RIMOWA is no stranger to collaborations. And of late, it has been steering away from just luggage and travel accessories. This time around, the luxury brand has collaborated with an unlikely partner: California-based eyewear brand Garrett Leight California Optical (GLCO). But as we found out from Leight, despite the apparent differences, there are some key similarities that both brands share.
ESQ : How did this collaboration with RIMOWA come about?
GARRETT LEIGHT: Honestly, I think we were just introduced through a mutual friend. I had someone that worked at LVMH and they introduced me to the CEO of RIMOWA, Alexandre Arnault. He was super interested trying to get into the eyewear category and loved our brand. Our thoughts were very aligned and we were happy to work with RIMOWA. I was a fan and had my own RIMOWA. And I guess the CEO himself also loved GLCO and was wearing it so we explored it further.
ESQ: What were some of the considerations made when designing the collaboration?
GARRETT LEIGHT: Well like any collaboration, we like to truly get into the collaborator’s design DNA as much as possible. Not just from what we know from being fans of their brand, but also from hearing from some of their different stakeholders—whether it’s their creative director, CEO or anybody else on the team—to figure out where there’s similarity in our design DNA.
Obviously, we wanted to incorporate some of the specific things that they do within their design. It made sense to make a metal frame with a custom temple that would be able to replicate the way that their luggage has lines on them. We presented a lot of shapes—many of which we had already been working on previous to meeting them—that we thought fit their demographic. It was like a combination of classic but also a forward-thinking trend and we conceived this shape together.
ESQ: RIMOWA and GLCO exist in two different arenas. Are there any parallels that you see between the two?
GARRETT LEIGHT: We have a very similar customer in terms of the demographic we’re targeting. We have a strong DNA when it comes to Venice Beach culture; RIMOWA clearly has a global community. I think a lot of brands today fake it—they try to buy culture. And we both don’t really have to do that. So when we planned this collaboration, we were speaking a very similar language.
ESQ: In your opinion, what constitutes a great collaboration?
GARRETT LEIGHT: A great collaboration is if I could look back at it and be proud of what we created, but not just the product. If I know in my heart that we put together the best story and message that we possibly could, and created original artwork and an original product. Some of my—and I don’t want to be specific— least favourite collaborations are when you take an existing style and you simply recolour it. And there’s nothing wrong with that; we’ve done really well with those. But they’re hard to be my favourites because they’re limited in the way that you push your creativity and your mind. I prefer them to be more of a product of true creativity; I’m an artist at the end of the day.
ESQ: But also, with a collaboration, it does allow you to extend your creativity beyond just eyewear. And especially with the RIMOWA collaboration, there’s luggage as well. Is that your way of doing something differently without existentially changing the concept of your brand?
GARRETT LEIGHT: Yes! Absolutely. I’m glad you mentioned that. I’ve been pushing hard the last two years for our collaborators to meet us halfway in creating products outside of eyewear. Eyewear’s such a difficult product to make that a lot of times, brands would come to us to make eyewear and anything else was never in the conversation—whether it was apparel, beauty, health and wellness, furniture, luggage… I just wanted to change that and we just started aggressively (laughs) and politely asking the people that we were collaborating with, whatever their medium was, to take our creativity and have that interpreted through the products they make as well.
We’re a lifestyle brand. We may not be a lifestyle business—we sell eyewear—but we want to show people what our travel looks like. So yeah, that is a huge thing that we’ve been focusing on and when people aren’t willing to do that with us, we’re not open to collaborating with them as much. But we’re not getting much pushback (laughs). People are totally down to doing it.
ESQ: And it does make more sense. It’s about the entire experience rather than just a pair of sunglasses.
GARRETT LEIGHT: Yeah. Especially in this day and age when people want depth. They want to invest and buy things that have more meaning than just being a product. We’ll need to do that in order to continue to have substance and meaning to our fans.
ESQ: GLCO is celebrating its 10th year. And within that time, you've garnered a cult following, especially among the Hollywood set. How did that connection develop?
So when GLCO first started in Venice Beach on Abbott Kinney, LA is like, you know, the factory of Hollywood. And if you've ever been to LA, you know it's really spread out. Even so, there's still a community of influential people in the industry—particularly actors and directors—that live in Venice Beach, who sort of fly under the radar. And a lot of those people were shopping at our store and some of those early adopters such as Robert Downey Jr., Zach Galifianakis and Olivia Wilde, they were kind of just coming into our store and had a great experience. There were the unsung heroes too—cameramen, writers, and other people on set—that were wearing GLCO and I think that's really contagious.
And then, let's not forget to mention that I come from the Oliver Peoples family (Leight's father, Larry Leight, founded Oliver Peoples). They did it so well for 20 years and so there's already a certain level of respect, craft and skill in delivering and working with that community. We just treat them how we would treat anybody else and that's what they prefer. The community loves our products and they can rely on them; they know that there's a certain level of quality.
ESQ: How would you be personally using the RIMOWA x Garrett Leight California Optical collection?
GARRETT LEIGHT: I’m going to Texas next week. We’re opening a store in Austin. My RIMOWA suitcases are next to me right now and I’m excited to pack them. I haven’t travelled with them yet but I’ll be in Austin for a week and then I’ll be in New York at the end of the month.
I’m also a golfer and I go on golf trips every year. I’m going to Kansas to play this amazing course for my birthday in April and I’ll definitely be taking the RIMOWA collaboration glasses there and probably be the coolest golfer next to the 11 other guys that don’t know much about fashion.
The glasses are insane. I love them as part of my wardrobe right now. I get really addicted to styles for a month or two. I have so much and so many options that I put them away and then go back to them for sure. But I think right now, they’re just part of my everyday.
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