So, the last time we checked in with Paul Frank Industries, we discovered that, well, Paul Frank was no longer with Paul Frank. It was pretty much as bad as it sounded: The company started by Frank in his Huntington Beach garage, and which managed to pull in more than $40 million per year at one point, had ousted its namesake via conference call. (See Theo Douglas’ candid interview with Frank himself, “Let Me Be Frank,” March 24, 2006.)
Still, Paul Frank Industries has been responsible for some of the most recognizable characters out there: Julius the football-shaped-head monkey might just be right up there next to Hello Kitty and, hey, maybe even Mickey Mouse. Other characters like skull-and-bones Skurvy and Clancy the smiley giraffe have somehow worked themselves into the wardrobes and accessories of both you and your kids. In the past, Paul Frank Industries has collaborated with bands (Radiohead, the Vandals, Tool and the Aquabats) and artists and companies (Mattel, Elvis, OBEY, Shag and Mark Ryden), producing limited-edition items such as purses, wallets and barstools that sold out. And fast. One hoodie showcased Julius screenprinting “Flowers, 1964” with Warhol himself. A yellow-vinyl tote depicted Julius and Hello Kitty building a doghouse together.
“Paul Frank Industries . . . is always looking to partner with great companies—to collaborate with, or do a licensing deal to introduce new products to our fans,” says company president/co-founder Ryan Heuser. “Ultimately, it’s about having fun with our brand creativity, and when we do that, it’s usually successful.”
The next project in the works is a collaboration with the Bonne Bell Co. and Lip Smacker, a longtime go-to lip gloss among gals young and old. (A quick survey around the office shows that Dr. Pepper is the staff favorite, hands down. Heuser even states that one of his favorite teenage memories is of the Dr. Pepper flavor.)
The limited-edition lip-balm collection seems to be a natural choice: “Paul Frank Industries looks at their business the same way we do,” says Leslie Gibbs, director of media and new business development for the Bonne Bell Co. “They are in the business of making people happy.”
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The Bonne Bell Co. now features more than 300 flavors and plans to add nine more monkey-approved tastes on top, including banana coconut, strawberry banana, banana pie, banana split and chocolate-covered banana.
The Paul Frank Lip Smacker collection will hit the shelves in time for the holidays.
All in all, Paul Frank Industries remains one of Orange County’s biggest success stories—but I guess that depends on who you’re asking.