Barbara McReynolds and Gai Gherardi, co-founders of l.a.Eyeworks, were high school friends who opened their first storefront on Melrose Avenue in 1979. For more than 35 years, the duo and their frames have embodied a playful, pioneering spirit, and they continue to inspire and influence a new generation of eyewear enthusiasts. They also count a roster of A-list celebrities and lifetime fans among those who give life to the company’s motto, “A face is like a work of art. It deserves a great frame.” — CLODAGH NORTON
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 edition of INVISION.
I remember very clearly the first conversation I had with Gai about setting up an eyewear company. We knew what we wanted to do (and not do) with our business. We even went through a lot of names in that first discussion, all of which we rejected. The only thing we were certain of was that “L.A.” had to be a part of it, and we came up with “Eyeworks” shortly after.
My favorite color is pink. It’s soft, feminine, and it smells good. (But if you ask me again tomorrow, I might just say red.)
My eyewear icons, truly, are our customers. Seeing anyone’s life transformed by great glasses — perhaps that’s more heroic than iconic, but Gai and I live for those moments. That said, I don’t think there’s anyone who’s explored the expressive potential of eyewear like Elton John. There are women who come to mind like Iris Apfel and Joy Bianchi, but I wish I could say I have a young female icon to name. Come on, ladies!
If I could, I would like to start a foundation to feed and house the poor, and I would work my ass off doing it.
I collect rocks and plants, with a particular passion for succulents from Madagascar. I also like poetry and music, and Gai and I spend as much time as we can visiting museums like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
I love botany, geology and psychology, but I’ve never really wanted to take a completely different path from designing eyewear and making a successful business.
Many people know that we have special love for pugs at l.a.Eyeworks. My pug Stella, who’s no longer with us, was chairman of our board and brand ambassador! I have also cared for a rescued California Desert Tortoise named Mr. Torto for more than 30 years.
A favorite destination? I don’t get there as much as I would like, but I love the Colorado River.
I often visit the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena where I’m always taken with The Japanese Garden. I love to see the ceremonial tea house in the late afternoon light.
Before l.a.Eyeworks, I worked and trained as an optician at some of the most notable optical shops in Southern California including Rose Optical, Spec Shop and Optique Boutique. I was also a sales representative for Essilor when they introduced Varilux in the U.S.