Pushing the boundaries of perception and partnership, Los Angeles-based luxury eyewear brand Oliver Peoples has linked with Stockholm-based fragrance house Byredo to create sunglasses and fragrance inspired by the sights and sounds of L.A. The collaboration launches at Oliver Peoples and Byredo stores as well as Barneys New York on Sunday, followed by select retailers in May.
This story first appeared in the April 10, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Oliver Peoples chief executive officer David Schulte and Byredo founder Ben Gorham, friends and fans of each other’s products, were looking for a way to work together when Gorham asked Schulte if he’d heard of synesthesia. “It’s the connection between senses where smell triggers a color or shape,” Gorham said. “Perfumers describe smells as colors, and a lot of musicians and artists possess it. It’s technically classified as a disorder but I’ve only heard of it in immensely creative people, so in my mind it’s a gift.”
Schulte said: “I’d never heard of it, but we both thought it was a great way to translate sight into smell.” Byredo’s perfumer Jérôme Epinette and Oliver Peoples founder, designer and creative director Larry Leight set about Los Angeles, literally viewing places through various colored lenses, then created a scent and a frame to capture the sensations.
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“The idea was that different colored lenses could be used to capture different perspectives of a smell of L.A. It’s taking a step away from what might be obvious and letting the perfumer use his own impressions from traveling here, as well as ideas he had from the past,” Gorham said.
The 50-ml. fragrance, which retails for $175, contains top notes of juniper berries and lemon, mid notes of orris butter and patchouli fraction and dry notes of musks, warm sand accord and helichrysum. The sunglasses, $450, come in two frame color ways, semimatte black and beige crystal, and three lens colors: indigo, champagne and green. To simulate the process of buying glasses, Byredo offers the bottle in corresponding colors. A box set retails for $530.
“Neither of us is trying to get rich off this. It was more about trying to take a project to another level,” said Schulte. “We pride ourselves on having a singular focus in eyewear, but we are also a very modern company so we understand our customer has other brands and categories that they like.” As for whether Oliver Peoples has more extensions planned, Schulte said, “It’s not in the three- or five-year plan.”
Barneys chief operating officer and senior executive vice president Daniella Vitale said it can be hard for iconic brands to do new things, but she welcomes more innovative partnerships between brands and said that she’ll always give floor space to unique products. “It gets harder to hold onto niche brands as companies expand faster, so we try and take chances early on. Anything Ben does is magic for us, and Oliver Peoples’ vision and aesthetic is always on the forefront. It’s like they were made for each other.”
The launch corresponds with the opening of Byredo’s first New York retail store on Wooster Street, which will be eight times the size of its Stockholm store. Gorham is next exploring a way to incorporate metal into his brand, possibly with jewelry. The company launched a line of leather bags last year.