A 20/20 EXCLUSIVE WITH L.A. EYEWORKS’ CO-FOUNDER AND CO-DESIGNER GAI GHERARDI ON THE FICTION BRAND
By Jillian Urcelay
JU: l.a.Eyeworks is known in the eyewear industry for its colorful frames, funky shapes and playful patterns. How do styles from the FICTION brand differ from l.a.Eyeworks, and why were you ready to release this line?
GG: We felt we had something to say to optical consumers with a different design paradigm and price point, so our goal in making FICTION was really challenging ourselves to speak a second language. We set out with the intention that the line would have an identity and a design trajectory completely separate from l.a.Eyeworks. The answer was to build the collection on a unique hinge-and-temple configuration, complemented by temple sleeves in varying widths and lengths to enhance the character of each design. A small enamel copyright C medallion, mounted on the hinge, is visible only when the frame is off the face and folded. Not only does this meet our original intention (as with l.a.Eyeworks) to have no exterior logos, it’s also amusing to have a little secret tucked into your eyewear.
The FICTION green collection launched this spring, in what ways is this release eco-conscious?
There are five models in the release—named Catch, Fly, Note, Rhyme and Whistle—that employ bio-acetate material in both major and supporting roles. Although the term “bio-acetate” has been construed to cover a range of materials, in this case we are looking at acetates that replace the majority of traditional petroleum plasticizers with naturally derived renewable agents. We have used these materials occasionally before in both collections, but we wanted the effort to be very intentional and focused here.
Why was it important for you to make a move in this sustainable direction?
While frames are the obvious manifestation for more eco-conscious materials, we are exploring sustainable options across the entire production cycle of eyewear, many of which will not be seen by our accounts or wearers. For example, we have worked with KM-93 acetate in previous l.a.Eyeworks collections, which is not only manufactured more efficiently but also performs with less breakage (i.e., less waste) than traditional acetate. In 2020, we also changed all of our plastic frame bags for both l.a.Eyeworks and FICTION to a biodegradable material. It’s a journey we know we can’t resolve overnight. But we can continue to take steps forward, keep ourselves educated and seize upon the innovations that are streaming into the market.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of every
FICTION frame supports 826LA. What does this nonprofit work toward, and what is the significance of FICTION’s partnership with this organization?
Following the direction of our CEO Rob Rich, we were committed to the idea that FICTION would have a standing charitable commitment built into the sale of every frame. Given the name of the collection, we explored several ideas, ranging from literacy to creative writing to censorship. 826LA was meaningful for us because it was a nonprofit that not only served to encourage underserved students by empowering their writing skills, but also that it was a local model that could be, and has been reproduced in multiple communities. Barbara McReynolds and I have always valued glasses as tools of self-expression. Writing is an equally invaluable tool. Amanda Gorman, who made a global wave with the recitation of her poem at President Biden’s inauguration, included 826 as part of her “We The Future” initiative and sits on their national board. Talk about the impact of writing!
What should l.a.Eyeworks and FICTION frame fans be
on the lookout for in the near future? Any exciting news
on the horizon?
The “near future” means so much these days, doesn’t it? Pre-pandemic we were working with 826LA toward building a curriculum workshop for young people with glasses as the subject, so I hope we can get that rolling again soon. From a design perspective, the foundation we built for FICTION continues to yield more and more opportunities for exploration. Pardon the metaphor, but there are new chapters and plot twists on the horizon! ■