Alain Mikli On Gaultier, Kanye, And His Dream Costco Collaboration

Alain
Ever wish you knew more about the man behind Kanye's shutter shades? Just this past Friday, we caught up with that very person, legendary eyewear designer Alain Mikli, who was stopping through town to introduce his two brand-new, ultra-whimsical collections. One is an insane collaboration with his longtime friend Jean-Paul Gaultier, and the other is a mega-adorbs line inspired by French comic book Prince De Sassoun, based on an Armenian folktale. (And if you pick up the book, you'll even find a cartoon cameo of Alain Mikli himself!) Known for crafting eyewear for big-deal personalities over the years, from Catherine Deneuve to the aforementioned Yeezy, Mikli chatted with R29 about his sports car obsession, disdain for Facebook, and a possible collab with...Costco! Read it all, below.
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Have you and Jean Paul Gaultier always been pals? How did this new collaboration come about?
"At the beginning of the '80s in Paris, I was doing fashion shows with almost everybody. We met when he asked me if I could do sunglasses for his show. Afterward, he asked me if I want to do a licensed business with him, but at that time it was too much for me. During the many years to come, we'd see each other, but we never worked together.
Two years ago, we decided to change that. He called me, we had a nice dinner, and we decided to put this [new line] together and then a year ago I started designing it. With this collection, we're bringing something completely unique. We want to be different. It's a mixture of our two philosophies. He's a funny guy to work with. When we're together, it doesn't feel like work. We play, we joke around. We tell each other stories."
Would you ever consider doing a collaboration with a fast-fashion label?
"Yes! With Target. With H&M. With Costco! Someday I'd love to do a high-end product with a special price. If I could do a special collection with Costco tomorrow…well, why not Costco?! I guess here Target is a little more chic than Costco. But for me, all of them are the same."
Do you have a Costco card?
"I don't have the card! Once I tried to go in, but they told me, 'No, you don't have the card!'"
You're also the person behind Kayne West's now-iconic shutter shades, from his "Stronger" video. Were you surprised by their crazy success?
"I find it very difficult to talk about how this happened. It's very difficult to talk about the inspiration. I don't really know how or why this came out. I don't really like to follow trends or what's happening in the street. I cannot explain it logically at all."
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What do you think of new eyewear companies like Warby Parker that are selling $99 frames?
"I think it's great. Online businesses are necessary. I don't want to say it's a unique way to shop, but personally, I love shopping online. I can do it at home, when I want to, at midnight, or at two in the morning. I hope next year we can come up with a concept of an online business. But the only way for me to go on the internet is to come up with something completely unique and different."
We know you're only in San Francisco a very short amount of time this trip, but what do you love about the city?
"I haven't been back here in five to seven years, but it's one of my favorite cities in the U.S. It's actually the best city ever. The feeling is completely different than any other city. It puts me in a rare mood. It's very funny. I hope we can open at least one or two more stores in San Francisco and I would like them to be in a different neighborhood, like in the Castro. I'd like to make a special collection that won't be available at other stores. I like the atmosphere and feeling in the Castro. The stores, the streets, the sunlight, the color of the houses. Here in Union Square, it's too much like a regular city. For me, it's not typical San Francisco."
San Francisco is also a huge tech hub. Are you a big gadget and social media guy?
"That is something I don't understand. I have a Blackberry, but I don't know how to use it. It's something that my company wants me to play with. We have a Facebook page, but it's not a personal page. I still don't understand how people can share very private things to the public. That is something strange for me. The best way to share with people I don't know is through my designs and my products."
Speaking of collections, is there anything you hoard?
"I collect cars. French cars, old cars, I have 80 cars all together and I have one big place where I park them. I use these cars every day. My first car was a classic Volkswagen, but I have a dream to buy this kind of car [points to his sports car pin]. When you drive these kinds of cars, you feel you've lived through something. People on the street look at you, they talk to you, they smile at you. For me, cars are more social than Facebook."
Alain Mikli is located at 73 Geary Street (between Grant Avenue and Kearny Street); 415-989-0373.
Photographed by Klassy Goldberg
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