JU: YOU MUST HAVE HAD A DEEP INSIGHT INTO THE INDUSTRY FROM AN EARLY AGE BECAUSE OF YOUR FATHER (LARRY LEIGHT, FOUNDER OF OLIVER PEOPLES). HOW DID THIS UNIQUE EXPERIENCE AFFECT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH EYEWEAR AND THE INDUSTRY FROM THE START?
GL: Eyewear has always been a big part of my life. Watching my father build his company inspired me on so many levels—from basic entrepreneurship to eyewear history and expertise. Obviously the world and the eyewear industry specifically, has changed so much since the late ’80s when he was starting Oliver Peoples, but in a weird way I feel like we have a similar story. I started out with the goal of creating eyewear that appealed to the people in my hometown of Venice, Calif. And my Dad was impressing the VIPs and celebrities who shopped in Sunset Plaza. We both had an authentic and organic approach to marketing. We focused on high quality, timeless, classic designs that appealed to the most highly respected opticians in the world. Beyond that, he taught me that shopping for eyewear is an experience that is both highly personal and emotional. I’ve always appreciated how the product—more than any other accessory—can change a person’s entire look. Understanding the nuances of the industry with his experiences—while being able to add my own modern perspective is a key ingredient to my success. Now, being able to work together on Mr. Leight, you can really see the result of our combined industry experience.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EYEWEAR COLLECTION AND THE ATMOSPHERE OF THE STORES? WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION FOR BOTH?
A huge part of the GLCO brand DNA and visual identity is California. Our goal is to communicate our lifestyle in everything we do, from the eyewear designs to our campaigns, and of course our retail stores—the homes of the brand. I worked with the same design firm for each of the locations, so you can feel a sense of consistency. One key design element is the peg wall, which is both functional and visually identifiable. With our locations outside of Los Angeles, we try to bring a little of our hometown to the customer while embracing the neighborhoods we’ve settled in. For example, our New York location is nestled in the concrete jungle, but we created a huge succulent garden in the front of the store to bring life and a little Cali vibe to the atmosphere.
IF THEY HAVE, WHICH DIRECTION ARE THEY MOVING TOWARD?
I think design-wise we are always drawn to creating timeless classics, and that will never change. Some of the frames from our first collections such as the Kinney, Hampton and Wilson continue to be best sellers. We continue to evolve these styles with new colorways and sizes. At the end of the day, it’s important that we know our customers, both the end consumer and our opticians, and from what we can tell they love our classics. We want to make sure we are always filling that need on their shelves. In the last three or four seasons, we have definitely explored more feminine specific styles to complement our core collection. We’ve found great success in collaborating with women’s fashion designers like Clare Vivier and most recently, Ulla Johnson. The CatEye and oversized shapes have allowed us to offer our existing customers something new, while simultaneously capitalizing on the brand awareness building opportunity within their loyal followings.
DO YOU TRY TO FOLLOW TRENDS OR DO YOU STRICTLY USE YOUR BRAND HERITAGE TO DESIGN FRAMES?
We are good at our classics, and that’s what our main focus will always be. However, we do consider ourselves a fashion accessory, and we feel it’s important to be aware of what is currently resonating in that world. As anyone reading this publication knows, the lead time for eyewear is one of the longest in the fashion business. Our design team is always looking at trend forecasting, but in the end we go with our gut and what we think is cool. I’ll also note that I think in some ways, we are actually guiding the trends as opposed to following them. A few seasons ago, we launched the Rouge capsule collection that featured frames with red lenses after we had customized them for a few major celebrities that we work with. We saw the conception of the trend and quickly brought it to the market, seeing a huge rise in colored lenses soon after that.
WHICH SPECIFIC EYEWEAR TRENDS DO YOU SEE MAKING BIG WAVES FOR 2019?
The ’80s and the ’90s are continuing to be a trend in eyewear as of late, focusing on bright hues and rounded shapes. For our spring/summer ’19 collection, iconic ’80s films such as “American Gigolo” and “Scarface” were major inspirations for us.
FINALLY, ARE YOU CURRENTLY PLANNING ON OPENING MORE STORES IN THE FUTURE? IF SO, WHICH LOCATIONS ARE YOU HOPING TO TAP INTO?
Yes, retail is an important element of the business and definitely a factor of our brand growth. We are looking at Austin as an interesting city for the future.