Recently, while browsing the infinite archives of cyberspace, I happened upon a peculiar image: a photograph of no discernable age depicting an archaic pair of sunglasses. Cast from flattened slabs of walrus ivory, with small slits for eyes, these Inuit snow goggles were fashioned to minimise exposure to sunlight by quite literally obscuring the bulk of one’s upper face. The practical purpose of sunglasses is part of buying eyewear today. But of course, aesthetics have become just as crucial. Just a handful of parent companies have a hold on the majority of the market, so differentiation is hard to find. To flourish, companies need to relentlessly pursue quality in design.
There are two American institutions that design, package and sell eyewear with particular finesse. They create a sense of intimacy with consumers in spite of their relative largeness. MOSCOT is a New York-based label which started in the 1915s. Garrett Leight California Optical (GLCO), launched by an LA native whose parents founded eyewear manufacturer Oliver Peoples, has built steady brand loyalty by paying attention to the finer details: hinges, acetate and glass and gradient lenses sourced from Italy, Germany, Japan. As Harvey Moscot – president of his family’s label and a doctor of optometry – notes, plastic has been one of the 20th century’s most exciting innovations for eyewear. Since polys have become increasingly sophisticated, designers can properly heat and shape frames, and tweak them to the face. “We choose not to stray away from quality products of the past, which we feel provide the best construction and will stand the test of time,” says Moscot.
The genesis of a MOSCOT frame happens in the company’s New York studio, which overlooks an undulating, yellowy sea of taxicabs along Sixth Avenue. Inside, the team is surrounded by the expected atelier accoutrements – felt boards covered in scribbles, bins full of archival frames, dated photographs of the Moscot family. Once sketches and digital designs are complete, a colour palette is established and the prototype, production and strength-testing process begins.
At Garrett Leight in LA this process takes approximately 11 months. There are two people involved in design and development, and a China-based team that hand finishes every pair. “It has been a process of trial and error to find the absolute best partners for GLCO,” says Leight. “When people don’t consider the little things, they become big things, and it devalues the product and its quality.” The Hampton frame, realised in tortoise shades and multiple sizes, is the brand’s oldest and best selling.
“As a teen growing up in the 1970s, with a high astigmatism, I was hooked on aviators,” Moscot tells me. “I wore a semi-rimless aviator with a 35 per cent brown gradient lens. It was the first thing I put on in the morning and the last thing I took off in the evening.” It’s not difficult to see why both Moscot and Leight are long-term eyewear fanatics; the trade is in their blood. From youth they have been hyper-aware of how sunglasses, along with optical frames, serve as a mediator between oneself and other people. “I love that my career is based around vision,” Leight says, enthused. “My company happens to create a product that delivers vision to people who need it.”
Both Garrett Leight and MOSCOT sunglasses are available from leading optical stores around Australia. For full stockist information please visit wearethestables.com.