Behind-the-Scenes at Oliver Peoples

We’ve seen Oliver Peoples eyewear in almost all of our favorite optical shops, and have even had the chance to meet founder and creative director Larry Leight a few times over the years. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to tour the Oliver Peoples headquarters in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, to get an up close and personal look at how this iconic eyewear brand comes to life.

The first Oliver Peoples office was downstairs in the company’s original retail boutique, situated on the iconic Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Larry Leight opened that optical boutique with his brother, Dennis, after purchasing an estate collection of vintage eyewear. The assortment included thousands of beautifully filigreed rimless and metal frames, including clip-on metal sunglasses produced by iconic American companies, such as Bausch & Lomb and American Optical. All of the frames were in mint condition in their original packaging, with a receipt signed for by “Oliver Peoples.” And that’s how the company name started. When Larry and Dennis decided to sell the estate collection in their retail store, they used the name in Peoples’ honor. One year later in 1987, they designed the first (original) Oliver Peoples collection, focusing on bespoke detailing, discreet branding and progressive style, with vintage inspiration taken from the original estate collection.

Oliver Peoples Sculpture
Oliver Peoples Sculpture

As the company expanded, the corporate office was moved to a slightly larger office a few doors east of the boutique, and years later relocated to Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. The Wilshire Boulevard office space was marked with a steel sculpture of the Oliver Peoples logo, which continues to stand proudly today (photo above). In 2008, the corporate team traveled back to the birthplace of Oliver Peoples, taking over part of a glass building on the legendary Sunset Boulevard, which is where we spent the afternoon.

Oliver Peoples

Inside, the space feels and works like a creatively-driven atmosphere with a collaborative mindset. The office is open concept, with the design team situated in-house, right up at the front. (In case you were wondering, Leight occupies a corner office). Like most creative spaces, inspiration boards and tear-sheets line the walls, though the dozens of lens samples reminds you that you’re in an eyewear studio. Another reminder: the company has a lab located in the office with a lab specialist to customize frames and lenses.

Oliver Peoples

Oliver Peoples

We met a lot of hard-working employees during our visit – most only had a minute or two to spare to say hello before diving right back into their projects – but we wanted to know, how does the staff let loose? According to Chloe Gaffney, Oliver Peoples’ friendly PR rep, it usually takes place during “Cake Day” – a day every month when the whole office gathers in the kitchen to celebrate birthdays and enjoy a piece of cake or two (Gaffney admits that “Cake Day” has also been known to turn into “Pizza Day”). To keep everyone in the office informed, the kitchen is updated with eyewear information and recent editorial, and the entire company also partakes in weekly meetings. And there’s the infamous Oliver Peoples holiday parties, which we admit, we’ll be trying to snag an invite to this Christmas!

Oliver Peoples

At the end of our visit, we gained not only a new appreciation for the work ethic of Larry Leight and his team, but also a newfound appreciation for the company’s L.A. heritage. As a company born in the heart of West Hollywood, the Southern California lifestyle remains a key part of Oliver Peoples’ brand identity, and the Los Angeles culture-elements of fashion, film, art, sport, architecture and landscape continue to inspire every collection. This is a company it seems, that not only stays true to making quality eyewear, but also stays true to its roots.

Anwar Bey-Taylor

Anwar bought these MOSCOT frames three years ago because they reminded him of Spike Lee’s glasses. This “Miltzen” frame was named after a family uncle, and was first introduced by MOSCOT in the 1930s. With its slim, rounded shape, keyhole bridge and traditional three-barrel hinge, this is a classic pair of “P-3” glasses – a term eyewear manufacturers used to refer to a style that falls between oval and round. Anwar’s pair is in the color “blond” and is made from acetate with exposed hardware.

Moudane Hassan

Moudane loved the style of these glasses by Italian designer Romeo Gigli and who can blame her? Known for his play on proportion and material, Gigli extends his signature to these frames, hand-crafted from solid acetate with a dramatic cat eye and silver detailing.

Gigli launched his first collection of prèt-à-porter in 1985 and introduce his eyewear line 15 years later. Both push forward new ideas of femininity, mixing hard and soft, dark and light. These glasses would look just as good in the boardroom as they do on Moudane, in her summer festival finest. As they say in the fashion world – it’s not who you wear, but how you wear it, right?

Teddy Hamilton

We met Teddy at the Gogosha Optique store in Silver Lake, where she told us that her signature style revolves around a great pair of glasses and a bold-colored lipstick. These chic and sassy Garrett Leight “Louella” frames, and her magenta lips seem to fit the bill. Designed in Venice Beach, California, these frames are handcrafted from a cured cellulose acetate from Japan and Italy, along with stainless steel gold and silver hinges. Though this model was originally designed as sunglasses, Teddy swapped out the plum gradient lenses on the frames for clear optical ones. We love the mix of acetate and metal, which lend a sophisticated and delicate touch to the oversized frames. The slight cat eye and narrow bridge add further visual interest. And while we’ve seen a lot of tortoiseshell this summer, this soft taupe presents a nice and neutral alternative, complimenting the shape of the frames without taking away from its uniqueness.

Ray Civello

Ray Civello is president and CEO of Aveda Canada and Civello Salon and Spa and we photographed him at Power Ball in Toronto in these bold and black Tom Ford glasses. The signature gold “T” detailing on the temples make these unmistakably Tom Ford, but we love the oversized square-shaped rims and the deep ridge at the nose bridge. Paired with Ray’s dapper double-breasted suit, the frames are intriguing and slick, resulting in an overall look that commands – and demands – attention.

Lesley Schouela

We can’t help but smile when we see these photos of Lesley, who works as an assistant buyer for leading ecommerce brand SSENSE in Montreal. Lesley loved that these Ray-Ban sunglasses were black, leather-wrapped and circular – two motifs that fit in with her personal style. We loved the detail of the black and white string attached to these frames, and the slight zig-zag along the bridge. The slim profile and shape of these glasses give off a vibe that’s hippie and hipster at the same time, and paired with Lesley’s outfit – well, it’s pretty hip for summertime too.

Keith Manship

Keith Manship is the Director of Marketing at l.a.Eyeworks and we spotted him in these sculptural “Pally” frames from the company’s latest collection. These art and architecture-inspired frames are made from a perforated stainless steel, with a retro, preppy shape, elegant curves and just a touch of whimsy. Keith’s pair is in a soft brown tone, which softens up the steel construction, while adding a little bit of color.

 

While the shape and texture may seem a little intimidating at first, these frames are incredibly lightweight and versatile, and can easily become your “new classic.” With inspiration from the past and a nod to the future, the “Pally” is high on our list of frames worth looking out for.

Denisse Cervantes

We caught Denisse outside of her store, Will Leather Goods, in Venice, California, taking in the summer weather in a pair of classic Ray-Bans. Denisse has a mix of high-end sunglasses and sidewalk shades, but when it comes to her go-to pair, these large, rounded frames always hit the mark. The frames collapse and fold in at the bridge, making them as practical as they are stylish. “I love that I can fold them down and slide them in my pocket,” Denisse told us. “That way, I’m not losing them because I put them down somewhere.” Another reason she loves these frames: “They make me feel like a boss!”

Chance Gilliland

We met Chance at the TOMS store on Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, where he was dutifully sporting these TOMS “Phoenix” tortoiseshell frames. Inspired by European ski frames, the “Phoenix” features larger lenses but a snug fit, made from “memory plastic” that can be heated up and formed to your face. Details like the keyhole bridge and slightly angular brow line add visual interest. The TOMS logo flag meantime, sits at the side of the arms, while the company’s signature blue and white stripes are hand-painted at the tips.

Chance moved to LA to live close to the ocean, and these large, sporty shades are perfect whether he’s surfing or just hanging out at the beach. As with all TOMS products, the glasses are part of their “one for one” program, where your purchase will help provide a pair of prescription glasses and eye exam for a child in need.

 

Kyle Joe

Kyle Joe is the Senior Digital Producer at MuchMusic, and we spotted him on a break from work at Osheaga. Kyle picked up these Prada frames from Charles De Gaulle Airport during a layover in Paris, because he was a) bored and b) “wanted to up his eyewear game.” Mission accomplished.

Often seen with suits or dressed-up denim for a night on the town, these tortoiseshell sunglasses are given a youthful new spin paired with Kyle’s sporty, festival-ready outfit. The sophisticated shades work equally as well on a more casual look, and Kyle pulls off this high-low mix perfectly. We love the unique details on the glasses, like the not-quite-rounded lens shape, the curved temples and the double-bridge. Judging from the rest of his outfit, it’s clear Kyle appreciates the little details as well.

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