The Menswear Style Podcast

Gareth Llewelyn, CEO at Renauld

December 09, 2021 Menswear Style Episode 153
The Menswear Style Podcast
Gareth Llewelyn, CEO at Renauld
Show Notes Transcript

The Renauld brand has a rich history rooted in the second half of the 20th Century. In the early 60s, Charles Rolley, owner of the highly successful Sea & Ski suntan company, was looking to expand his product line into complimentary merchandise such as sunglasses and bathing suits. After fruitful negotiations with the Botany menswear brand, Renauld’s first branded collection was launched in spring 1961. What followed over the next two decades was a series of wonderful and innovative designs that resonated with the culture and spirit of the time. Over 100 patented new ideas and over 350 original styles were generated and manufactured, many the result of creative collaborations with international fashion houses and designers. Today Renauld and Classic Team Lotus have partnered with the Jim Clark Trust to produce a limited-edition sunglasses design – to be known as the Jim Clark Sixty-One. Throughout the Sixties, Jim was an enthusiastic fan of Renauld and recently several new images have surfaced of him wearing the brand at various Grand Prix.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Gareth Llewelyn, CEO at Renauld about how he turned his sunglasses collecting hobby into a career. He purchased the rights to the Renauld brand and restarted the company with the aim to target the luxury end of the sunglasses market. Our host Peter Brooker and Gareth talk about manufacturing challenges, trademarks and patents, how to use celebrity heritage in marketing, the new 2022 Elvis film, a possible Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition, and the story behind the new Jim Clark Sixty-One sunglasses. 

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Hello, welcome to another episode of the menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker. Today I'm talking to the CEO and re founder of Reynolds sunglasses. Gary Fluellen Reynold can be found over Renold Koto, UK and let me spell that for your en a uld. A little bit about the legacy before we bring Garrison, the Reynold brand has a rich history rooted in the second half of the 20th century. In the early 60s, Charles Raleigh, owner of the highly successful see and ski suntan company was looking to expand his product line into complementary merchandise such as sunglasses and bathing suits. After fruitful negotiations with the botany menswear brand, Reynolds first branded collection was launched in the spring of 1961. And so there's so much to get into, and these sunglasses were worn by Elvis Presley back in the day they featured in The Italian Job. Later, you might have seen the likes of Johnny Depp wear them and the Rum Diary, and we're gonna get into this now, I can't wait to bring this to you. This is Gary Fluellen, talking about Reynolds sunglasses, in his own words, my background is technology. And I had a hobby, a very bizarre hobby of collecting sunglasses, specifically, the sunglasses from the sun, the Italian Job, I was looking for them for about 10 years. And in doing that, I collected a vast amount of sunglasses from a particular brand called Reynolds, and Reynolds. disappeared, they were they were very, very big rental brand in the 60s from 1961 to 1981. And then just disappeared in a lot of their bits and pieces was sold to foster grants, who some of you might know. And so when I was collecting all these sunglasses, I eventually found The Italian Job ones and decided to remake them. And in doing that, I thought, right, well, I'll just buy the the residual trademark and brand for Renault. And so I ended up buying the entire rights to run all globally and restarting the company. Very odd, odd way of doing something like this. And since then we've had just stratospheric success, but we did take a big Liberty Reynold was a very low brow brand back in, in the 60s, it was you know, you could buy a pair of Reynolds for 15 bucks or 22 bucks for the for the Mustangs, which today is about $100. But we decided we wanted to make the Rolex of sunglasses with Renault, and we wanted to go to the top level. And so yeah, we we relaunched them. But obviously this time, they were at a completely different level of quality made by artisans handmade in in Italy, and often plated in in 24 karat gold plate or palladium. So that sort of brings us up to date, really. And making of the sunglasses was not as easy as perhaps you might have just made it sound. And I know that you took it, you took the designs and some of the originals around to some factories in the UK, and no one can do it. So maybe just exploring that a little bit. Yeah, I mean, first of all, the Italian Job, sunglasses are very, very odd in as much as they bend on three axes. And so you need a five axis milling machine, which some of you might know, to actually make them very, very difficult to make and make them well and make them sit correctly. So it we went to three companies in the UK, some very big companies as well. But of course, they weren't used to doing sunglasses. And we ended up with going to Italy, I'd spoken to a couple of people in Italy, and they just shook their heads in total despair. And so we don't make this stuff anymore. It's too difficult. And I was sort of thinking that we couldn't do it actually, I actually, after about nine months of trying, I thought we weren't able to do and in the end, we ended up finding a company who was so handmade that each one of them was was pretty much put together by hand. And that was so we made 150 of them, which took forever I mean through COVID It took about seven months to make these 150 and then we were all sold like within about Honestly, I never seen something sells too fast in my life, right? It was probably sold. They were all taken for at least Inside three weeks, and so I had to make another 33 to fulfil the orders that we taken that we couldn't fulfil. We're just at the end of that run now. And we've used the same people right the way through. So all of the range of Renold now are made by that factory. And they've suddenly had a huge uplift from us, actually. Because through COVID, they were not they were it was very difficult for them. And so we kept going, actually interesting. And I remember you telling me about how owning a brand is actually different to owning a name. So when you went around, and you you got the trademarks from different countries and the patents. I mean, it was a long process for you, but actually owning a name to a brand is completely different than owning the brand itself. Can you just touch upon that a little? Yeah, well, I think it's something that I learned very, very early on. I mean, I've been in patents and trademarking previously. So I knew quite a lot about it. But I didn't know that when you buy a trademark, you don't own a brand, you own the name. And the brand is something so esoteric that it's grown over a very long period of time, like Hermes, or Rolex or, or any of those people own that name, but the brand underneath it, and what it stands for, takes years and years and years of building upon layer upon layer upon layer. And so what we had was a very interesting dilemma. We had a huge amount of heritage, we've got Elvis wearing them, and really liking them. We've got Jackie Onassis actual film of Jackie annacis. Now, which has resurfaced very recently, of her wearing them in 1962. has had, you know, so many views on Instagram, it's crazy. We've had we because we've got so many people from the 60s who used them, we were able to use that in our branding and bring the branding up. And the most recent one that we you know, we're chatting about today with Jim Clark came about, which was just just quite extraordinary, really how that came about. But that thing people keep coming out of the woodwork. Honestly, this is three years we're in our third year in and people still arrived. Like yesterday, I was given a an advert somebody bought a pair of glasses. I'm going to tell this story, because I think it's really interesting how this works. This guy, he runs a BMW Performance Garage in Massachusetts. And he contacted me and said, Are you still making the bikinis? Alright, and I said, Yeah, we are making the bikini that's a model on the website. Yeah. And he said to me that, oh, we were looking through car and racing or whatever it's called. I can't remember exactly what car and motoring or something from 1963. And there was an advert in there with a lady wearing a pair of bikinis and a bloke in a car, and I said, Oh, yeah. And she's, and he said, Well, my wife really likes them. Can Can we buy them? And so yeah, of course, so he came on the website, he bought them and then he sent me an email and he said, I can't believe an advert from 1958 Or sorry, from 58 years ago, has still resulted in a sale today. And I, I also, I mean, I gave it to my team, I sent this ad but which we've never seen, we have never seen this advert around and it's a great picture of a lady in a sports car with the bikinis on you know, I just thought it was extraordinary that I think for for the next 10 years, we're still going to see pictures of people wearing them that we never knew more than you know, I mean you before you launched the brand new are a bit of a fanatic about Reynold sunglasses anyway you owned up to about 180 pounds I want to say something like that. So you already had a huge archive of research before the brand was launched. So it must be an incredible bonus and equally as exciting for you when you do see a new photo not just because it kind of equates to sales but because of your passion. Yeah, I mean, the weird thing about this The weird thing about this and it is it is unfortunate I'm sorry to say that we haven't got this on on a on a on a on a video because I could actually show you this but he sent me that car and driver that's what that's what it goes Car and Driver magazine. Front on it is Jim Clark in a lotus. All right. I mean, you couldn't make that up. Could you there's Jim Clark in a lotus type 25, which is obviously what we're what we're doing doing at the moment. And then there's this black and white adverts in actually in a Porsche and a Porsche. Very early nine, one was not a 911. It's a 3569. Convertible. And, yeah, just just an extraordinary thing. I never cease, I thought I'd seen everything. I thought I'd seen everything. And as I said, Things keeps coming up. And the worst thing is, people keep coming, keep emailing me, and saying, those guys from California emailed me and said, Ah, this was quite early in the morning, he was watching Sweet Charity, which was a film from 69. And he said, I think your sunglasses are in this. And, and I thought Ponce was, you know, eight hours difference and, and so I got the film and I watched it. And sure enough, at the beginning of the film, the villains got our sunglasses on. You know, it's just weird, just completely weird. I know, when we last spoke, we had remet on saying that the glasses are in the Rum Diary as well with your 6160 ones, are they in there? So they, you know, I think it's hopefully it's just going to be, you know, a deep pocket of tricks and treasures that can be on Earth and uncovered for you when they when they come out. You mentioned there that you had like something to show, we'll try and put everything we can on the show notes over at menswear style, which will accompany the podcast so people can go over there and take a look at these. And you also mentioned Tim Clark. So let's talk about the new collaboration that you have going with Jim Clark, these are a new version of the 60 ones. Can you talk about the new launch? Yes, very, very interesting. Projects. Again, you know, my, you know, my experience with this brand has been to talk to a lot of my heroes. I, you know, I really revered Susan George in from, you know, around the late 60s, early 70s. She had a very big career, and we did a photoshoot with her. And I got to meet her and you know, got to know her as well. And, you know, it's it's an incredible journey for me because I'm able to meet the people who actually formed a lot of my youth to the truth. And what happened was, we had found some pictures of Sir John Whitmore wearing our sunglasses in the 60s, and we put them on. I think we put them in octane. And I was contacted by Peter Dali. Now Peter Dahl is a is a very famous photographer from the 60s. He's into his 80s. Now, and I'm sure he won't mind me saying that. But he was the official Lotus photographer in the 60s. So he took pictures of Colin Chapman and all of the lotuses in the pit lane throughout the 60s. And so his archive is just second to none. And he's he said to me straightaway, I think there's, you know, pictures of Jim Clark around with the sunglasses that he didn't have any. And fortuitously at the same time, I was contacted by a person writing a book on Jim Clark, who said, again, with this classic picture they sent on email. Are these Reynolds sunglasses that Jim's wearing? You see? And oh, I said, Yes, they are. And we examined it very closely. And then within about a week, we had another five pictures of Jim Clark wearing sunglasses in the car, actually in the car. So I mean, this was like, fantastic forensic work. And so Peter said, Well, I know Clyde Chapman, who's calling Chapman son. And you want me to introduce me to hand them to you, so that we could possibly look at remaking them. And the original 60 ones that we've got on the website are 41 millimetres deep. And they were the original ones. They're the they're the Elvis ones that are nasty ones, right. And so what we wanted to do was, when we looked at the ones that Jim was wearing, there was a slightly different model, and they made all sorts of different models. They made 50 million of them in the 60s, so there was a lot of different depths and gems were 45 millimetres. So we we rejigged the, the lens cutting and then we produced The first prototypes. And in the meantime, Clive event said, Well, you know, Jim, really had two cars that he did most of his winning in was the type 25, in which he won the 1963 and the 1965 World Championships. And then the type 38, which he won the Indianapolis 500. And he's the only person today to have won both the World Championship Formula One and the Indianapolis 500, in the same year, which is cycling 65. So I thought, Oh, I like this. I do. I like this type of detail. So we decided we were going to make 25 type 20, fives in gold, and 38 type 38 in palladium. Nice. And obviously Sorry to interrupt. But now it's very important that I say that, Clive then introduced me to the Jim Clark trust. And they have been very, very, very inspirational here, because they've effectively given me access to the signature. You know, and a lot of information about Jim. So when we look at the, you know, the Jim Clark 61, we've got everything on it, we've got the classic Team Lotus logo, we've got his signature on it, we've got the type of the car that's on it, right down to the colour of the inside of the car, on the inside of the love that have, you know, again, this is this is annoying, you can't see or describe it the look of the covers on the on the cases for the glasses, you've got a yellow and a red that inside the cases on a beautiful green case there that's like a car. Oh, yeah. No and embodies. And so we'll again, we'll have to put these on the show notes because they're gorgeous. But yeah. So that's the attention of detail that you're going into for these. Yeah. So yeah. Would you say that the main audience for Reynold would either be people that love cars, people that love movies, people that love Elvis, are you noticing there's a mishmash of all three, but in one in particular, that one ahead? Yeah, definitely at the moment. It's It's It's racing motor, a motor racing, that sort of thing. The other two collaborations that we're doing in very, very short, I'm not with, not with racing cars, but they're around other aspects of, can I say motoring. The, the two very big, untouched ones at the moment that we are looking to touch with the 71, which is another product that came out in 1971. Are, are very much more to do with the music industry to do with the film industry, that there's a lot going on over there. It's just hasn't come together as fast as cars. Cars are, you know, when you've got a picture of Jim Clark wearing it. And so obviously, in his car, it's like, oh, this is a bit of a no brainer, this one. Whereas anything to do with Elvis takes an enormous amount of time to sort out rights. And you know, whether we can do that or not. I mean, just look at personal and Steve McQueen. I mean, that's been going on since The Thomas Crown Affair, but it costs an enormous amount of money to use his image for personal. And so we need to be very careful with a fledgling black brand that we use our heritage first. That's what we're doing. And how do you use the heritage first, versus any conflicts with? I know, we've touched on this before, but just to clarify, so you could use your heritage first, maybe with a picture of Elvis wearing the sunglasses and put that on the website or no? Well, that this is a very touchy feely area without question, and everything to do with the 61. For for Jim Clark, is all licenced. Alright? So I have the licence, all sorts of things from people. The pictures, the the signature, the name, the lotus, sort of classic Team Lotus logos, all of this was sorted out over three or four months ago, before we even start to produce something. And with Elvis because we're not using Elvis to promote our sunglass per se, we have got Elvis wearing a pair of Reynolds in the 60s, we're okay as long as we don't move too far into putting it in a shop window where Elvis is wearing it and then a put Reynold underneath, you can't do that without going to the estate of Elvis and saying, you know, but we own the pictures of Elvis wearing sunglasses, I bought the rights to those, right. But that's not the same as owning or talking to the estate to be able to use Elvis as you know, to promote your sunglasses that that we don't do. And I've got personal experience with dealing with other people's intellectual property. I won't go too much into that. But I do know I can tell you that it's much better to have a very upfront civilised conversation with the people that are willing to listen and the estates or the people that own it, then there is to just go in like a bull in a china shop and just go here it is my product is a picture. Let's just sell as much as we can and get the hell out of here. You know, it's much better from the start to kind of lay a bit of a ground, you know, and just see what is possible and what is not. And we mentioned Elvis. Gary, can you talk about the Elvis films coming up? And was there any thing that you had involved with this? Well, yes, we, we were contacted. Probably two and a half years ago now, before I'd actually launched Reynold a guy who supplies all the sunglasses to once upon a time in Hollywood, and you know, a lot of the radar is sunglasses, it all comes from a place called Old focals in Pasadena. Very, very, very amazing shop. If anyone's ever there, go and see it because it is the most extraordinary experience I've ever had. As a as a, a sunglasses fetish man. It is the mecca in the world. He has been collecting sunglasses, what seems like all his life, because when you go into his little shot, which is very incongruous, it's set back from the road. It's a little shop, and you go in there, and it's like, every old pair of sunglasses you can think of around the wall with, with pictures like The Rolling Stones there. And then there's Brad Pitt's there. And I mean, he every single person has been in this shop to get in. And out the back are three shipping containers. Like the ones you see, you know, on the docks, and in there are full, it's full of sunglasses. Wow. All right. So this guy couldn't see it. He, he and I built up a relationship very quickly. But he didn't have the Reynolds sunglasses. That's Elvis for and I had six pair of them, actually, I cornered the market in that exact pair of sunglasses. And he he said to Warner Brothers, Warner Brothers approached him and said, Look, have you got any? And he said, No, I but I know a man who has and that's how they approached me. And so I did a deal with them down in Australia, where they were filming it. And I sold them pairs of sunglasses. And that was the last I heard of it. Until Tom Hanks got COVID I think was one of the first people to get COVID Oh, I remember January 2020. And it stopped filming. And then I thought oh, this is never going to get made. And you know, eventually it was it was finished, I think at the end of 2020. Then they said oh, yeah, we'll we'll postpone it now until June 2022. And as a as a as we were mentioning before this, you never ever know whether they're going to make it into the final edit. Right? You never know. And and so we hope they do. But we don't know. And if they do, obviously it's another it's somewhat quite large endorsement for Renault, but they wouldn't give me a credit. They wouldn't. They wouldn't give me a credit Reynold sunglasses on it. Because yeah, I did ask and, and it was basically because we hadn't produced the 61 at that point. We weren't providing our own sunglasses. We were providing sunglasses from 1963 64 which were my own personal collection. And and consequently, they weren't prepared. We weren't a big enough brand for them to put it on the credit but bottom line. I know we are now. Yeah, maybe you haven't ever pick up the phone to me. Have you checked the website recently? Yeah. Are there any archive ones in a museum of anywhere of the original ones that Elvis? What were the original 16 months? So yeah, this is a very interesting story. And it's a story of the, you know, the rise of the celebrity owned a fairer, basically, it's in 2016, I think it was 2016, the original sunglasses that he handed to his security guards. Because he said that he would didn't want to wear them anymore. And he had worn them for about five months, I think at that point. were sold for $11,000 at an auction, in, in, in LA, they came up again. I think last year or the year, but ya know, the last year it was, and they sold, they got to 41,000. And I was very suspicious. I didn't think they were the same pair. I mean, they had the letter of authenticity that came from the security guard. But But I started to think I'm not sure about this actually looking at them very closely. And looking at photos of the Yeah, I didn't actually see them. Okay. And they are being pushed around now, I think. I think there may be two pair. I don't think there's one. You can't see them anywhere. Once people buy them. They put them in a case at home, and then that vet, they're gone. We have had discussions. My sister who's in the business has had discussions with the VNA about doing a Reynolds display collection, because we've got enough, shall we say here, I'll show the evolution of the 61 throughout the 60s and and who wore them and pictures of the moon. So, you know, I would really like to do that. Because I think people need to see it. I think they need to see the incredible design that was going on in the early 60s. I mean, it was it was a time of incredible creativity in shapes, just enormous shapes around people's faces. I mean, today, it's just great slabs of you know, if you see selling sunset, or you see any of these sort of brand related, you know, series everyone's wearing very predictable stuff is very predictable. Yeah. Well, there's, there's no Rolex of sunglasses going around on home in a way that I've noticed that Gabriel, I'm not saying that show in 15 years, there might be sorry, I'm gonna wipe this gap. It's been wonderful talking to you again, I could listen to you talk about sunglasses and your passion for it. Specifically ran out sunglasses for hours, but I appreciate you got to get on with a weekend to handle it. Reynold Dakota, UK is a place people go and again, we've got all the links over on the show notes. What social media do you like to hang out on these days? Well, we're not very good at social media. I'll be honest, what we what we do a lot, probably more than anything else is Instagram. It's Reynolds sunglasses there. But the thing is that I like to put up oh, you know, people putting it up sort of wearing sunglasses from the past on there. And that you can go and see Jackie Onassis looking very stunning there. Which, which had an enormous amount of views couldn't believe the number of views that that video wrapped up. But yeah, so that so it's Instagram really that we're on. Awesome. Well, in the meantime, Gary, and I look forward to having you back on hopefully to talk about the new projects that'll be out next year as well and maybe heavy backward talk about the Elvis film. intrigued to see how that turns out but Gareth Whelan there. We founder and CEO of Reynolds you've been listening to their menswear style podcast be sure to head over to menswear style dot code at uk for more menswear content and email info at menswear style dot code at UK if you'd like to be a future guest on the show. Finally, please help support the show by leaving a review on iTunes or wherever you're listening to this podcast. Until next time