for me and seems to be our staple frame for most people as a must-have. It’s an oversized semi-wayfarer type silhouette but made for the larger head or even to be worn as an oversized thicker chunky frame on someone with a smaller face. Girls and guys alike have really embraced this and I think this will always be in our collection.
What’s next for VALLEY?
We have a lot on the go right now, we are also about to launch a jewellery collection with designer Lee Brennan which is all hand-forged sterling silver and gold rings which will be available next month online and in selected stores across the world. So that’s really exciting. We’ve also got our first optical range coming out and I am working on some collaborative frames and our twenty sixteen collection. It’s a big twenty fifteen ahead for the VALLEY team!
When you finally do get a minute off the tools, how do you unwind?
As I mentioned our office is right on Currumbin beach so I am always down there with the family surfing or walking down to Currumbin Creek for a swim. We have the best lifestyle and that little zone is so perfect for us with the points down here. Amazing beaches, great coffee shops and restaurants, there’s no better place to work or unwind.
Only a Gold Coast local would know … if you follow Currumbin Creek Road from the alley and just drive inland all the way to the end of the road you will be met with one of the most amazing rainforests and swimming holes on the east coast of Australia. It’s the ultimate reset for anyone needing to relax and unwind and get in some crystal clear fresh water and rainforest air into your lungs.
FAVOURITE WEEKEND SPOT TO:
Perk up … The Salt Mill on Currumbin beach, they have the best coffee and Acai bowls on the coast.
Relax … Currumbin Rock Pools or down on the beach.
Dine… Elephant Rock Cafe, The Fish House at Burleigh Heads or Itoshin Japanese Restaurant in Mermaid Beach.
Indulge … Cavalier Bar and Supper in Burleigh has great cocktails.
Be inspired … I love going to GOMA in Brisbane, I always leave inspired.