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‘Chill Out and Relax’: How Eyewear Designer Garrett Leight Stays Grounded While Managing a Booming Business

The designer shares how he successfully executes such a complex balancing act.

Eyewear designer Garrett Leight Brian Guido

California native Garrett Leight’s laid-back attitude seems incongruous with his booming luxury eyewear business, but it may just be his secret sauce. The son of Oliver Peoples founder Larry Leight, he paved his own path outside the family fortune when he founded his eponymous label in 2011, known for its retro-inspired acetate and titanium frames, which blend craftsmanship with a style that is recognizable for its low-key cool. In 2018, when father and son teamed up to create an ultra-high-end line of eyeglasses called Mr. Leight, handcrafted in Japan, the dynasty was complete. But Garrett isn’t resting on his laurels. Here’s how the designer stays grounded while helping his clients put their best face forward.

What apart from more time would make the biggest difference in your life?

A bigger house and a pool would be nice. These things would make parenting easier.

What apps do you use the most?

Instagram. I probably use Instagram too much. I’m a big golfer so I’m a fan of TK, he posts really beautiful golf imagery. I also use Sports Center and ESPN.

Do you follow any pro golfers?

It’s not professional golf I’m obsessed with. I view golf as meditation. More golf as a lifestyle.

What is your favorite golf course?

I’ve played over 200 golf courses. I love to travel and play the most obscure, rare golf courses in the world. But my favorite of all time is Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz. It’s about an hour away from Pebble Beach and it’s a bit of a well-kept secret.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

Lately my daughter has been coming into our bed and just hanging out before school for like 30 minutes when we wake up. The very first thing I do is try not to reach for my phone and I don’t. That’s the very first thing that I do is just tell myself not to do that.

What do you do that’s still analog?

I’m on a softball team. Sports are a very big part of my life, as you can tell. And I sign a lot of checks for my business. I try to get weekly massages at Burke Williams. There’s quite a bit of things. I water my plants in my office and I read paper and hardcover books.

Do you have any pets?

We have two leopard Geico lizards, a dog, a cat and two betta fish.

What in your wardrobe do you wear most often?

Nylon shorts from General Admissions. I go swimming in them, I wear them to work and I work out in them so they are a major part of my uniform. I also love basketball shorts. I have some John Elliot basketball shorts that I really love. Over the summer, I wore by Nick Fouquet Cuban hat a lot. I have a fetish for Nicholas Fouquet hats. And, of course, my glasses.

Calabar Glasses by Garrett Leight

Garret Leight

Which models from your eyewear collection do you wear?

Calabar for sunglasses and I’ve been wearing the Ace, which are for next season, but I always test my frames out before they go to market.

What kind of conversations do you tune out?

I like this question. I hate when people talk about the dream they had last night. I don’t need to hear every detail of your dream for the next ten minutes.

What are your favorite websites?

I’m a little obsessed with all things Ford Bronco. I just bought one that’s kind of an old Shelby Mustang blue with a white hard top. I love classic cars like that. I love to see how they get remodeled. It’s actually inspired some of my designs and color combinations for my eyewear company.

What do you crave most at the end of the day?

My bed, good food or laying in my hammock, which I haven’t had much time to do recently.

How do you find calm?

Definitely through sports. My phone is basically off and I like to challenge myself and just be outdoors in nature.

What’s your favorite cocktail?

Tequila on the rocks. Casa Azul is one of my favorites right now. I also like whiskey. I have a really good 20-year-aged Glenfiddich right now.

What song is currently stuck in your head?

Bellyache by Billie Eilish.

What do you regret not buying recently?

A vintage Rolex Submariner that would have looked great with my new Bronco.

What’s the most impressive dish that you cook?

Breakfast is the thing that I cook the most, so I would have to say Huevos Rancheros or some form of Mexican food.

Who is your dealer and what do they source for you?

My art director, who recently sourced some chocolate mushrooms.

What does success look like to you?

Self-awareness and just being comfortable in your own skin and losing as much of your insecurities as you can. You have to have a positive spin on the day and the world.

If you could learn one new skill what would it be?

Stopping time and Abode Wizard.

How much do you trust your gut instinct?

So much, although I’m not always allowed to do what it says. I’m collaborative, but I pretty much think my gut is always right.

Do you know how many air miles you have?

I just saw that I have a million and a half points on my credit card, but as far as air miles go I probably have around 500,000. Most of my miles are on Delta or American Airlines.

What is your favorite seat on the plane?

I’m a window guy for sure. I’m pretty cool with flying now, but I didn’t use to be. I like to look out the window on takeoff and landing.

What do you most regret?

Probably a couple of tattoos. The first one I got, I didn’t really like the artist. I just did it. I was 20 and based it on a piece of art from a book I was reading about Taoism. And the last one I got was sort of disappointing. I went to a really great tattoo artist, but when my appointment came I didn’t really have anything in mind. It took six months to even get in for the appointment, but I felt like I rushed what I got.

Drive or be driven?

Drive, definitely.

Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York City

Momofuku’s pork buns  Photo: Gabriele Stabile

Do you have any regular tables?

My wife and I have a standing table at Gjelina in Venice, Calif. We know the chef really well, and we go every Thursday night. It’s two minutes from my house. When I’m in New York, I love to go to Momofuku. I know it’s cliché, but I’m all about those pork buns. I also love Balaboosta, an Israeli restaurant in the West Village. They have the best hummus I’ve ever had. I’m also a huge fan of Lovely Day in Nolita.

If you could stay at any one age, what would it be and why?

I used to say 24, but now that I’m 35 and loving it, I’m going to say 31 because you still feel great physically and you know who you are a little bit better and have some experiences behind you. But 31 is also my lucky number.

When was the last time you completely unplugged?

I unplugged my phone for five days once, but most recently it was when I drove for five or six hours through Big Sur by myself without my phone. I don’t know if that’s truly unplugging, but it felt pretty close.

What’s your favorite hotel?

Goldeneye in Jamaica is my favorite but I would also put Saint Cecilia in Austin on the list.

Who do you admire most?

My dad. I’m doing a documentary of sorts about his childhood in Hawaii.

What’s the last piece of advice you gave?

A friend was having some business questions and the moral of my story was to just not be afraid of change because it’s a constant. Don’t get too cemented.

What’s the last piece of advice you were given?

To chill out and relax, so I went on a five-day sabbatical.

How would you describe your email etiquette?

Fantastic. I’m super organized with emails and I don’t treat them as text messages.

What’s in your hand luggage?

Multiple types of glasses, a book, my computer, a hard drive and headphones. That’s it.

What’s worth paying for?

Being comfortable—whether it’s a hotel room or the ease of anything. I don’t stress out about paying extra money for the next flight if it’s a better time for me. I’ve been traveling like crazy for ten years. I think of how I do it now versus how I did it in the beginning and it’s way less stressful now.

Do you have a wine of choice?

Anything from Scribe Winery in Sonoma.

What was your last Netflix binge?

We’ve been binge-watching Glow and I like to watch a lot of documentaries. I watched the one about privacy and social media, The Hack, recently. I also tried to binge-watch Chernobyl, but I just couldn’t do it. It was too heavy.

Bowie or Dylan?

Dylan.

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