If you had a trapper keeper in the '80s or '90s, you best believe you had that bad boy covered in Lisa Frank stickers, if it wasn't already motifed in the brand. Your folder would have been a technicolor collage of unicorns, rainbows, ice-cream cones, stars, kittens, and bears. Nothing was safe from being cast in a neon hue when you were living in Lisa Frank's world. But what brilliant mind could have come up with this psychedelic, acid trip of a school accessory? What genius could have envisioned a sticker set that would mark you has the epitome of cool? Well, that woman was (is) the real-life Lisa Frank. That's right – the woman behind the raddest stickers to ever be stuck on a school book is named Lisa Frank, and she truly built an empire. But who is Lisa Frank, exactly?
There are probably a lot of things you didn't know about Lisa Frank, despite your penchant for her brand during your elementary school days, but Lisa Frank's a candy-colored mystery that, over the years, has slowly started turning her enigma inside-out.
For instance, did you know that she's from Detroit and had a private jet? Did you know that her husband essentially ran the company into the ground? And you get two guesses as to the color of her house. Maybe after scoping out the fabulous, hard-working life of Lisa Frank, you'll be able to do a lot more than guess about this cotton-candy icon.
Many Of Her Fanciful Characters Are Named After Real People
Back in 2012, Urban Outfitters started selling Lisa Frank-inspired clothing and got a rare interview with the woman herself, who revealed the inspirations behind her characters' namesakes. Frank based her two favorite characters, the tigers Hunter and Forrest, off of her own children. Frank said she even got requests to base characters off of people she knew:
“We actually really try to base our characters off of people who are in our lives or who have been in our lives, and sometimes it's in memory. We ask people first […] People are actually begging us ‘Can you do a character with my name?’”
One Of The Characters Has A Surprisingly Sad Backstory
Frank's characters are all based on people she knew, but not all of them have the cheeriest origin stories. Take Markie for example: Markie's a unicorn that happens to be based off a deceased friend of Frank's.
As she explained, "I think Markie, our unicorn, was one of our very first characters, and that was named after a friend of ours who died super young of a heart attack."
Lisa Frank Identifies The Most With Purrscilla The Cat
Frank has said that there's a little bit of her personality in each character, but there's one in particular with which she really identifies: Purrscilla the Cat. Frank elaborated on why she identifies with a cartoon cat to Urban Outfitters, saying:
"Purrscilla is a lot like me, because she is very into glam and glitz and jewelry and everything very girly. And some of the jewelry in the illustration is even my own jewelry."
Lisa Frank HQ Is In Arizona But Has Become A Ghost Town
The company's headquarters is located in the same place Frank founded the company – Arizona. However, what once was a thriving hive of rainbow-colored sticker production is now something of a ghost town. The factory no longer gives tours and there's no receptionist to greet visitors anymore.
The company no longer manufactures its signature bright binder accessories, and outsources most of its production while employee numbers have dropped from the thousands, to 350, to just six.