Still one of the freshest independent eyewear brands on the planet, it’s hard to believe Garrett Leight has been going for ten years. We were his first stockists in the UK and only his second in Europe, and it feels like only yesterday that the twenty-something Californian walked into Seen Opticians in Manchester with a suitcase full of his very first collection. A lot’s changed since then, though, and Garrett has since gone on to conquer the world. He’s now stocked in stores all over the place, launched a superb luxury brand with his Dad - Mr Leight - and Garrett Leight frames have been spotted on the famous faces of everyone from Seth Rogan to Jennifer Lawrence. Way to go, Garrett!
The new Garrett Leight SS20 collection is a celebration of those last, busy ten years. There's some unsurprisingly on-point new frame styles and colourways that show the brand has well and truly still got it. What's more, there's a handful of 10th anniversary re-designs of some of Garrett's now-classic frames, The Hampton X and the Brooks X, which have been carefully tweaked for the 2020s.
As Garrett Leight remains one of our favourite designers, and the Garrett Leight frames remain some of our favourites on the Seen shelves, we thought we’d celebrate the brand’s 10th anniversary collection by grabbing the main man for a chat about influences, achievements, and the questionable fashion choices of professional golfers.
"We pay homage to the past and we are original. That's how we do it here." - GL
10 years dude. Congratulations. How does it feel?
It feels like I'm only halfway up the hill. I'm just super driven and competitive and I feel like we have more yet to accomplish, so it still feels steep but we definitely reached a plateau that many don't ever reach and I'm very proud of that.
Let’s talk about the new collection. What were your influences? Which style have you been wearing the most?
I've been wearing the Brooks X. It's just a great take on the original design with even more character. I wore the Kinney more than the Brooks for the thin frames, so it's nice to have this thicker Brooks option. For this collection we were just heavily influenced by Venice and our family and friends that inspired me to initially start the brand. I pictured them in my mind and what they would want in their collection.
The new collection features 10th Anniversary editions of the Brooks and the Hampton, the Brooks X and Hampton X. What do you think it is about those particular frames, as with many other of your styles, that means they stand the test of time?
Well, I particularly love the new 10 year anniversary plaque that we designed. I believe it will help make them uniquely recognizable without being obnoxious branding. Also, it's a classic silhouette that completely works in a thicker acetate. It's two proven shapes that fit a lot of people, we just added a twist. Then you've got the custom 10 year insignia stamping and anniversary packaging. The whole experience is just special in my opinion.
The Garrett Leight Hampton X in Nude is a very, very nice pair of frames.
You’ve come a long way over the last ten years and it’s been our pleasure riding alongside since the very beginning. Is there an achievement you’re most proud of?
I believe we're the only true lifestyle brand started by opticians. We made 100 chairs with Modernica and sold them out in a month. One of our collaborations this spring is with a travel company and part of the experience is another non-eyewear product. We've made and sold out of beach towels, hats, shirts, coffee mugs. I'm proud that we don't just make eyewear. GLCO is a lifestyle, and that makes us truly one of a kind.
When you first set out, Garrett Leight was rooted in vintage styles. Has that developed over the years? Have the influences on your aesthetic changed?
Not much has changed. There's a hundred years of eyewear design to be inspired by. The catalogue of great eyewear design is expansive, and my team and I are experts at knowing the history. We have a specific way we interpret it and modernize and we stay true to our roots. We pay homage to the past and we are original. That's how we do it here.
"I just want more of those casual golfers to wear better glasses on and off the course." - GL
A couple of years back, you launched Mr Leight with your Dad, Larry Leight. Have you enjoyed working alongside him? Does he still have the magic that put Oliver Peoples on the map? Has working with him had an influence on Garrett Leight in any way?
I very much enjoy working with my Dad because he's a world class eyewear designer. I don't believe the magic that made Oliver Peoples special 30 years ago is the same magic that applies today. My Dad has a tremendous amount of influence on me and my design team with his expansive eyewear knowledge and acts as a mentor that will allow us to be innovative with designs for generations to come. But the magic that makes a brand special is bigger than just the design and that's something we work on trying to get our audience to buy into every day. We have the magic, but it’s about making your audience aware through authentic communication.
So, after the big 10th birthday celebrations are over, what have you got planned for Garrett Leight for the next ten years? Anything big we should know about? Any secrets you can let us in on?
I just want to grow bigger so that I can greater impact and inspire more people as well as personally grow myself. I want to be bigger and better, the best. But not because I'm driven to be wealthy, because I believe we have a great message and we are good people that more people should know about and hopefully in some way it makes the world a better place. The bigger your audience is and the more they respect you, the more they listen, and then you have a platform to make a difference in the world, whatever that may be, so long as it’s positive and helps us evolve.
Time flys when you're selling ridiculously good independent eyewear. Garrett and his Dad, Larry Leight circa ten years ago.
And finally, knowing you over time and looking at your Instagram, golf (and tacos!) clearly play an important part in your life. Do you see yourself entering the golf market as there is evidently a void of cool eyewear on the course? Do you dream of seeing the USA Ryder cup team in GLCO as they lose to Europe?!
Not really actually. I'm a fan of the professional golfer's game but they are a looooong way from being a well-dressed group. Also, those guys are mostly owned by corporations that pay big dollars, it's unfortunately unrealistic to think I can compete with Nike, Adidas, Callaway, etc who have them all locked up. And anyway, there are so many men that casually golf that are already much cooler than the guys on tour, like you! I just want more of those casual golfers to wear better glasses on and off the course. But it's self-fulfilling. I just want to play on more special golf courses, so the more golfers that know me the better my odds!
Thanks man, that's all we've got time for. Big love for the new collection…
If you fancy checking out the new Garrett Leight collection, have a scroll below or pop into Seen HQ in Manchester.