Garrett Leight’s First Sustainable Sunglasses: Style and Slow Fashion Values

Image courtesy Garrett Leight

Garrett Leight has always designed glasses with slow fashion in mind. But with its first sustainable collection, the eyewear brand is stepping into a new era.

The newest collection of eyewear from Garrett Leight California Optical (GLCO) come as the beloved brand debuts its first sustainability initiatives.

The eyewear designer has been a celebrity favorite since it launched in 2010, with Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the Kardashians among its fans. The brand, with its signature California style, is sold now around the world.

“For over a decade, California has been a huge influence on the brand and our love for it extends to the planet we share. We are, by definition, slow fashion, but we recognize there’s more we can do and we’re ready to level up,” founder and CEO Garrett Leight said in a statement.

Slow fashion

Leight’s inspiration comes from his family, too. Leight is the only son of Larry Leight, the famed co-founder and longtime creative director of luxury eyewear brand Oliver Peoples.

Like his father before him, Leight identifies his products as “slow fashion” prioritizing quality and craftsmanship over quantity. In a world awash with cheap plastic sunglasses, bringing craftsmanship to the category can feel like a revolutionary act.

Image courtesy Garrett Leight

Leight started his business as a multi-brand store on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice in 2009. But Leight soon realized there was no optician in the area.

“So we solved that problem,” he told Inc. “Better yet, we did it authentically by embracing and advancing the local, Southern California style. Before long, we landed in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and that really got us going.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Last year, GLCO sold a majority stake to The Untitled Group for $20 million to open stores and expand globally.

Quality, sustainability

GLCO eyeglasses and sunglasses have always been made with high-quality ZEISS lenses, cutting-edge lab technology, and innovations in frame materials. Now, the brand is launching its first range of sustainable sunglasses and eyewear.

Using M49, a sustainable eco-acetate, Garrett Leight’s first eco frames are made from a bio-based and biodegradable material. The frames produce 60 percent fewer carbon emissions than traditional plastic frames and require 53 percent less energy to produce.

Image courtesy Garrett Leight

Not technically plastic, the M49 material—made by Mazzucchelli 1849—is a natural cellulose polymer that works like traditional plastic frames. It’s a product Leight says makes it one of the most important raw materials for eco glass frames.

“The production and use of bio-based materials has a double advantage: on one hand, the use of
fossil, and therefore limited fuels is reduced, on the other hand, the emissions of greenhouse gases
are reduced. It must be considered that the raw materials used in the M49 formulation are wood
cellulose acetate and a vegetable-derived plasticizer,” reads Leight’s sustainability report.

“These two components give rise to the chlorophyll photosynthesis process in their lifetime: a
process that, in extreme synthesis, absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, generating vital
energy for vegetation, converting it into oxygen.”

The cleaning cloths for each pair of glasses are also sustainable, made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles and the case is a vegan eco suede. The case wrapper is from FSC-certified recycled paper.

An eye on materials

Since the brand launched in 2011, it used a recycled paper wrapper. “When we spoke with our retail partners, they told us that most frame boxes immediately went into the trash, Leight says.

“This seemed like a real waste of trees — so we came up with a recycled paper wrapper. It’s been 10 years and we have shipped hundreds of thousands of these around the world. It’s a tiny drop in the big bucket of moving towards a more environmentally sound future but it’s something that we, as a brand, feel is important.”

Image courtesy Garrett Leight

Garrett Leight says its lens manufacturer, Divel Italia, has increased its use of organic and sustainable materials. “After the various experiments and other projects in 2019 concerning lens waste, which focused post-production disposal, Divel Italia launched the environmentally sustainable lens.”

This Green Line lens is available for both sunglasses and corrective lenses, the brand says. These new lenses contain 39 percent plant-based resins.

“It’s the raw material that makes the difference,” according to Leight. “Not only do they reduce the use of fossil-origin by-products compared to normal lenses, they have also reduced the environmental impact of production.”

The new eco styles include the Ruskin and the Carlton in optical and sun options, and the Carroll, Woodlawn, and Naples in optical.

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