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.
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.
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.
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!
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.