March 5, 2012

R.O.I. Designer Eyewear - Karen Kane

A few weeks ago I was invited to the Eyewear by R.O.I. headquarters to meet with John Alofs, founder and C.E.O.,  to talk about the Karen Kane eyewear collection. As you know from a recent post, I wear glasses, and as a fashion blogger and consumer it is important for me that my eyewear is as equally fashionable as my wardrobe. So when I was offered the opportunity to find out more about the eyewear collection of one of my favorite clothing brands, I could not help but be excited about discovering just how these two seemingly incongruous worlds come together.

Yes it says "Eyewear by R.O.I. Welcomes Kristianne Young" ... I was excited LOL!

John Alofs founded R.O.I., which designs, manufacturs, and distributes eyeglass frames and sunglasses, 26 years ago because according to him, "I couldn't play shortstop for the Yankees." Athletic dreams aside, Mr. Alofs moved to Arizona after completing optical school in Buffalo and started building the company in 1985--a company that went from selling 15,000 frames in its first year of business to selling well over a million frames last year.

You may be thinking that selling a million frames just means that a lot of people can't see, but I'm sure you'll be as surprised as I was to find out just how much those million frames have to do with fashion. For starters R.O.I. has a creative director whose sole job is to design all of the collections. To accomplish this the creative director works with the creative director of each of the R.O.I. brands {Bulova, Karen Kane, Richard Taylor, B.U.M., Colours by Alexander Julian, and Wittnauer}. In the case of the Karen Kane collection the creative director works directly with Karen herself {lucky lady}. Mr. Alofs explains how the process works, "We work off  of their seasonal releases--they say here is the color palette we're going for, here's the patterns we're working with.  They work  with my creative director and the whole process takes 8 or 9 months from the time we start to the time we actually release the product to the market."

As if you aren't already impressed by the fact that the creative director gets to work one on one with the likes of Karen Kane, she also happened to be in attendance at New York Fashion Week--sending back emails about color, accessory, and material trends as seen on the runways. Mr. Alofs understands the importance of fashion, "Eyewear is a fashion statement. We [the creative director] are at Fashion Week in New York right now, we have to be very involved with fashion. We know exactly what’s happening; how its happening. We spend a lot of time going to trade shows in Milan. We're in Hong Kong, China three to four times a year . We have to monitor, because you can’t be behind… Eyewear is a fashion accessory, not just sunwear, eyewear itself is very much a fashion accessory."

When Fashion Meets Eyewear - Karen Kane

I could attempt to paraphrase the story of how the Karen Kane eyewear collection came to be, but I think that Mr. Alofs does a much better job:

"We were looking for a women's brand, a specific women’s brand…We wanted something that Americans--knew it was a U.S. American brand. And so a licensing company that we've used before out of New York gave us a list of people … I passed it around to our sales people and some of our customers, our big customers, and the one that everyone seemed to have the most interest in was Karen Kane. Then the licensing company approached Karen and Lonnie, because we were the first licensed brand, eyewear--first category. So it was unique, we actually had to go talk to them and say what we do and how we do it, and they couldn’t have been nicer. It was a new process for them because everything they sell they make, everything that has their name, they produce."

**Side Note- Prior to our "official" interview Mr. Alofs and I shared a mutual appreciation for how kind and down to earth the Kane family is.**

The R.O.I. design team works with Karen by mirroring what she is currently doing in her clothing collections, "We try to incorporate some of her fabric onto a temple, onto a sunglass design." He then tells me I must visit their operation in L.A. {an experience I would no doubt love to have} where they do the producing, designing, and shipping because it's amazing and because, "Karen, you start talking to her and the next thing you know she's drawing on a piece of paper and tacks it up on the wall--she's had an inspiration. She's extraordinary!" 

Karen Kane eyewear is currently in 2,000 stores, and I had the opportunity to check out the collection {plus those that have yet to be released...sorry no pics of those you'll just have to wait and see} first hand at the R.O.I. headquarters.

These were among my favorites, love the details on the temples. 
Seeing that I am also an avid sunglasses collector, I was beyond excited when Mr. Alofs handed me this beautiful case with my very own pair of Karen Kane Glorious Lilly sunnies! 

Thank you again John Alofs and Marcela Johnson for this great opportunity!

To view more of the Karen Kane eyewear collection visit: Eyewear by R.O.I.

For fabulous Karen Kane fashions click here


  1. I've seen those glasses around other blogs and I loooove them! Of course, I wear glasses almost daily so I might be a bit biased :)

    Woohooooo Karen Kane!

    1. Seriously its really important when you wear them all the time! glad someone understands lol :)

  2. Love this! So excited to see you guys later this month at Dillard's -- ROI is fantastic to work with!