Getting candid with our guest editor, who talks starting his own business, his love of California, and his newest shop in NYC.
I went to elementary school in Venice. That’s my home. Eyewear was all around me growing up—because my parents worked in it—but I wasn’t obsessed with it or really loved it. In high school I never told anybody what my parents did, so nobody really knew.
I was a journalism major at Cal Poly, so writing and storytelling were things that I loved, and when I graduated from college I went to work for my dad [at Oliver Peoples] and I kind of just fell in love with it. I thought, I want to create my own work environment and I want to work in a place where I want to be every day. That’s just sort of the entreprenurial spirit. So I started my own company! And we’re here today. There was never a moment where I was like, "I love eyewear and I have to make it," it was more of, "I love life, and I want to work in a place where other people want to work."
Friend of a Friend: You have a really tight team that you work with.
Garrett Leight: I definitely value my team. We want to create a culture and environment that people want to be a part of, and that helps makes the company better in every way.
FOAF: Who are your muses?
GL: I’ve always drawn a lot of inspiration from iconic literary characters that fly under the radar, so Arthur Miller, Allen Ginsberg, Hunter S. Thompson, just sort of these crazy people—as opposed to the Paul Newmans and James Deans. I love all those guys, but I think they're too standard. It's about being subtle. I'm also inspired by anything that relates to the vibe and lifestyle of California.
We have this Californian DNA. We’ve really focused on that and really created that as our brand identity, trying to figure out what it means to be a Californian. Oliver Peoples is an incredible brand, but that’s a bit more Hollywood, entertainment industry kind of LA, whereas I think we're a little more laid back.
FOAF: What’s your favorite frame?
GL: Kinney. For sure. It’s a nice classic staple.
FOAF: But in store, you sell multiple brands—can you speak to that?
GL: When I opened my store in Venice about six and half years ago, it was a multi-brand store with no Garrett Leight in it. We sold everything from vintage Oliver Peoples to Mosely Tribes to L&A clothing. We sold shoes, books, and music. Then I launched the brand in 2011 and I started to move out of the store and work on the wholesale side of the business, and as we’ve grown, our collection is beginning to cover some of those multiple categories. But brands like Thierry Lasry are really different and original—We will never be that kind of style, but we love that and we carry in our store so we're able to service that customer that wants that vibe.
FOAF: And now you're opening up in New York. What can we expect from the store?
GL: As far as our store design, we use these natural materials that we always use, and we went a little hard on this cactus garden—not too hard, but we wanted to bring that California environment to life. Our other stores have little bits of that but this one is the most [subtle]. And we also have an analog music system, wired on vintage speakers and dials, and it sounds incredible. I think people will really like it and engage with it.
FOAF: How do you think the eyewear you’re wearing every day affects your personal style?
GL: I mean, people see your face first, so it’s such an important choice. In the morning, I put on my shoes and eyewear last.
Garrett Leight photographed in NYC by Greg Mitola.
Visit the first-ever New York flagship at 149 Grand Street.