New Orleans does not only serve as the origin of Krewe du Optic—it’s the eyewear company’s livelihood. The buzzy two-year-old label (which takes its name from diverse groups that organize spirited Mardi Gras parades) draws together the city’s historic architecture, vibrant culture, and of course, the eclectic people. “We truly believe that people are our brand, not the other way around,” says founder, creative director, and NOLA native Stirling Barrett. “That’s why we don’t have any logos, and we’re not out there marketing ourselves.”
Instead, the Louisiana destination serves as the homegrown brand logo, with each style being informed by the Big Easy. Vintage-inspired sunglasses take on the vitality of the metropolis in the form of electric-hued mirrored lenses and 24-karat gold-plated details. One angular frame called the JLP is named after a French-American pirate notorious for his smuggling operation in the region, and the St. Louis derives its brushed metal bridge from the iconic 19th-century wrought-iron balconies of the French Quarter.
So when the opportunity arose to open Krewe’s fist flagship this past August, the Quarter was a natural home. Barrett debuted the 900-square-foot space on Royal Street on the 10th anniversary of hurricane Katrina. “It was more emotional than I expected,” he said. “But to open something new and design it as a place for conversation showed, I think, how far we’ve come in 10 years.”
The idea of conversation is central to Barrett’s concept store, which he imagined with the help of designer and fellow local Benjamin Bullins. Customers coming in off of the gallery-riddled street are greeted by a verdant succulent wall (Barrett has an affinity for plants), before moving into the minimalist display area, called the Sun Room, where delicately handcrafted frames are artfully set on linear shelving. Hints of the building’s historical past, like an original 19th-century wall, live harmoniously among new, more modern elements.
In the back of the space, an espresso bar run by Merchant, NOLA’s premier java joint, serves up Illy coffee, matcha, and artisan teas. A narrow outdoor courtyard and intimate seating area invite customers to hang out; the latter features low-slung benches that were built from original growth of 1800s Louisiana Cyprus.
“You don’t buy sunglasses everyday, but the space is designed for people to have conversations and be part of the creative fabric of New Orleans,” Barrett says. “And then, if you need a pair of shades on day, we’re here too.”