Oliver Peoples Speaks

Oliver Peoples is moving to the Gold Coast.

We first learned about the brand from Bret Easton Ellis in his gnarly 90s work, American Psycho. Bret is a keen observer of trends in fashion, music and culture and if you haven’t seen the film or read the book we recommend it … although both, especially the book, can be pretty grisly. If we never have to see a Habitrail ever again, cool.

Back to the brand. Not only does Oliver Peoples make super cool stuff that we love (see us wearing a special pair here), the uber-cool Paul Smith Spectacles and Mosley Tribes lines also fall under their umbrella. The new Chicago boutique will feature all three and an Oliver Peoples style exclusive to Chicago plus full-service optical care.

Headquartered in West Hollywood, CA, the line was co-founded in 1986 by eyewear visionary and designer Larry Leight. To like Oliver Peoples, as so many do, is to love Larry. Herewith, a few questions for the man about the brand:

The Haute Closet: As both are outsize icons with dramatic hair, what frame would you put on Dita Von Teese? On Gwen Stefani?

Larry Leight: For Gwen, I would style her in the DaddyB frame.

She usually likes frames that are a little bigger and more of a shield like. This style, in the black color, has a bit of a rock star image to me without being over the top and cheesy – it’s a bit more discreet.

For Dita I would go with our new Blondell style.

It’s a retro and ultra feminine design which will protect that gorgeous porcelain skin without compromising style.

THC: What is your favorite women’s style in your archive?

LL: I really liked the Harlot.

It’s an older style now but it was one of the first explosive frames when oversized sunglasses turned the corner again around 2004/2005. It got so much attention from fashion magazines, tastemakers, etc. and I was really proud of it. The new version of that oversized look is from our current season called Blondell. Its utilizes titanium so it is super light on the face and looks so glamorous.

THC: What effect did Bret Easton Ellis have on Oliver Peoples?

LL: American Psycho was huge for our company. The book mentions Oliver Peoples by name and Christian Bale wears the O’Malley style in the movie. Oliver Peoples defined the category of intellectual eyewear and the movie illustrated this look in such a visual, real way. The book talks about the established uniform of Wall Street bankers: Hermes tie, Gucci Loafers, and Oliver Peoples glasses…It really drew attention to our brand on a global level and today, the O’Malley, which can be both an optical frame and a sunglass, remains one of the most recognizable and sought after frames in the company’s history.

THC : Do you consider celebrity the most effective marketing tool for luxury apparel and accessories? If not, what is?

LL: Not at all, especially for our brand. We don’t have logos so celebrities wearing our brand does very little for us unless you are already “in the know”…. Of course, we consider it to be a great compliment when celebrities are seen in our frames because it’s likely that any brand in the world is accessible to them and they choose to wear ours. I know too that many celebrities use stylists who have great taste and comb through are the product in the market to find only the best for their client.

I can only speak for us when I say that the most effective marketing has been word of mouth among the essential Oliver Peoples customer – progressive individuals with good style who are influencers and tastemakers. These people have helped build our brand globally with the people who we want in our frames. We also produce short films and in-house music compilation CDs which help clearly define our brand image and lifestyle to the consumer. They bring life to the collection of eyewear and have always had a really positive response.

THC: What is the fuel for the brand, inspiration-wise?

LL: The continued support of our loyal customers. Everyone has an “Oliver Peoples” story and hearing them keeps me going.

Larry, we’re glad to help spread the word. Thanks for playing!

We loved the 2010 campaign that married the awesome Shirley Manson with the supergeek, Elijah Wood. For a little taste of the lifestyle that is Oliver Peoples, watch below:


by April | July 2011

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