Meghan Markle, Lady Gaga-Loved Eyewear Brand Le Specs Celebrates 40th Anniversary
The Australian brand took over a gas station in downtown L.A. for its anniversary party.
Winter is coming to Oz, making Le Specs’ 40th anniversary party in Los Angeles all the more fitting. The Australia-based affordable eyewear brand took to the outskirts of downtown L.A. on Friday, transforming a former Chinatown gas station into a swag-filled playground, complete with a convenience store fully stocked with its most popular frames for the taking.
Partygoers (including actresses Alanna Masterson, Cameron Richardson and Georgie Flores, alongside a bevvy of industry insiders and Instagram influencers) filled up on In-N-Out burgers and loaded up on limited-edition Le Specs T-shirts and snapback hats (which were custom-embroidered onsite) and sunglasses in packaging — including the Adam Selman-designed Last Lolita shades that elevated the brand to cult-favorite status after Gigi Hadid sported them in an Instagram selfie.
In addition to Hadid and her sister, Bella, other fans of Le Specs’ fashionable frames — which range from $49 to $129 — include Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle (who wears the Air Heart frames), Lady Gaga (who frequently wears the Zaap!) and Dakota Fanning (who sported the La Dolce Vita peepers).
"L.A. felt like the right place for us because of what we do. There’s a good synergy between you guys and [Australia]; we’ve got similar weather and we’re by the coast," Le Specs creative director Hamish Tame told The Hollywood Reporter at last week’s event. "We wanted to be able to do something big and on a grander scale. We will have [a party] in Sydney in October; we might do something by the water."
Standing inside the gas station store, Tame was surrounded by cleverly packaged items including bottles of "Le Specs H2O," boxes of "Le Crunchy Pops," "Le Carbs" and jars of "Le Miracle Mayo" and "Le PB," alongside other convenience store munchies that were a nod to the brand’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.
"I’ve worked at the company for about 16 years now, but we relaunched it in 2005," says Tame. The brand was founded in Australia in 1979 "back when they could just get away with putting the French flag on something and calling it ‘Le’ and using a French material," a move that might be deemed inauthentic today, he says. "But that’s what makes the brand fun and ironic and cheeky."
Last week’s retro party (which featured no shortage of photo ops, including a vintage red Ferrari ready for selfies) came after Le Specs launched its first unisex optical frames in February and its summer collection with Selman, who will continue designing with the brand through 2020.
New York-based Selman was also on hand at Friday’s streetwear-heavy soiree. The designer recently shuttered his namesake ready-to-wear label and made the switch to activewear with his new line, Adam Selman Sportswear, that debuted in January. His first collaboration for Le Specs launched in 2015, but "it took a few years for them to catch on," Selman told THR.
"[When] we launched the Last Lolita and I showed it on my runway, we'd only done them in red, white and blue to start," he said. So Selman convinced Tame to produce the style in black. "As soon as Gigi wore them, they just exploded. It was just kind of a phenomenon and I knew it really helped Le Specs, but it also helped my brand," he said.
"Even on the street yesterday in L.A., someone pulled the car over while I was walking," says Selman. "They were like, 'Adam Selman! I have your glasses!' It's been an amazing way to connect with people outside of my ready-to-wear."
Le Specs "really took a chance on me because it was before the Rihanna dress [at the 2014 CFDA Awards], and it was before my brand was what it is today," Selman said. "They never wanted anything that wasn’t authentic or [not] unique to the marketplace, and I think that’s where the success came from."
Despite the explosive success of its collection with Selman, Le Specs isn’t eyeing the same path as other international forward-thinking eyewear brands such as Germany’s Mykita (which averages about $500 per pair) and South Korea’s Gentle Monster ($190 to $320), both of which have opened stores in downtown L.A.
While the brand is considering smaller events and activations with U.S. retailers like Nordstrom and Barneys to coincide with its 40th anniversary celebration, Tame said permanent stores are not on the horizon for Le Specs and it’s more likely to consider pop-up shops first. "Even though we're well-established," he said, "I think we're still quite new to people here [in the U.S.]"