By Jillian Urcelay
When David Duralde took on his new position as chief creative officer at Ogi Eyewear last January, he knew there would be challenges. However, a global pandemic occurring during his first two months on the job was definitely not on the list. Instead of laying low in a time of universal uncertainty, Duralde successfully began a complete rebrand of Ogi Eyewear to reposition his company in a new and exciting way.
While Duralde is relatively new to Ogi, he is a seasoned veteran in the eyewear industry with years of experience under his belt. His career began working for l.a.Eyeworks’ Gai Gherardi and Barbara McReynolds—not designing eyewear but instead working in the restaurant they owned while he was in college. He spent seven years in the restaurant business before moving over to the eyewear side as l.a.Eyeworks’ product manager. Duralde credits this highly creative and unique experience that blended the Los Angeles art and fashion scenes as the foundation that set him up for success. Known for opposing convention and straying away from the status quo, it was ingrained in Duralde’s mind to constantly rethink the way everything is done, especially when it comes to fashion and eyewear.
After working closely with the factories and then directly with Gherardi and McReynolds following the development of designs, he realized this was where his true passions lie. He had already graduated from UCLA, but knew he needed to take those practical classes such as drawing and design to hone in on his new skills so he enrolled at Santa Monica College and got to work. Design became a very productive channel for Duralde, and he made it his goal to always make things better.
After mastering the technical side of eyewear and working with the newest machines and innovations, Duralde wanted to try out something a bit more commercial, so he joined Signature Eyewear. The Eddie Bauer collection he designed there opened the door for job opportunities at Kenmark Eyewear, and Safilo later hired him as its director of design for the U.S. By having the opportunity to master both the boutique fashion world and the more mainstream arena, Duralde had acquired a true skill for deeply understanding the American market. Safilo recognized that talent and invited him to design for some of its European brands—something an American designer had never done before.
Duralde began working on collections from the European fashion houses including Gucci and Armani, traveling and learning from the best in the world. Eventually he made his way back to Kenmark, where he designed for almost two decades as its chief creative officer. “One of the things that is such a thread that I’ve learned about design is that it’s not only about having the perception to see what’s not there and understanding your customers’ needs before they know it,” says Duralde. “It’s also about having the emotional intelligence to quickly understand a brand, interpret it and create the product.”
That lands us back here in 2021. After working mainly behind the scenes, designing for around 50 different brands throughout his career, Duralde was ready to step up and receive the recognition that he deserves. “This is really the exciting point for me,” he says. “Ogi is a company that has had success and has this great story to tell, but now I can step inside and be up front. People can recognize that it is up to me if something succeeds or fails. It’s a fun place to be creatively. I am just putting myself out there and saying this is what I have to say and design. And this is what I feel is important for customers. This is what is needed. So that’s a little bit different—I’m not hiding behind a label or a brand.”
When Duralde came on board at Ogi early last year, he went straight to work. Understanding that there is a real symbiosis between the marketing and the product, he wanted to create a new visual identity for the company and the collections within. He hired a new marketing director and works directly with a product team that helps with the frame development. But as far as the visual style direction—that’s all Duralde. “My major accountability is bringing together a vision for the eyewear collections and the marketing,” he says. “It’s very hands on—I’m working with the team on every little detail because we are trying to transform the look and feel of the collections and the company.”
The rebrand started with the Ogi Eyewear collection. Duralde’s goal was to bring forth this idea of optimism, bright colors and personality. Believing that the market is ready for eyewear that is a little bolder and more unique, he worked to amplify designs and colors that would stand out. “Ogi has such great DNA for us to express ourselves in this way,” says Duralde. “That ingenuity, the innovation of color, shapes and materials, and the intersection of different combinations of materials and brighter colors is all there in the framework.”
That idea of color took over; but not in a way that’s juvenile, over the top or too playful. Duralde believes that color should be bright, encouraging and optimistic. “It still takes the discipline of fine artistry,” he explains. “I wanted really good sophisticated combinations of color. Color has become sort of a one-liner. We want it to transform to a different level—where you see it once and you see one thing, and then you see it again and you see something else. It can take on different aspects of someone’s personality at different times of their wardrobing. I want it to have a little bit more of a dynamic quality to it.”
The team at Ogi wanted this story of color to have a cohesive and expansive effect on the company as a whole. They wanted something different for their campaigns that would be symbolic of what they were doing. That is when illustrator and digital artist Cristiano Siqueira entered the picture and designed Ogi’s frame and illustrated portrait campaigns. “I thought his work really personified what we were trying to achieve with Ogi,” says Duralde. “The goal was to have a more grown-up approach to this fun caricature of illustrations, but in a way that people could feel like, ‘Wow, that could be luxury.’” Ultimately, that symbolic idea was exactly what he was trying to achieve with his designs. With the eyewear styles having that touch of color and artistry to them, Siqueira illustrated the new collection in a bright, bold and optimistic way.
Siqueira did not just bring the eyewear to life; he also illustrated portraits for all of Ogi’s employees. The goal was to put a human face in front of the company. “I think years ago companies tried to always seem big and industrialized, almost like everybody wanted to position themselves like a big insurance company,” says Duralde. “Now this is sort of showing that we are an independent brand, and we have our own mindset. We are going to redefine the vocabulary and the symbols that we are going to use in our advertising and in our communication. We are going to pull it all together, and that’s going to be something that feels like you want to be a part of it.”
And it worked. The sales reps really feel like these portraits capture who they are at their essence, and it allows customers to understand the rebrand in a synchronized way. “It’s really just us investing in all the layers of the business so that there’s dimension. That’s what our creative mindset was when we wanted to reboot. We don’t want it to just be one thing, it has to be a total culture shift—it’s from the design, it’s from the marketing, it’s every aspect.”
Another aspect setting Ogi Eyewear apart from its competitors? Its newly launched Virtual Try-On (VTO) and 360 degree viewing technology. This virtual try-on experience is different from the others you may have sampled in the past. Ogi uses the actual CAD drawings and frame photography for the most precise measurement and fit. This paired with Apple’s facial recognition technology, which maps and measures your face, places the frame perfectly to scale on your face for a much more realistic virtual try-on experience.
“Technology like this can be used in so many different ways,” says Duralde. “We are committed to growing the businesses for independent practices, and so we wanted to invest in a tool that gives them the ability to showcase and style their patients in a different way.” This tool allows customers to try frames on at home before their appointment making their styling session more efficient. Ogi’s sales team will also have their entire catalogue on their iPads so they can easily reference a frame. Ultimately, it might also help the company’s footprint, since they will not need as many physical samples out there, and it makes the selection process more precise. Shops may no longer need to have hundreds of frames on their shelves when they can all be viewed virtually in the most realistic way. Duralde trusts the future of eyewear is going to center around this type of technology.
While it is a given that people will always be inventing and imagining new things in eyewear, Duralde firmly believes there must be more efficiency in the way everyone in the industry does business. “This is a new chapter, and people want to run their businesses differently,” he says. “Eyewear will always be a really great place to express personalities, but the delivery method will soon be different. There is such a huge place in this for independent optical professionals, because this is where a lot of the creativity, the imagination and the risk taking will always happen in order to bring new styles and looks. But we are going to have to figure out a way to do it through digital delivery and through ways that can make people feel that their inventory and the choice they’re giving their customers is more specific to their customers’ needs.”
Duralde is optimistic that the state of eyewear is going to thrive. This future model of success will rely on companies that are leveraging everything from their factory relationships to their design relationships and finally their delivery mechanisms to the shops. By bringing that system together in a deliberate way, customers will see the impact. “People always want fashion, but it got kind of overblown,” says Duralde. “People were being thrown so many products at every turn. So now, we have to be more deliberate at every phase.”
Ogi Eyewear is certainly on track for continued success with Duralde at its helm. With a new designer, the latest technology and a revamped website, the rebrand has had such a clear synchronicity that has been visible across the board. “I started in the independent world and then had the chance to learn from the masters,” he says. “I knew I had to fly off, and go to other companies and have different experiences so I could bring that back. My heart started in the independent eyewear world, and I really had a love for that because it was so creative and expressive, and I knew I wanted to land there again.”
It has been a long and difficult year since Duralde took on his position as chief creative officer for Ogi Eyewear. With a fresh start to a new year, Duralde is at the most exciting part of his career—he can finally take center stage and show the world what he has to say and design. He can be his most imaginative and creative self. And, it seems like a really colorful and optimistic place to be.■