There are several new eyewear names on the scene vying for the top spot in the optical frame lane. However, there is probably no brand in existence with the pedigree of California-based Garrett Leight. Mr. Leight just happens to be the son of the visionary optical mind Larry Leight who launched Oliver Peoples in 1986. Garrett himself strayed from the family business for a while, dabbling in music and even sports journalism. But ultimately, the allure was too strong, and we all have the choice of better sunglasses & optical frames as a result. We caught up with him to find out more about the growth and vision of his young, thriving company.
"I feel like I have a special connection with all things genuine. I don't prescribe to trends ..."
What makes a pair of Garrett Leight frames different from anything else on the market?
They are created by a passionate group of individuals who love what they do and know what they are doing. We have created such an incredible group of inspired people and our level of production from brand, to quality, to design, to customer service continues to impress me every day. I can't imagine how there can be a more valuable experience in the eyewear market.
Can you tell us a little bit about the manufacturing process of your optical frames/sunglasses – what materials are used and where are they manufactured?
We use everything from glass to titanium to acetate. Only the best materials in the world which we put countless amount of hours into searching for. We look for exclusive materials that are not only extremely high quality, but can only be found within our collection. We hand finish our frames in China because we believe there are two ways to make products, the right way and the wrong way. We believe we are making it the right way and for the best value. However, we source our materials from everywhere from Japan to Italy and China.
Does the fact that you’re a California based brand influence the overall aesthetic of your brand?
Absolutely. I am very much a Californian in every way and I am constantly inspired by the past, present, and future of California. It plays a huge role in the brand DNA and identity. And there are some California icons that have inspired frames and color ways as well.
When it comes to a man’s style – it’s the little details that usually make the biggest difference. In your opinion, what do sunglasses/opticals add to a man’s aura?
It's everything, it's the first thing people see when they look at you. They can completely change a man's aura in an instant and they sit right on your face. Having no glasses at all is a million times better than having a pair of glasses that are a terrible fit for you.
Are there any particular style icons from the past that influence the design direction of your frames?
I am mostly inspired by literary figures like Arthur Miller, Charles Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, Allen Ginsburg and many others. I like to look to people that flew a little more under the radar.
With fashion and style accessories, trends tend to move at a really high velocity – how do you approach your designs to make sure you’re always in style but not chasing and trying to keep up with the next trend or fad?
For some reason trends or fads are really obvious to me. I feel like I have a special connection with all things genuine. I don't prescribe to trends, and I don't even think it's a conscious choice, I think I might just be physically and mentally unable to do so. I just approach my designs as me, and I think the result is something more classic. I don't think we've ever used the words "right now" when talking about design.
What are the standout products/collabs etc that we can expect from Garrett Leight for F/W 2014 and S/S 2015?
Robert Geller and Amelie Pichard, both for F/W 2014. The Geller frame is a men's design inspired by our most classic style Hampton with a twist. And the Pichard frame is a glittery glamorous French style that balances her aesthetic and ours quite perfectly. For S/S 2015, I am excited about the McNairy collaboration inspired by Elvis!
What do you do to unwind, relax and rejuvenate your creative juices when you are not working?
If I am not fortunate enough to be on vacation in a tropical place with an ocean view and nearly no one around except for my massage therapist and my wife, which happens maybe two weeks a year, MAYBE…then watching sports is what I do to relax. It distracts me enough to where I'm relaxed and not thinking about work.
What are some of your favorite cities around the world that provide you with the most inspiration?
I travel a ton and I find the most inspiration in Paris and Berlin. Not only are they some of the most incredible, unique, and beautiful cities in the world, but that’s where most of our customers are, and visiting with our accounts always gets me inspired to continue to deliver the goods. I also love Jamaica.
Is there any particular celebrity/tastemaker on the scene currently that you feel embodies the overall vibe and essence of Garrett Leight?
Embodies is the key word here. This is always a hard question for me because I literally pull inspiration almost always from dead people (i.e. Ginsberg, Bukowski, Miller), I guess I'm obsessed with the past. But the word here is embodies, and there are so many people that shop Garrett Leight with great style. I've met some of them in my store and am always so grateful and impressed with how much they dig the brand and fit the style. This can honestly be anyone from Nick Wooster to Aaron Young to Scott Disick. There's plenty of tastemakers in this world that can and do embody our overall vibe, too many to name them all. I helped an actor in my store the other day pick out a frame, coolest dude ever, complete GLCO to the core, can't remember his name.
Lastly please finish the following sentence: Individual style is important because … It's the only thing that actually makes people different.