As all-stars in the eyewear game, it makes for no surprise that Larry Leight (who founded Oliver Peoples back in 1986) and his son Garrett Leight (who founded his namesake line Garrett Leight California Optical, or GLCO, in 2010) find it easy to work together. Having both of their work worn by the likes of A-list clientele such as Elton John, Christy Turlington to Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and even Jeff Bezos, the boys of the Leight eyewear dynasty having been bridging generations of eyewear trends and craftsmanship since their coming together in 2017 when GLCO launched the Mr. Leight line, and it’s been quite a ride since then.
Establishing style DNAs that are collaborative yet respective of each of their creative offerings, both Garrett and Larry have been able to join forces and bring their shared passion for eyewear to a wider audience range, proving how their family’s bond and shared passion is a united front.
Ahead of Father’s Day, the father-son duo chatted with VMAN.com about connectivity and bonding through design.
VMAN: With both brands Garrett Leight and Mr. Leight, in which both have an aesthetic that is known for its luxurious feel and aspirational lifestyle appeal, can you talk about how you were both able to merge your individual, creative visions into cohesive brand identities?
Garrett Leight: In terms of merging our vision, it’s quite simple in that we bring different things to the table. My father has always been a passionate designer, and in my opinion, the best to ever to do it. So, I follow his lead and will let him speak to the collection inspiration. We always try to lead with great products first.
Larry Leight: I was inspired by the audience and the DNA of the Garrett Leight brand that Garrett and his team built in 2009. I came in to join Garrett’s company when he came to me about an idea to start the Mr. Leight brand. For me, the idea of being able to just focus on eyewear design that would appeal to his audience and diversity in design that would expand his target audience was a perfect marriage. I could focus 100% on what I love the most—designing.
VM: It’s clear that you both have a deep passion for eyewear. How has this shared passion influenced your business strategy, and what do you think sets your brand apart from other eyewear companies?
GL: We have a long history in this industry of excellence. We’ve forged relationships with the eyewear community since 1986 and we’ve continued to deliver them a great product and great experience consistently. Every year we visit tradeshows and the best stores as well as our factories, so it’s proof of how much we care. We are constantly trying to learn and observe the needs of the optical market and I think the community sees and respects that.
VM: Working with a family member can be challenging, but also rewarding. How do you balance your personal relationship with your professional responsibilities as generational leaders in this niche industry, and what strengths do you each bring to the partnership?
GL: Since I started the business in 2009 I’ve really come to know every detail within the inner workings of this company. I hired all the people, I partnered with all the distributors and sales reps, built relationships with all the factories and best accounts. We both excel at branding so we kind of share that responsibility, and my father is the true genius behind eyewear design. Of course, I am constantly giving my input and feedback, but I view myself more as a merchant who is in the field observing the market, and my dad is a true designer, but he is also a great merchant. So there is some crossover, but it seems to work great that we both focus on the areas of our greatest strengths.
LL: As Garrett said we both do different things, we are lucky to have the full circle of success between us. We complement each other’s expertise and feed off each other.
VM: Garrett, could you share a bit about how your father’s work with eyewear design has influenced your individual aesthetic approach as a designer?
GL: I honestly don’t really consider myself a designer. Since he came on board in 2018, I’ve really just enjoyed the experience of seeing him in action every season. Before his time, I did a great job of building some classic styles that will remain with our collection forever, and those shapes were inspired by the need in the market for thin acetate. I found some great vintage frames, some of which were from early Oliver Peoples collections, and I reinvented them in a new way. But I really leave a lot of the designing up to my dad.
VM: Larry, what would you say is distinctive about your individual design style, and how has it evolved over your years in the eyewear industry? Has working with your son impacted your approach to your work?
LL: First, I am inspired by Garrett’s work and his audience. As a designer, it’s a challenge that I love to have to come up with designs that inspire his audience. At the same time, I bring a slightly more mature audience with Mr. Leight, yet I always design eyewear that is appealing to all ages of people who are conscious of their appearance and their personality. We know our audience and our goal is to know what they want and expect next. We are forward thinkers who get bored easily and thrive when we are challenged to continue to be one step ahead in our thinking while being authentic. We create inspirational and classic eyewear in a quiet luxurious way and we are really good at it because of our combined experience and awareness–we always pay attention every hour of every day.