Launched in 2010, the pioneering eyewear retailer Warby Parker has uncovered a winning strategy combining high-quality materials and superior design with an innovative business model. The concept: “vintage-inspired designs with a contemporary twist.” The Warhol-worthy commercial win: in two weeks, 15 styles sold out (the wait list was over 20,000 people long.) Co-Founder and Co-CEO Neil Blumenthal takes us back to his own Pop Art roots: SoHo in its heyday.
What was your first Warholian moment, when did you first encounter him?
Through my uncle, who was an advertising executive and an amateur artist. I remember he painted a Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup bottle in the vein of Warhol, and I was instantly fascinated. I must have been about eight years old. This was pre-internet, but luckily I grew up in Greenwich Village, so my parents just took me to some galleries in SoHo on a Saturday, and that was my introduction to Warhol’s work.
Who would be Andy’s muse if he were alive today?
No idea. He had a mysterious process for picking his subjects, and I don’t think I can put myself in those shoes. People say he took on the soup can iconography because he ate Campbell’s every day as a kid and loved it; other people say he ate Campbell’s every day and loathed it. In 2012, maybe it would’ve been the Twinkie, given Hostess’s bankruptcy troubles…
What are your latest cultural obsessions?
Revenge on ABC, which is quickly becoming as confusing as Twin Peaks. And on the slightly higher-brow side, I’m really excited about how RxArt is invigorating the intersection of art and philanthropy by using art to help children heal.
If Warhol were alive today, what social platform would be Andy’s favorite?
He’d create his own filter on Instagram. I could also see him disseminating 140-character chunks of The Philosophy of Andy Warhol on Twitter. One per day.
If you could collaborate with Andy on a project, what would it be?
This is a no-brainer for an eyewear designer: co-create a pair of Andy-worthy frames.
Dream dinner party: you, Warhol, and…..?
Imagine Warhol had a Twitter account. What kind of thing might he say in 140 characters or less?
He knew the value of brevity. Many of his great, wry observations fit into the “140 character or less” category. One I love from The Philosophy of Andy Warhol is “If you can’t believe it’s happening, pretend it’s a movie.”
Whose portrait would Andy most want to do if he were alive today?
Julian Assange or Oprah, with the odds about 3-2 in Assange’s favor. Lance Armstrong would be a close third.
If you could own one work by Andy, what would it be?
One of his Muhammad Ali silkscreens.
Soup can or Coke bottle?
Soup can. Green pea. (I live in New York, so large bottles of soda are no longer legal.)
Studio 54 or Régine’s or Jane Hotel?
Studio 54. Always go with the pioneer. I’d like to insert myself into the photo where Warhol is standing next to Jerry Hall while she kills a bottle of champagne.