Garrett Leight, Optical Designer

To say I love sunglasses is an understatement. I adore them. Finding a great pair gives me an ineffable rush, partly for their ability to pull things together instantly and with ease, but mostly because I tend to live in them (and shouldn’t the things we wear most make us feel, well, good?). Over the past year I’ve been going steady with one particular brand, and for good cause. Garrett Leight‘s design-conscious aesthetic supersedes optical trends, capturing the spirit of ‘California Cool’, and in-turn my favor. A brief Q&A with the Los Angeles-based optical aficionado, below:

What’s your all-time favorite frame? It’s hard to choose one. I always wear the Kinney from my collection, so I guess that would be my favorite GLCO frame. I wear it many different ways, including optical, with a clip and also with mirror and flat base lenses. I love how thin and comfortable it is, and how it fits my head. My favorite vintage design of all time is probably the iconic Goliath frame that RUN DMC wore. I would never wear it, but I just love it.

Describe GLCO’s aesthetic. Design-wise we are into timeless classics, specifically frames that are thin and comfortable. We use a lot of matte tortoise combinations in our collection – there are a variety of great options in the brown tortoise family. Lifestyle-wise we are all about California. Whether that comes from living in California or being abroad, a beautiful sunset feels like home no matter where we are (just so long as it’s above 50 degrees outside).

Where are GLCO’s frames made? What is the actual construction process like? Our frames are assembled in China and we source a lot of our material from Italy and Japan. We use a lot of Japanese acetate, as well as glass and mirrored lenses from both Japan and Italy. Everything is hand made at every stage. The acetate alone takes up to three months to create before it is ready to be sent to our factory to be cut into frames. The lenses are made at a separate factory and then inserted into the frame during the final stage of the construction process. A lot happens in between, but I can’t give away all the secrets! Just know there are many people with a specific skill-set using incredible machines to help us create a perfectly crafted, quality frame.

Has any one icon (actor, politician) inspired a specific frame? Absolutely. A few of my favorites include Arthur Miller, who inspired the Harding frame and Mickey Rourke, who inspired the Brooks frame. Susan Sarandon’s character in Thelma & Louise was a main point of reference for our Lucille frame, while our Speedway frame draws inspiration from Hunter S. Thompson. For me, inspiration comes from all walks of life and from many different generations. Even some of my friends have inspired our designs.

What are a few of your favorite spots to eat, drink and shop near your stores in Venice and on La Brea? In Venice I love Gjelina and if I’m over on La Brea I love going to Sycamore Kitchen. I love food, so those really stand out. For shopping I usually spend my money at Mohawk General Store. Kevin just buys the stuff that I like.

How important are sunglasses to your personal style? Very important, but I’m not obsessed. They’re literally the last item I put on everyday and I almost never base my outfit around my glasses. I have the luxury of options, so I can decide after I’m done getting ready which frame I’ll want to wear. That being said, a frame does complete the ensemble and I do take my choice seriously on most days. But there are days when I’m in a rush, which is when I go to my tried and true frames, the Kinney.

– Garrett Leight California Optical is located at 165 S. La Brea Ave. Click here for more posts featuring GLCO. Photographs by Alexander Atkins and courtesy of Garrett Leight. 


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