Ulla Johnson Launches Eyewear Line With Garrett Leight and Confirms an L.A. Store Is Coming

Courtesy of Ulla Johnson/Marc Patrick/BFA.com
Actress January Jones with designers Garrett Leight and Ulla Johnson on April 4.

Who couldn’t use rose-colored glasses right about now? January Jones, Mandy Moore, Minka Kelly were in the crowd at last night’s party.

Actresses January Jones, Mandy Moore, Minka Kelly, Lake Bell and Jordana Brewster; celeb stylist Cristina Ehrlich; accessories designer Clare Vivier; jewelry designer Jen Meyer; and Hollywood beauty gurus Kristie and Ashley Streicher were in the crowd last night to celebrate the debut of a limited-edition sunglasses line by New York-based boho-chic fashion designer Ulla Johnson with L.A. eyewear brand Garrett Leight California Optical (GLCO). Both Leight and Johnson were at the party, held at Casa Perfect, the modernist home in the Hollywood Hills that doubles as a by-appointment contemporary furnishings showroom.

The oversize acetate GLCO x Ulla Johnson frame ($365), available as an eyeglass or sunglass in four colors, was unofficially introduced on the runway at New York Fashion Week in September to accessorize Johnson’s spring-summer 2018 ready-to-wear collection, but just hit garrettleight.com, GLCO stores and ullajohnson.com.

On the brand connection…

Johnson says that she and Leight connected after she noticed that her husband and marketing manager were both wearing GLCO frames. “I thought it was a very interesting proposition for both of us to take on from being a little bit outside of our wheelhouse because we had never done eyewear and I think Garrett’s known for his more refined, smaller silhouettes,” she says. Leight adds: “And we were looking to engage her community of women, who we felt were aligned with our classic DNA. It was serendipitous and I loved everything she had to say. We had the basic style in the catalog, but Ulla made changes for our collab design. We ended up with three styles and she narrowed it down to one. The color was easier because she had a whole vision for her spring 2018 fashion collection with a transparency theme so we matched the tones. This is a character frame. It’s still classic, but we wouldn’t typically do this in optical. We have occasional character pieces for the Jack Nicholsons and Jackie O's of the world.”

On the transparency theme…

Our spring 2018 collection was a response to all the political unrest in this country and the general malaise, so we were talking a lot about the ideas of transparency and invisible protection,” says Johnson. “We developed this fabric that was almost transparent but still waterproof. Sunglasses offer a similar layer of protection. At the same time, we were looking for something that felt pure and optimistic when everybody was feeling very dark. So when we started talking to Garrett, I knew that I wanted to do these crystal frames and I also loved the whimsy of the rose-colored lenses. I kind of hope that that’s what fashion gives us a little bit, a sense of joy and being OK with feeling pretty and engaging in fashion. Because that doesn’t make us any less engaged as political citizens.”

On a forthcoming Ulla Johnson boutique in L.A.…

“We are looking for a space and we may actually have found something,” says Johnson. “That’s part of why I’m here. But nothing’s set because we’re in the last stages of finalizing the deal. We’ll see. My idea would be to open in spring of next year because it just feels like the right time, a fresh start when we ship our spring line. I really want to find a space that feels true to what’s so beautiful about L.A., the light and the romance that you find here. In New York, the retail landscape is much grittier, so we really want to find something that feels special and speaks to the place. In our New York store, we have people coming in literally every day from California. I even get asked all the time if I’m from L.A. and I’m not. But I take it as a compliment. I think there’s an ease to the relaxed, feminine nature of what we do and an optimism that people relate to the West Coast because New Yorkers are thought to be so much more serious and to wear black. I am a New Yorker so I guess I explode that idea a bit.”

On future Ulla Johnson brand extensions…

“Similarly to this optical collab, we’re really hoping to build on our shoes and bags and we kind of look to L.A. for the whole worldview of the brand,” says Johnson.