OF COURSE PANDA BEARS WEAR OVERALLS! Lisa Frank is Back! (She Actually Never Left)

What were YOU doing at age 24? Lisa Frank (yes, there is an actual Lisa Frank!) was busy making her dreams come true by hypnotizing a generation of girls with her blissfully bizarre, adorably candy colored animals emblazoned on an endless array of stickers and notebooks.

Oct 29, 2012 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

The only things I ever liked about school were school supplies. I love stocking up on pens, mechanical pencils, paper clips, notebooks, index cards, markers, Post-Its and file folders. Office Depot is one of my favorite places to browse. I find it so soothing to walk the aisles and envision myself as the model of efficiency I would be if I could just manage to purchase the right office supplies!

I get VERY excited when I start a new gig and it’s time to order office supplies. I'm partial to some very specific ones. (The Pilot Better retractable fine ballpoint pen is the finest disposable pen available, for example.)

I think a great first date question is to ask what your date’s favorite office supply is. It’s very telling! (Mine is actually a tie between black Sharpies and binder clips.) 

Perhaps the greatest school supply manufacturer on earth is Lisa Frank, purveyor of magical-hued notebooks, stickers, pencils, erasers and the holy grail of school supplies, the Trapper Keeper. I had this exact one in middle school:

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Velcro closure, duh.

I never realized that there was an actual human Lisa Frank behind Lisa Frank’s unicorn acid-trip awesomeness, but there is -- and she’s a Michigander with 2 teenaged sons and $1 billion in sales over the last 15 years! Can you believe she started her business in 1979 at the age of 24? My fingers and my general sense of decorum won’t let me type what sort of fruitless hooliganism I was getting into at age 24. It sure wasn’t starting a billion-dollar company. 

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Painting panda bears via LisaFrank.com.

There are very few photos of Lisa Frank on the Internet--she is a pretty intensely private person.

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Lisa Frank image via QuickMeme.com.

I thought Lisa Frank had gone the way of the dinosaur until Urban Outfitters recently unearthed a cache of dead stock vintage stuff that they are, of course, selling for 3 times the original retail price. Nostalgia, it’s what’s for breakfast these days.

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Lisa Frank vintage spiral notebook, $10.00 at UrbanOutfitters.com.

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Lisa Frank vintage Sticker Stars box, $14.00 at UrbanOutfitters.com.

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Lisa Frank vintage binder set, $35.00 at UrbanOutfitters.com.

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Lisa Frank vintage eraser set, $10.00 at UrbanOutfitters.com.

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Lisa Frank vintage Ballerina Bunnies pencil pouch, $10.00 at UrbanOutfitters.com.

It turns out Lisa Frank never went away. (I just sort of grew up for a minute.) Even though the Internet all but killed the stationery business, she is still around, and has all sorts of rainbow bright, dolphin kissing goodness for sale on her website. (Although not as much as I’d like. I'd die for some tea towels, potholders or coffee mugs!) Most impressively, she never sold her business as many successful brands do -- Lisa herself is still the driving force behind her namesake company.

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Lisa Frank bandages, $6.00 at LisaFrank.com.

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Lisa Frank 21" plush animals, $10.00 at LisaFrank.com.

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Lisa Frank "Casey" cookie jar, $79.00 at LisaFrank.com.

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Lisa Frank Crazy Crafty Cutter scissors, $3.00 at LisaFrank.com.

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Lisa Frank Book Skinz, $8.00 at LisaFrank.com.

I recently read a great interview with Lisa Frank on TheDaily.com where she talks about her love of color (you don't say) and bemoans the fact that America loves to wear so much black. She’s a Missoni fan herself, and even claims that her house is almost entirely purple! There are a handful of crazy clothes on the Lisa Frank website.

I actually think I may have rocked something like this exact getup to the first day of 8th grade, with my new bright yellow Sony Discman I got as a back-to-school present clipped to my belt.

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Left, Long-sleeved dolphins tee, $29.99. Right, Denim rainbow skirt, $12.00. Both at LisaFrank.com.

There is also, DUH, a big Lisa Frank nail art movement. I pick up people's dirty socks for a living, so my nails are always ruined from compulsive hand washing. Otherwise I'd be all over this!

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Photo via AmberDidIt.com

You really should check out the hilarious, free Lisa Frank app that lets you "sticker" your photos with your fave Lisa Frank characters. I am an eternal teenager, so I buy every app that allows me to superimpose cats or Hello Kitty ears onto my photos. 

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Lisa Frank has been steadily introducing new characters to the family over the years, but her original designs are what generate most of her sales. I'm hoping this re-interest in all things Lisa Frank means some new products are in the works. I just ordered myself a bunch of retro Lisa Frank stickers in the meantime.

When I told my mom, she sighed heavily, and then I remembered the door to my childhood bedroom. I stuck so many stickers on it, my parents had to replace it before they could sell the house. It couldn’t even be scraped off and re-painted. A good portion of those stickers were, of course, Lisa Frank ones.

When my box of new Lisa Frank sticker arrives, I’m going to get to work ruining the door of my current bedroom. My life is just one big endless repetitive loop, a CD stuck in a car stereo, playing Tone Loc's "Loc-ed After Dark" over and over and over. (That’s the actual true story of what’s currently happening in my ’03 Dodge truck. I'm too lazy to get it removed, so it's either that or silence if you hitch a ride with me.)

I see Tone Loc at the car wash in Burbank ALL THE TIME. Guess what? He's ALWAYS wearing his "Locs" shades. One day I'm sure I'll accidentally leave my stereo cranked so it blares "Wild Thing" and I'll look like the goober that I really am in front of him.

(I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison)