The Light Behind Oliver Peoples

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Larry Leight sought a trade that would allow him his creativity as well as freedom, so he could surf and travel. Little did he realize that getting a degree as a certified optician would lead him on his successful journey of becoming a leader in the eyewear industry. We caught up with the free- spirited businessman to hear how he made his dream a reality, and why he won’t ever stop designing iconic frames.

Oliver Peoples began in 1986, when opticians Larry and Dennis Leight embarked upon a shared vision—they opened their first optical boutique on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, California. The brothers purchased an estate collection of vintage American-made eyewear, including filigreed rimless and metal frames, and clip-on metal sunglasses produced by iconic companies such as Bausch & Lomb and American Optical. This was the jackpot for the Leight’s, given their passion for 1940s -1960s eyewear. The lot included a receipt signed with the name “Oliver People,” who was deemed to be the original owner or distributor. It was then that the brothers used his name for what would become one of the most popular brands of opticals to date.

One of the most unique aspects of Olive Peoples is how Leight integrates the Southern California lifestyle-elements of fashion, film, art, sport, and the Los Angeles landscape, into the brand’s DNA. Oliver Peoples has aligned with specific brands that complement its image and also share a love and understanding for each other’s design and vision. The first collaboration was with Robert Evans, one of the most successful producers in Hollywood for the last 50 years. He collaborated on the 20-Year Anniversary limited edition frame, as well as the creation of the first Oliver Peoples short film, “Mind Games.”

The second collaboration was with actress Zooey Deschanel. This Hollywood starlet is also a fashion icon and musician, making her the perfect collaboration candidate to create an eponymous frame. The campaign also entailed a feature film, “Catch A Tuesday.” For the 2010 season, Balmain collaborated with Oliver Peoples on the creation of its first eyewear design reflecting the brand’s edginess and aesthetics by designer Christophe Decarnin on the catwalk. The fourth collaboration was with Nom De Guerre; a Manhattan retail store and apparel brand that combines basic and diverse influences from art, fashion and various New York subcultures.