Larry Leight, founder and creative director of Oliver Peoples, dropped into Toronto’s premiere haus of pince-nez, Spectacle, last week to celebrate Peoples of past and present with a unique bespoke event. We chatted with Leight about brand consistency, classic looks and the importance of subtle change.
Who was Oliver Peoples?
To be honest, no one really knows. He was a liquidator in the industry of distribution in the '40s and '50s. He had many different estates that he was always selling in New York in basements. Back in the '80s, we happened upon a bunch of dirty old glasses in one of his estates. At the time, no one was interested in spending six or seven thousand dollars on this kind of stuff. Little did they know it was a goldmine; my brother and I purchased everything. This original crop inspired a lot of our iconic looks.
Speaking of original, you’re bringing back the MP2 – the frame that really brought Oliver Peoples to the forefront of fashion – why now?
Well, I mean, it’s just a great frame and it has the intellectual look that people seem to be sporting these days. It’s got a round metal frame with a little tortoise and beautiful filigree. It was a giant seller and was one of the top three frames that made our look and made people recognize us. There was nothing like it at the time, everyone could wear it and they still can.
For men that want to achieve the cool intellectual look but can’t pull off the MP2, what are some alternative frames?
I think a heavy Onassis type frame works really well to create this kind of smart hipster feel – a thicker, chunkier frame. The one rule is it has to be plastic. We have a frame called “Tycoon” that Elvis Costello wore. Types like Martin Scorcese and Woody Allen are also prime examples of doing the look properly. Bold, rectangular, thick frames.
How does a modern man make a statement through his glass frames?
To make the strongest statement, I think a tinted shade, as opposed to a dark shade like Blues Brothers-calibre, has the most potential. With a dark shade it’s hard to notice details in the frame. Take Jack Nicholson for example. He wears a rosy brown lens and a black frame and everyone remembers his look. This is the interesting look for today. Plastic also creates a bolder look than metal because so much can be achieved through bold variations in colour and texture. Matte grey as opposed to matte black, or colour variances in tortoises like yellows or ambers, for example.
Oliver Peoples was acquired by Oakley in 2006, how has the business changed since?
Like any company, the first three years were a huge adjustment. But as of the last few years, It’s growing faster and better than I would have ever put my money on. There are complications and challenges of course with some design aspects but they are small details that thankfully aren’t seen by the consumer. At the end of the day, no one really knows who owns what so as long as our customers aren’t seeing design compromise I’m happy. I’m actually shocked at how smooth the transition has been
Last Question: Who is the ideal face for your frames – one woman, one man.
That’s easy: Kate Moss, Johnny Depp.