Summer is upon us, and if you’re like us updating your sunglasses drawer is top priority. One of our go-to’s for quality and stylish frames is Los Angeles-based Garrett Leight California Optical, which marries classic silhouettes with just enough fashion forwardness to keep it interesting. We talked to the man behind the brand and quintessential left-coaster Garrett Leight about selecting the proper frames for your face, the best taco spots in L.A., and which bespectacled human influenced him the most.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a Californian through and through. I love great weather and have a sense of style based around being comfortable and casual with just a touch of edge. I’m a bit of a homebody. I’ve learned a lot from traveling, but I love to be home.
What references inspire your frames and collections?
Iconic characters who tend to fly under the radar. As much as I love Steve McQueen, James Dean, and Paul Newman, I tend to gravitate towards and find my most inspirational designs from characters like Arthur Miller, Allen Ginsburg, Hunter S. Thompson, and Charles Bukowski.
You work with some of the top eyewear factories in Italy. We exclusively source all of our shirting fabrics from the finest Italian mills. Can you share any stories of working with these old-school factories?
When I first started making eyewear, Italy was the first country I visited for manufacturing. It was incredible, especially if I could go at a time when the weather was perfect. Still to this day, my favorite production trip ever was to Varese in the springtime. It’s a little town about an hour north of Milan where arguably the most famous acetate manufacturer in the world is. I stayed at a place called the Art Hotel, where you can rent a little moped and journey around the village. A ten minute ride gets you to the top of this hill where you can see everything, including the Swiss Alps. There’s just nowhere like it in the world.
Your parents co-founded Oliver Peoples. It’s safe to say you’ve been surrounded by some seriously stylish people throughout your life. Do you have an early memory of an influential person wearing sunglasses?
This is a great question. And the answer is easy – my mom. She just had the wildest style in the 80’s and 90’s. So many colored lenses, like purples, pinks and blues. She wasn’t afraid to rock the most unique pairs of glasses. I vividly remember glasses on her face; she was on another level.
What are two frame styles that every man should have in his repertoire?
How does a guy find the right frame for his shape face? Do you have any hard-and-fast rules for the perfect fit?
Don’t be insecure, don’t second-guess yourself, don’t ask twenty people what they think. Try stuff on, and when you feel comfortable, just buy the damn thing. If you feel comfortable, how can you go wrong?
What are you reading right now? What will be in your beach bag this summer?
We’re big fans of your publication, Spectacle. What’s on the docket for the next issue?
We are bringing it back to California, from Los Angeles to San Francisco and everything in between. This edition will feel very Californian and highlight some of the most interesting creators this state has to offer.
What’s on repeat on your Spotify playlist right now?
Right now, it’s “Murderer” by Barrington Levy. Yesterday it was “U Mad” by Vic Mensa and Kanye West.
We have 36 hours in L.A. What do we do, eat, and see?
36 Hours? OK, so lets say you arrive at 12pm, so you get two dinners, two lunches, and one breakfast. First, you head straight to La Isla Bonita taco truck and order a ceviche tostada and a couple tacos. I go with carne asada, but carnitas and al pastor will do as well. Then you need to make your way to the beach, take the coast up to Malibu and plant yourself at First Point until sunset. Watch the surfers and soak in the sun. For dinner you’re back in Venice on Abbot Kinney at Gjelina – it’s the best. It’s farm-to-table style and you can’t go wrong with anything you order (but definitely get some crudo). Breakfast is tough – there are so many good places. If I had to choose one, you have to go to John O’Groats on Pico. Homemade biscuits and gravy are a life changer, and you might sit next to Larry David, so that’s pretty L.A. Then you’re headed over to Olvera Street for Mexican food again. Taquitos at Cielito Lindo. Last but not least, you catch a Dodgers game and have about 10 Dodger Dogs before your midnight flight back home.
Which living person do you most admire?
Whichever person has the most happiness and the least stress
What is your greatest extravagance?
Extravagance is for drama of which I have no interest
What is your most treasured possession?
Possessions are not to be treasured. I treasure things that have the ability to possess.
What is your motto?
Just be nice to people.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Shop Garrett Leight here.