BEARING THE TORCH: THE NEW WORLD OF TORCH WEAR
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away there lived a gentle giant. Let’s call him “Oakley.” Oakley made high-quality vision products and, thanks to his faithful servant, who we’ll call “Torch,” he began to make his presence known in numerous forms of motorsports, and that certainly included our favorite, drag racing. In fairly short order the giant had become, well, even larger, but then, as things sometimes happen in the world of giants and drag racing, a cold wind began blowing over the land. Soon the giant’s handlers had him taken back to his lair, from which he would never again emerge.
Now, if you haven’t followed our fable without wondering whether or not we’ve suffered some sort of head injury, let us explain. When our gentle giant departed the world of drag racing he left behind a void, and thus we come to the tale of his faithful servant, Torch, and his mentor, who we’ll call Louis. Together they lamented the departure of the gentle giant, but they felt no need to go in search of him, for they had their own ideas about how to fill that void. They would create their own line of high-quality vision wear, but they would go even farther. They would conceive, design and ultimately produce a vast line of products that would run the gamut from ultra-high-tech vision wear that would have built right into it elements of superior level safety glasses, to fashionable clothing that they’d really designed to be a combination of modern fashions along with the toughness to take on the harsh working conditions they might find in, say, drag racing.
Confused? You won’t be, for this is a simple tale of two men’s years-long friendship and work experiences. Paul LeSage, a.k.a. Torch, has been involved in drag racing for decades. His nickname comes from his background as a welder, but he’s moved light years beyond that. He worked directly with Oakley founder Jim Jannard, who was a firm believer in the company’s involvement in drag racing, among numerous other ventures. While things appeared to be going well, Torch understood without being told that Oakley’s days under Jannard’s ownership were numbered because whatever entity might eventually buy it would make one of those proverbial offers that just can’t be refused, and that’s how it went down.
Jannard sold the company to overseas buyers in 2008, with LeSage staying on board with the new managers, but they decided that our world wasn’t where they wanted to be, and they soon deserted the sport. It was through his relationship with Jannard that LeSage began working with Louis, a.k.a. Louis Wellen. They were an ideal match, for while Wellen was a marketing and design maven who knew nothing about motorsports until NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace pointed him in LeSage’s direction.
“Torch said he’d introduce me to a few people,” Wellen recalls. “Ultimately, that meant everyone in racing!”
As is often the case with these large corporate sales the new owners had their own vision of the future, and that didn’t include the kind of marketing and promotions that had helped make Oakley a major league player, so when they left the field there was a big void waiting to be filled. Wellen and LeSage are determined to fill that void. The plan is simple. “We’re going to promote the Torch Eyewear and other lines through our relationships with the people who will actually be using it,” Wellen says. “The best endorsements come from people who have used the products and have come to believe in them.” This means that we’re going to be not only seeing competitors wearing the products, we’ll see logos displayed on the flanks of the leading cars. It also means that you’ll see the Torch brand being almost re-invented on a regular basis in order to keep things fresh for the marketplace. “We’re going to have a major presence in motorsports,” Wellen promises. “If it burns gasoline (or nitro), we’re going to be there.”
These guys are an ideal business combination because each brings their individual skills to the table. LeSage knows the motorsports marketplace while Wellen has his finger on the pulse of the production end of things. Torch Eyewear will be manufactured in Italy by a firm that’s been making high-end glasses and frames for over 50 years, with the first shipments having arrived in the United States within the past month. The web site, Torch.xyz, is already up and running and before you even ask, trust us on that URL. Yeah, it’s not a dot com or a dot net, but this is a new world, and that includes how the Internet “works.” Along with that new URL is the new product line from Torch Eyewear. And yes, there will be a clothing line accompanying the eyewear, but it will be complimentary to that eyewear. In other words it will, at first, include shirts, hats, polo shirts and the like. Who knows where it might go from there.
The gentle giant may be gone, but Torch Eyewear is going to replace it as a company better able to meet the demands of the marketplace because of its direct involvement in that marketplace. As LeSage put it, “I’ve been in racing in one way or another my entire adult life. I know the kind of eyewear products the participants and fans of motorsports, and particularly drag racing, are looking for, and our initial product line is evidence of that. The web site is up and running, and we’re taking orders and delivering product right now. By the time the 2018 season starts we think you’re going to be seeing a lot of drivers wearing Torch Eyewear, but it goes beyond just getting product out there. If it’s not built with the best engineering and design, and the best available materials, it’s not going to be carrying the Torch Eyewear name.