Tuesday, December 2, 2014

TALKING IDAHO & EYEWEAR WITH THE FOUNDERS OF PROOF


{ Proof founders (and brothers) Taylor, Brooks and Tanner Dame }

In one my most recent Instagram posts, you may have noticed I was wearing a pretty sweet pair of mahogany sunglasses. Okay, so first you may have noticed that I was cuddling the famous Toast, but still. The shades are by Proof, a sustainable, handmade eyewear brand based in Boise, Idaho, and they've become a staple in my sunglasses rotation of late.

Full disclosure, my friend Melody (who just happens to do their PR) introduced me to the brand over many plates of Greek food at Pylos this fall. She didn't really have to ply me with grape leaves and tzatziki though—I was instantly hooked by the cool, understated look of Proof's signature wooden frames, not to mention their roots in the great state of Idaho and commitment to the environment. (You can't be from the Northwest and not appreciate that.)

Keen to know more about Proof and its young founders (who are brothers), I had Mel arrange an interview with Proof's COO and General Manager, Tanner Dame. Spoiler alert, he and his siblings love McCall as much as I do. 

CLICK THROUGH BELOW FOR THE INTERVIEW:

How did you three brothers decide to go into business together, and why start with eyewear?

My brother Brooks came across a pair of 1960’s grandma-style reading glasses made out of bamboo and thought to himself, these are really cool what if we made actual sunglasses out of wood that people would want to wear. So at that point it was just an idea. He approached Taylor and I about helping him out with the project since he was working full time. We were both going to school at the time so we had nothing to lose and jumped right in.
What sets your brand apart from some of the other small-ish eyewear brands out there?

There are a few things that really set us apart as a brand. Number one is that we have a really strong heritage in both wood and entrepreneurship that can't be replicated; our grandfather started a family-run sawmill in the 1960s and we all worked there growing up. We joke that we have sawdust in our veins. That sort of heritage is pretty rare in the wood accessories space. Also, I think people can relate to us. We are a humble group based out of a small town where fashion brands typically don’t emerge. I think our customers can see that the brand is authentic and built on a lot of hard work.

From the inception, Proof has been built on three pillars of heritage, sustainability and commitment to eco-friendly products, and our dedication to doing good. We donate a portion of each sale to a charity or cause we can get behind. From the start it wasn't about getting rich; it's always been about creating something unique that sparks change.
How important was the aspect of sustainability when you started to develop your product?

It was one of the most important factors from the start. We were only going to produce eyewear from sustainable sources and we'll always stick to that. I remember when we first decided to expand outside of wood and we were looking at other options. It was difficult because it had to be eco-friendly and all we were finding was traditional acetate and plastic. After months of searching we found a good partner that met our sustainability requirements and we were able to expand our product offering into our ECO (Environmentally Conscious Optics) Collection which is all made from plant based acetate.  

Where do you find design inspiration?

As cheesy as it sounds, we get most of our ideas from being outside in nature. All of our design and creative is done in-house at our Boise headquarters where we're surrounded by beautiful places like McCall and Sun Valley. A lot of times a member of the team will come in with an idea they thought of while outside of the office.

I personally get inspiration while fishing or hiking, basically whenever I can get away from the emails and clear my mind. I love to travel for work or on vacation with my wife. When I travel, I try to experience as much of the culture as I can. A lot of my creative ideas come from seeing the world around me.

Why "Proof?"

Brooks loved the idea of 'Proof' because he wanted to prove that you could make a quality and long lasting product out of natural materials.

If you weren't working on Proof you'd probably be...

I would probably be working for my families business, Woodgrain Millwork. Growing up I thought I would work there. I take a lot of pride in what he [our grandfather] started and my father currently runs it along with a bunch of cousins and brothers who work for the company. My dad really wanted me to come work for him. For the longest time, he would offer me jobs every few month in the beginning stages of Proof, but over time he saw the vision we had and is really proud and supportive of what we're doing.  I love what I'm doing now and wouldn't change it for the world.

Do you each have a favorite style?

For me it's The Sawthooth, Brooks likes the The Donner and Taylor chose The Ontario.
Since you're based in Boise, I have to ask—where you guys like to travel in Idaho? Any favorite spots for hiking and skiing, etc?

We grew up going up to McCall, so we spend a lot of time up there. It is one of my favorite places in the world as it’s on a lake surrounded by mountains, with great fishing, hiking and boating. It's really the ultimate outdoor getaway and luckily for us, it’s about two hours north of Boise.

In the winter we spend most of our weekends up at Brundage Mountain or Tamarack Mountain, both located 20 minutes or less from McCall. They are pretty fun hidden jewels of Idaho that don't get over-skied but have great snow.
I have been spending a lot more time fishing this summer in my free time. The Boise River goes right through town so we can fish within minutes from the office. Recently they built a man made wave on the river for kayakers, but a bunch of surfers have taken over the wave. In the summer months, it's fun to get out of work and go to the standing wave and make some turns.

Boise has so much to offer for anyone that loves the outdoors, and we draw a lot of our inspiration from what [the city] has to offer. The people and community are really supportive. We look at it as a city that is big enough but not too big where it loses its local charm.
Any favorite spots in town that locals and visitors should know about?

We spend a lot of time at The Fork, which has really good all locally sourced food (burgers, fish, steaks). Our office is right downtown so after work, we like to just skate around and hit some of the local restaurants on Eighth Street.
A few hidden gems in Boise are The Board Room and Piece Unique. Both shops are local staples that people can count on for having a solid selection of unique pieces.

***

Next in the pipeline for Proof (and just in time for the holidays) is an expanded line of accessories, including wood wallets, lighters and iPhone cases, as well as sleek, minimal (and perfect for gifting Dad or Brother) pocket knives. Shop all things proof here.

Or, browse a few of my favorite Proof frames below:

4 comments:

  1. Well well well I just happened to have seen them on Shark Tank while binge watching the show the other week!

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    1. Is that so!? I'll have to check it out!

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  2. How Fun! Proof is a great brand. My cousins just did a photo shoot for one of their marketing campaigns.

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    1. What a small world Audrey, that's so cool! (Idaho pride!)

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