NEW ORLEANS -- Stirling Barrett, 25, was working his way up in the world of creative advertising and fine art, but this former Country Day alum always had passion for eyewear.
But having a passion for something and deciding to jump into the ultra-competitive world of designer sunglasses with the likes of Ray Ban and Maui Jim are two different things. Last year, that’s exactly what he did.
“Well when I went to the family and told them, you know, honestly I think they said, ‘What do you want to do?’ So it was definitely believing in yourself and realizing, hey, it might not work.”
But, in fact, it is working.
Last August the boutique sunglasses company KREWE du optic debuted with three frames in 10 colors. They are hand drawn by Barrett himself, hand carved by a company in Italy and initially hand carried into businesses all over New Orleans.
KREWE du optic is a pretty bold move for someone with no actual optical or eyewear business experience, but for Barrett the answer to that was New Orleans.
“We have such creative, artistic people here, and it’s time that brands start launching from New Orleans and representing something that’s so much greater than just the city alone, which is our culture,” he said.
In less than a year, three frames and 10 colors have become a line of 10 frame styles and 50 colors.
With names like Calliope, The Fly and Toulouse, all KREWE du optic frames bear New Orleans streets or meeting places. They're an investment in the $145 to $200 range.
Barrett’s inspiration for the St. Louis frame came right down the street.
“That frame itself was inspired by walking through the French Quarter and realizing how surrounded we were by this amazing wrought-iron architecture," he said.
KREWE's shades by design are colorful and unisex. They can be found as easily on a 15-year-old as a 50-year-old. You won't find any big logos on the frame, because Barrett believes that people who wear KREWE sunglasses are their brand.
“We make a really high quality product that represents you, and people are responding to the design and being rewarded by the story,” Barrett said.
With less than 1 percent of revenue going into advertising, it is a grass roots, social media story of success in and out of New Orleans. KREWE sunglasses have been featured in several national magazines. They've shipped to all 50 states, and internationally, right now, they're in 50 stores in seven states and plan to be in 100 stores by the end of the year.
All of this in a mind-spinning 10 months.
“For us it’s kind of step back and look at the growth, and then the other side of us is like, let's keep growing. Let’s keep representing New Orleans in a new way.”
Representing the city with a clear vision of the future.
To find out more about KREWE du optic, click here.