L.A. Eyeworks is back in the sunglasses business.
The stylish optical pioneer has tapped Los Angeles stylist Shirley Kurata to model its first sunglasses collection in a decade, including a pair of striking oversize round black-and-white checkerboard “Biba” frames.
Kurata styles Billie Eilish, most recently dressing her in Simone Rocha and Chez Ichiro looks for “Saturday Night Live” in December. She is also a runway stylist who works regularly with Rodarte, and owns the L.A. men’s clothing store Virgil Normal.
L.A. Eyeworks has been around since 1979 when cofounders Gai Gherardi and Barbara McReynolds opened their first shop on Melrose Avenue with an espresso bar next door, and it became a clubhouse for creatives. Over the years, their ad campaigns have featured Andy Warhol, Grace Jones, Debbie Harry, Drew Barrymore, Chaka Khan, Iggy Pop, RuPaul and more in Greg Gorman photos with the tag line, “A face is like a work of art. It deserves a great frame.”
A native of L.A., Kurata bought her first pair of L.A. Eyeworks Montrose frames, or “fashion glasses” as she calls them, at age 18, and still wears them today. “It was one of the few stores that was on Melrose Boulevard that’s still around. And that’s where you went for cool glasses,” she said, reflecting on how glasses have gone from nerd to mainstream fashion in the past 30 years. (To wit, the newly released “Encanto” is the first Disney film to feature a female lead in glasses.)
Kurata’s relationship with L.A. Eyeworks flourished as she started her career. “They’ve always been so supportive whenever I needed to borrow and use things for a shoot and I was happy to model for them,” she said.
Gherardi said the time felt right coming out of lockdown to once again let the sun shine on the brand, which has more than 1,000 points of sale worldwide. One of several big optical brands to emerge from L.A. alongside Oliver Peoples, Barton Perreira, Dita and Blake Kuwahara, L.A. Eyeworks also offers artist-edition cleaning cloths and cases, monocle peace-symbol necklaces and pin sets with such phrases as “Freedom from sameness.”
“It was riding that swell of things being good internally and hoping they were going to be externally,” said the designer of the decision to release new sunglasses, priced between $400 to $495, sharing that L.A. Eyeworks, like the greater optical industry, has done well during the pandemic.
As for choosing Kurata as the face for the collection, “We love her sensibility, her fearlessness around pattern and color, and her straightforward approach,” Gherardi said. “I also love how she is so completely low-key with those whom she works with.…She’s exuberant, don’t get me wrong, but she’s just cool and has a particular eye we appreciate deeply.”