Garrett Leight has proved to the world that he is so much more than just the son of eyewear legend and founder of Oliver Peoples, Larry Leight.
At just 26, he founded the iconic eyewear brand Garrett Leight California. GLCO has grown at an unprecedented pace since then, while its cool Californian aesthetics have seduced the likes of Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski and Leonardo Dicaprio, to name a few.
We asked him about the story behind the brand’s conception, growing up surrounded by eyewear, his sources of inspiration, design icons, whats next for GLCO and so much more.
Did you always know you wanted to follow in your father’s footsteps in the eyewear business?
No, not at all. I actually didn’t think that was my path. But my family has been in the industry for over 30 years and it’s always been a big part of my life. I was surrounded by eyewear from an early age. There was never any pressure to start a brand of my own and it really wasn’t until I saw an opportunity to create something that I felt was missing in the industry, that I approached the idea of starting my own brand more seriously.
How did you go from graduating with a journalism degree to launching your own eyewear brand?
When I graduated I worked at Oliver Peoples with my dad for a while and I learned a lot from that experience. I really enjoyed the emotional aspect of eyewear. You really help shape peoples lives and how they feel about themselves when you put them in the right pair of glasses.
So much of succeeding in a saturated consumers goods market is knowing how to tell a story, right? I think my degree helped me shape this business and the story we tell beyond just great product we have.
How was Garrett Leight California Optical conceived?
I created Garrett Leight California Optical because there weren’t any opticians in my neighborhood of Venice Beach and the eyewear being created at the time wasn’t exciting to me. I wanted to bring eyewear to my hometown that my community would want to wear.
How has the city of Los Angeles, and Venice in particular, been influential in the brand and its designs?
From the very beginning, Los Angeles has been a part of the brand’s DNA and identity. I’m born and raised here and Venice Beach is home so it’s really authentic to us. Each season we’re influenced by different aspects of Southern California, which is reflected in our eyewear, store design, website, social media - everything.
Where do you draw inspiration from to make the frames?
I draw inspiration from a lot of different areas in my life as well as my surroundings. Our current collection is all about 80s Hollywood classics, drawing inspiration from iconic films such as American Gigolo and Scarface.
What is the vision of GLCO?
The vision of Garrett Leight California Optical has always been to create the best and most unique eyewear experience. We approach everything we do including design, quality, service, retail, marketing, and everything in between with the customer's value in mind. It's not just about any one thing. What we care most about is providing the customer value with a great experience that they can share with others and feel good about.
Who are your design icons?
It changes from time to time but it will always include Mark Gonzales.
Which has been your biggest achievement with Garrett Leight yet? What is next for the brand? Are there any goals yet to achieve?
We’re excited to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Garrett Leight California Optical next year, and making it this far is our biggest achievement! I’m so proud of the culture of the company, and our incredible community of brand fans. It inspires us to keep creating and doing what we do for the next 10 years. My goal would be to grow the business, but stay authentic to who we are and why we started all of this in the first place. Its actually more challenging then it sounds. But we have a lot of exciting projects on the horizon that I can’t wait to share.
We know you love basketball, but do you have an interest in soccer as well? If so, who is your favourite team in the Premiere League?
It would be unfair to say that I truly have a favorite Premeire League team. When I was in University I played a lot of FIFA on Playstation and I drank a lot of Newcastle. They were pretty good in the early 2000's with Michael Owen and Alan Shearer. So I guess I would pick them. However, I recently went to my first MLS soccer game here in Los Angeles and loved everything about it. I know just how competitive the sport is in Europe, especially England, and can only imagine what the atmosphere is like at one of the Premier League matches.
When are you coming to the UK?
I try to visit the UK at least once year, depending on my travel schedule. I will hopefully be coming back later this year for a visit to see our reps. They are part of the GLCO family and I love hanging with them whenever I can.
Which is your favourite place to visit in London?
Any time I travel I always look for a golf course to play at if I have some down time. London has a ton of great courses and I can’t wait to get out on the green the next time I’m in town.
By Valeria Martinez