Details: Garrett Leight California Optical x Massimo Alba

A vintage-style pair of glasses that will complement your travel wardrobe

‘He’s Italian and I’m a dumb American,’ says Garrett Leight of his friend Massimo Alba. Leight is from Los Angeles and since 2010 has built a loyal following of fans of his handcrafted gently retro-style eyewear produced under the Garret Leight California Optical brand.

It’s a business that runs in the family. Garrett followed his father Larry, founder of Oliver Peoples, into eyewear, though for many years he had no intention of entering the family company. In the end he succumbed, more than anything, he says, because he enjoyed the sense of “collaborative family” his father had built up around his business.

After setting up his own thing just over a decade ago, he has thrived and GLCO, as it is abbreviated, now has nine stores in the States and sells in over 25 countries worldwide. And it’s a sense of “collaborative family” that has led him to his latest venture.

‘Massimo and I met through my friend Josh who owned a store that carried a lot of lines by European designers,’ says Leight. ‘I was buying lots of his stuff because it’s so understated, elegant and graceful. It’s so Italian.’

So Josh introduced them and they hit it off. ‘He’s so cool, with his love of food and music and wine. Even the way Massimo talks about a cigarette, he somehow makes it sound like a beautiful thing.’

Leight is a self-confessed Europhile, and a romantic where the past is concerned. ‘I’m nostalgic to a fault; one of those people that thinks the generation before was always better,’ he confesses. ‘I love that movie Midnight in Paris,’ he says, referencing the 2011 Woody Allen fantasy film where Owen Wilson time-travels back to the Paris of the ’20s and hangs out with Jean Cocteau, Cole Porter and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. ‘I so badly want that to happen to me,’ he continues. ‘All eras that I didn’t live in are so interesting to me. Basically anything pre ’80s is fascinating.’

Understandably, when Leight clocked that Alba wears a vintage pair of glasses that are impossible to date or identify (‘all the etching has worn off’), he was intrigued. ‘We talked about bringing them back for friends and family, and then making them available to the public.’

So was born the Garrett Leight California Optical x Massimo Alba collection of glasses, based on a replica of Alba’s own pair. The acetate model has a ’70s look, features a double bridge, and comes in three colours, which the Italian named to reference his hometown and the brightness of the scenery of California – Brera (after the Via Brera in Milan where Massimo Alba opened his first store – a black frame), Sole (sun – an olive-coloured version) and Luce (light – a tortoiseshell). You can have them as opticals or sunglasses.

‘The collaboration stems from values, aesthetics and passions that our brand shares with GLCO,’ says Alba. ‘What we have in common is attention to detail, respect for our roots and the creation of products that reflect an authentic and free lifestyle. The collaboration was an opportunity to combine the know-how and creative vision of both brands, designing and making something we like to think is unique.’

One characteristic that contributes to the unique character of these frames is that they carry a small golden clover engraved at the temple, mirroring the GLCO motif. This is an Alba contribution and is echoed on the packaging. Another nice touch is the inclusion of a cleaning cloth that looks like a miniature version of one of Alba’s signature handkerchiefs. The designer has made the handkerchief something of a hallmark of his, and is given to making them with messages printed on them. He says that a handkerchief ‘is a sentimental, forgotten accessory used to dry your brow, tears, hands and, for those who wear glasses like me, to clean the lenses.’

The cloth that comes with the collaboration glasses bears this statement: ‘To have someone understand your mind is a different kind of intimacy,’ – perhaps a nod to the fact that these frames were born of a friendship between two likeminded creatives.

Garrett Leight California Optical x Massimo Alba glasses, £465 for sunglasses and £450 for optical frames; the collection is available at garrettleight.eu and massimoalba.com, and also at GLCO and Massimo Alba stores

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.