New Orleanians know how to party, and the enthusiastic crowd turnout here doesn’t just make for a good time; it makes for good business. Pop-up vendors like artist/designer Stirling Barrett are an increasingly common sight at public events and popular streets around town. Walk down Magazine Street or stop by Wednesdays at the Square, and you’ll probably spot Barrett—founder of KREWE du optic eyewear—offering his new line of sunglasses from the back of his tricycle.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Barrett began developing his line about a year ago. “Eyewear is one area of the fashion industry that I feel I’ve always had a very good understanding of, and I think there’s a real opportunity for New Orleans to speak out culturally in this area,” he says. The brand now offers three distinct frames whose names reflect the city that inspired them: “Toulouse,” “Calli-ope,” and “The Fly.” By Christmas, KREWE is set to launch four more frames, totaling seven styles in 30 colors.
The line is versatile and deliberately understated. Barrett wants his sunglasses to complement any preexisting wardrobe. “We want to make frames that represent who you already are, not ones that overwhelm your look,” he says. These unisex frames are crafted from high-quality materials and offer Barrett’s personal take on familiar styles, such as the wayfarer or the clubmaster. “From the beginning, my idea has always been to take the classic stylings, update them, and make them out of fun and funky acetates,” he explains.
The young entrepreneur is excited to see the local fashion industry growing in New Orleans. “We’re finally getting recognition for our unique style here. It’s not what you’ll find in New York or LA—it’s definitely our own,” Barrett says, adding, “I mean, hell, if Dallas can be considered a style city, I know New Orleans can.”
The name “KREWE du optic” is, of course, a reference to local Carnival culture. It also represents the coterie of local artists and designers with whom Barrett collaborates for the line. For instance, he teamed up with Tchoup Industries to fashion a special “Hubig’s Case” to fit his frames. He collaborated with New Orleans artist Ben Bullins to build the “KREWE Cart” tricycle entirely from recycled materials, including part of an old piano. Local musicians Meschiya Lake and Luke Winslow King modeled the line for KREWE’s website.
“KREWE can mean a lot of things,” Barrett explains. “Most of all, I see it as a likeminded group of all the people who represent our vision.”
By: Mary Blessey