In an increasingly saturated eyewear market, Stirling Barrett has created a unique brand in Krewe that has become an instant celebrity favorite.
Since the company's inception in 2013, Krewe has cultivated an enviable league of it-girl (and -boy) admirers. Beyoncé, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Selena Gomez, Reese Witherspoon, and Zayn have all been spotted wearing the fashionable eyewear line, becoming part of the celeb "Krewe."
The name (pronounced "crew") symbolizes the brand's connection with its home base (and Stirling's hometown), New Orleans. The city’s krewes are historic associations whose members band together to produce floats for a parade or carnival celebration — most often for Mardi Gras. The company represents a creative collaboration in design and a celebration of New Orleans. The city is at the heart of the brand, and where Stirling draws his central inspiration.
Each frame is inspired by a New Orleans locale or cultural reference. The St. Louis frame is named for one of the streets that run through the French Quarter, with buildings that feature ornate wrought-iron balconies, which inspired the frame's geometric, metal bridge. All the frames are designed by Stirling at the brand’s New Orleans studio headquarters, using hand-carved lightweight acetate that is plant-based and resistant to cracking, and will mold to your face over time to ensure a personal fit.
Stirling is passionate about attracting attention to New Orleans’s brimming cultural hub. The city is famous for its delectable seafood cuisine and jazz scene, but fashion is often left off the radar. Stirling is hoping to change that.
In 2016, Krewe was a finalist and runner-up in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, which earned his company a $150,000 prize. Krewe is one of a small group of accessory designers nominated, which is unusual this early in the company's history. Previous CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winners include such leading brands as Alexander Wang, Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, and Altuzarra.
Krewe is distinctive for Stirling's passion for New Orleans, his attention to detail in designing Krewe’s frames and his clear vision for the brand. Everything from the frames, to the storefronts, to the ethos of the company runs a smooth, connecting line.
We spoke to Stirling to learn more about what the Krewe it-factor is, how he got Gigi Hadid to wear his eyewear, and what's next for the breakout brand. And don't forget to click ahead to see which chic styles Gigi, Kendall, Zayn, and more picked as their favorite Krewe frames.
Yahoo Style: What do you think separates Krewe from other competitive eyewear brands in the market?
Stirling Barrett: KREWE was built on the identity of doing something from somewhere unexpected. We're a New Orleans-based independent eyewear company, and to be a fashion brand playing in a city that's not New York is what sets us apart from other eyewear brands. KREWE is also a non-branded product, and people join the brand because they love to talk about KREWE and tell the story. That's a huge part of what sets us apart.
Why do you think Krewe has become such a celebrity favorite, especially in catching the attention of someone like Gigi Hadid relatively early on?
We've never been a pay-to-play brand; we don't pay celebrities to wear our product, so we always pride ourselves on being able to build relationships. Ultimately, all we can do is get the product in their hands. They have to truly love it and feel like it represents them. That's been something we've been really successful with to date, and I think that speaks to the quality and the fashion-forward designs that we're producing.
How has being a part of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund changed your life and the company's outreach within the fashion community?
When you're based in New Orleans, you have this challenge of being able to be noticed in the fashion capitols. From the very beginning, a huge goal of Krewe's has always been to execute our tasks so well that it’s impossible not to be noticed. Thanks to the opportunity from the Fashion Fund, and the honor of being a finalist and a runner up, we were able to be noticed and become a talking point in the industry. That's exciting and helps us accomplish our goal, but it’s also a burden to continue to execute at a high level and grow the brand. The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund opened up doors for Krewe, and it’s our responsibility to continue to grow on that.
What is your future plan for Krewe?
We're going to start introducing custom color ways — from raw material to the frame. That's unheard of in the eyewear industry, and it's something that we were only able to do through the money from the Design Challenge that we got from CFDA. We're just excited to continue to innovate and create fashion-forward eyewear.