Larry Leight, along with his brother Dennis, founded Oliver Peoples nearly 25 years ago. It was built on vintage inspired eyewear and now nearly two and half decades on, Oliver Peoples has come full circle and is now considered vintage itself. To celebrate this fact, Oliver Peoples is re-issuing three classic designs. We met up with Larry at the Haymarket Hotel in London to talk about the new vintage collection, Spring '11 trends and everything glasses related.
CG - Oliver Peoples started when you bought an auction lot of vintage glasses, tell us about that?
LL- I had been a trained optician since 1981. It was 1986 and we bought at auction in Connecticut a lot that contained 6000 frames, brochures, posters, lenses, everything, which had been owned by a guy called Oliver Peoples. It cost $5000. He had tried selling it to various stores but they only wanted a couple of pieces here and there. My brother and I came together and we wanted to get away from what everybody else was doing, it was an unusual lot so we got it. We created a whole category of eyewear that didn't exist before.
CG - Is there much left?
LL - The frames are mostly gone but we still have the catalogues, brochures and posters. When we opened our first store we sold other brands but everybody made a beeline to the vintage area. They liked the lack of logos, the architecture and filigree of the glasses. Then when we ran out we started to manufacture our own line but using the old manufacturing processes; handmade, original pins and hinges.
CG - You designed a pair for Andy Warhol?
LL- Yes, before Oliver Peoples I designed a pair with a flip-down which was featured on the cover of a German magazine.
CG - Tell us about the re-released vintage collection?
These are three iconic styles that are recognised by people as Oliver Peoples, made in exactly the same way. There is the O'Malley, which was named after the 1950s owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It's the pair Patrick Bateman wears in 'American Psycho' and Christian Bale wore them in the movie, the 505 and 1955 which became definitive styles of the 80s. They will be available from December in a limited number and come with an original box and special cleaning cloth which is printed with our very first advertising campaign.
CG - Larry, what are the big trends for next year's eyewear?
LL - In Mosely Tribes (Oliver Peoples' younger sportier label, the Miu Miu to Oliver Peoples Prada) there are lots of metal frames and aviator shapes, plastics, utililtarian and miltary influences with polarise lenses. Polarise lenses eliminate haze and reflection, they make everything really clear, they allow fisherman to see through the water. We've also made holes in the ends so you can attach one of our new leather retainers with a gromet.
In Oliver Peoples we have a new style called the Jack One, it was inspired by a picture of Neil Diamond. It's a pair of metal framed aviators with the sides cut off. A guy called Jack who owned a shop called Optique Boutique in LA during the 1970s, used to take Rayban Aviators and bend them into this shape for every customer and then make new lenses for them.
CG - What's your favourite Oliver Peoples pair?
LL - My favourite pair is the O'Malley (pictured) it's simple or 'Aero', I never imagined this would still be our best seller.
CG - Favourite image or person in glasses?
LL - Sting in 'O'Malley', Claudia Schiffer wearing the '1955' and Brad Pitt in 'Aero'.
CG - Any tips about buying glasses or sunglasses Larry?
LL - I think it's important for people know their own style, don't try to be somebody they aren't. Choose the right style to where they live and what they are doing and how they dress. Frames have a personality. Make sure your eyewear fits what you do.
CG - Any chance of an Oliver Peoples store in London soon?
LL - We do really well here and it would be the first perfect location outside the US.
Read Michelle from Oliver Peoples How to... Look after your glasses and sunglasses - Click here