Part entrepreneurial endeavor, part love letter to his hometown, Stirling Barrett’s KREWE du Optic was founded three years ago in New Orleans, after Barrett’s time away from home for art school refueled his love of the city’s uniqueness. He tells CH, “I saw an opportunity to reshape the way people viewed New Orleans’ creative culture and what could be done from a city that isn’t counted among fashion’s hubs. So, I shifted my focus from photography towards eyewear design and in doing so hope to continue celebrating the vibrancy and style of the city.”
Despite having trained in photography, Barrett has always been an eyewear enthusiast. And as for the other factors in design, he says they are closely tied to his artistic eye, “My work as a photographer—focusing on line, perspective and composition—probably helps with a more holistic understanding of design. A strong appreciation for and understanding of color has also been central to my aesthetic,” he says.
Since 2013, the brand has grown immensely—yet has always kept the importance of New Orleans at its core. “New Orleans is a small city. We’re roughly 400,000 people but have nearly 13 million visitors a year coming to soak up the rich culture—whether it’s the history, music, or food—there’s an overwhelming sense of place here, of coming here to let loose, to be yourself and enjoy life,” Barrett says. In terms of KREWE’s designs though, it’s more about a vibe than an overall aesthetic. “That’s what I love about this city—that it allows you to be you and that’s why our frames celebrate individual style rather than relying on a heavily branded, logo-centric design,” he says. This is all evident in the brand’s daring and sometimes cheeky style—one quick glance at the new collection and you’ll find bright colors, flashy mirrored frames and bold lines. Each style avoids becoming over-the-top, letting one feature shine while pulling back on one or two of the others.
Their flagship store (which opened in the summer last year and is located on Royal St in the French Quarter) was created with community in mind; with a coffee shop, plant gallery and courtyard seating. Of course, it’s a place to shop, but also to soak up some sunshine and hang out. Barrett tells us he thinks the most common misconception about NOLA is “that it lacks the talent and infrastructure to stand toe-to-toe creatively with cities like New York and Los Angeles” when in truth, much of his inspiration comes directly from being in the heart of the city. The KREWE design studio (located above the store) has a balcony and Barrett says, “When the doors are flung open, the sounds of the quarter are lingering into our studio—and that’s often where ideas will start. It sounds like this romantic idea but it’s true. This city—whether it’s the unique architecture or neighborhoods—informs all our designs.”
Store images by Hunter Holder