l.a. Eyeworks


LOS ANGELES—l.a.Eyeworks’ connection with the art community was established from the beginning, according to co-owner and co-designer Gai Gherardi. She remembered opening the company’s “mothership” store with the distinct desire to strip away all that she considered “typical optical accoutrements” in order to give the new store a gallery setting. “We wanted the eyewear to be the artwork,” she said.

A portrait of Andy Warhol taken by Greg Gorman for the l.a.Eyeworks advertising campaign.

Part of the company’s “Face It! Collection,” this piece was created by artist Joyce Scott using l.a.Eyeworks glasses as its foundation.
As a result, l.a.Eyeworks is no stranger to the art world. Gherardi, with partner Barbara McReynolds, began to host Friday night art gallery-style parties immediately after opening their first location on Melrose Ave. in 1979. The company has since opened a second store on Beverly Blvd.

“We would take the glasses out and put them behind some incredible display, like a gauzy curtain with lights or inside an aquarium,” Gherardi said. “Every fifth Friday night we’d throw open the doors and have a big party and there were always a couple hundred people waiting to get in.”

In doing so, l.a.Eyeworks’ connection with the art community expanded and their gallery attendees quickly became the company’s customer base—something Gherardi said happened “organically.”

“Things always present themselves as opportunities and we’ve been willing to go in a lot of different directions.” Gherardi named singers, magicians, sculptors and painters among the company’s list of artist partnerships. “We’ve left the door open to what those collaborations can be,” she added.

Gai Gherardi and Barbara McReynolds, founders and co-owners of l.a.Eyeworks.
Over the years, their art connection evolved into, among others, an award-winning 30-year ad campaign shot by celebrity photographer Greg Gorman; window displays with David Dunbacher; cleaning cloths imprinted with designs by Barbara Kruger; and a permanent sculpture by Jim Isermann within the Beverly Blvd. retail store.

A series of more than100 artist and designer-made frames, created with l.a.Eyeworks glasses as their foundation, comprise the “Face It!” collection. The company’s designs have even made it to the Los Angeles Philharmonic for whom l.a.Eyeworks recently designed a 3D frame. “The entire audience wore it so you can imagine that it was a magnificent moment for an eyewear designer,” Gherardi admitted.

“There are so many trajectories to our interactions with artists and the ways that we connect with them,” said Brent Zerger, l.a. Eyeworks’ director of communications and retail operations. “Our situation is unique in that Gai and Barbara are designers of frames that bear our name, so that brings us in connection with other opportunities.”

Gherardi said, “One of the things art does is it completely invigorates us internally. All of the staff is invigorated and it reflects in the business. For customers, I hope that it reflects for them the spirit of collaboration, inclusion, humor, the possibilities; and the knowledge that we wanted to share something with them,” she added.

Having cast such a wide net with their art profile over the years, it seems that every part of l.a.Eyeworks’ business has an artistic touch. According to marketing director Angela Gee, there is no telling where the collaborations will go next. “We’re not sitting around a table thinking about ‘what are we going to do next,’” she said. “The projects just come. It’s an organic progression that is a truly authentic connection with the arts in every way.”