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Interviews | March 8, 2018

l.a. Eyeworks – A story of a friendship

Gai Gherardi tells us about the vision shared with Barbara McReynolds. With extravagance and a sense of humour…

words Alessandra Albarello

Jodie Foster, Boy George, Grace Jones and even Andy Warhol have lent their faces to the famous advertising campaign, with photographs by Greg Gorman. Communication is only one of the ingredients contributing to the success of the brand, which will celebrate 40 years in business in 2019 as well as 36 years attending Mido. The partnership and the complicity between Gai Gherardi and Barbara McReynolds have also been fundamental. Inseparable friends since high school, in 1979 they founded l.a. Eyeworks and opened their first mono-brand store in Los Angeles that same year. And so their revolution of the eyewear world began…

What is the best question we could ask you? The worst?

Best: How many desert tortoises have you hatched from eggs? Worst: What is your inspiration?

L.a. Eyeworks is?

Vibrating from the heart.

What is the concept behind your brand?

The concept is really summed up in our tagline, “A face is like a work of art. It deserves a great frame.” Behind that idea, though, Barbara and I have always wanted our work to be of service to others. From the minute we connected to the idea that eyewear could be a vehicle of positive transformation for people, we knew we had found a way to carry out this mission.

What is innovative and what is traditional about them?

On the traditional side, Barbara and I often explore archetypal notions of eyewear and transform them-via colour, shaping, technique, and materials-into modern statements. And any innovations we’ve made are probably instances where we decided to break the rules or to swim against the current.

How would you describe an l.a.frame?

Our frames provoke and propel the personality of the individual who wears them.

You are unique because…

We’ve been best friends since we were teenagers, and together, we forged our vision of l.a.Eyeworks into being. We have different strengths, but we have truly operated as one brain and one voice for more than four decades.

Palomar

What are the features of the last collection and its inspiration?

Cuts, cut-outs, and cutaways. Which is to say, we combined sculptural gestures of addition and subtraction with evocative colour to build form and dimensionality.

Why this inspiration?

Because our times are demonstrating that the full story always has many layers. We’re living in an extraordinary era of flux where notions of identity and even truth are being blown out across an incredible spectrum. One thing falls and something else rises in its place so quickly. The moment feels both turbulent and formative. Which can be intimidating, of course, but it can also be an invitation to explore more freely than ever.

How much has your brand changed over the years?

It’s easier to think of l.a. Eyeworks as a brand now. But for many years, we thought l.a. Eyeworks was simply our name and we did lots of things in the name of l.a.Eyeworks.
We advocated for 1st Amendment rights and the freedom of expression. We had the privilege of collaborating with incredible artists from every discipline. We featured under-recognized communities in our ad campaign. And we have been outspoken in our desire for equality. We’ve highlighted the absurd and honoured the outrageous. And we have a lot more to say.

Achievements and things you are still striving for…

We are proud of, and grateful for, the nearly 40-year journey of l.a.Eyeworks. And still, there is never enough time to design all of the frames we’d love to bring into the world. We also hope that the optical industry will continue to expand its support of emerging voices in eyewear design. We must nurture new talent.

What feeling do people get from wearing your frames?

Our hope is that the frame will inspire some sort of self-discovery in the wearer, which in turn will help them take the next step in their personal evolution.

How does the world look through a pair of l.a. Eyeworks glasses?

One encouragement we have provided to our wearers is to ‘stop looking’ and ‘start seeing.’ There’s a big difference between the two!