There’s no doubting that New Orleans is one of the most inspiring cities in America. The city’s mixed culture is visible in all forms of artistry, from food to music to design.
Often called the “most unique” city, New Orleans is the inspirational grounds for most— if not all— of its local artists and even those abroad.
One artist in particular is Stirling Barrett, who launched eyewear company KREWE in 2013 at the age of 24. The longtime vintage eyewear enthusiast saw an opportunity to positively impact the cultural perception of New Orleans through a creative approach to business and design.
“KREWE was founded on the philosophy of doing something unexpected from a place no one would expect and that mantra radiates through every decision we make,” said KREWE social media manager Ashley O’Neill.
Barrett designs all of the eyewear at KREWE’s New Orleans Design Studio, right above the flagship store in the French Quarter.
The original store, located on Royal St. in the French Quarter, fits the classic, aesthetically pleasing style of the sunglasses. Like an art gallery, the white walls allow the vibrant, mirrored lenses to catch the eye and demand to be admired.
Each pair of sunglasses has its own unique name, that of which is inspired by the local culture, such as the Orleans, Lafitte and St. Louis lines. Additionally, many of the frames are inspired by area architecture.
Now, what makes these sunglasses different from others, besides the New Orleans DNA that runs through them? Quality.
Features like optimum polarized lenses, riveted and barrel hinges, anti-reflective coating and long-lasting hardware help this company soar above and beyond its competitors. Not to mention, frames are hand carved from plant-based acetates (pliable plastic material,) which make them more durable and environmentally friendly. The frames can also be custom fitted to each individual’s face with a frame warmer containing miniscule glass beads.
If that wasn’t enough to win you over, the company operates under a “you break it, we replace it" policy. KREWE offers a replacement pair of frames to customers if their sunglasses are damaged. Any pair of full-priced frames can be replaced free of charge, as long as they were purchased directly from the KREWE website.
Since its opening five years ago, KREWE has expanded to other states and is continuing to expand. Current locations include Savannah, Georgia, Dallas, Texas and New York City.
In 2016, KREWE came in first runner-up for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award at the 2016 Council of Fashion Designers of America Fashion Awards.
Just recently, Barrett decided to launch what is called the “Tiny House Tour.” The tiny house is a replica of a traditional shotgun home that blends in well with the company’s native New Orleans theme.
The first stop on the tour was right here in Baton Rouge at Perkins Rowe. The little shop parked itself on the side of the street, welcoming anyone curious enough to wander inside.
The exterior of the house is completely white with “KREWE Specializes in Handmade Eyewear” written across the side. The interior is just like that of its mother store in the French Quarter. White walls adorned with small succulents add a touch of color, but not too much to detract from the sunglasses.
The Tiny House Tour is a way for the company to travel and expand to other places while bringing New Orleans culture along for the ride. In the coming months, the tiny house will make its way to Texas— visiting Houston and Austin— New Orleans and Alys Beach, Florida.
The start of the tour somewhat resembles the story of how Barrett began the company in the first place. Before launching KREWE, Barrett collaborated with a local artist to build the “KREWE Cart,” which he took around the city and to nearby festivals in order to sell his eyewear.
KREWE quickly grew from a small cart connected to a tricycle to four different storefronts, a traveling tour and much more. The hard work and beautiful designs apparent in Barrett’s eyewear show his love and appreciation for the city of New Orleans.
Many New Orleans locals, like Barrett, adore the Big Easy and are proud to be from a place with such diverse culture, where creativity flows like the Mississippi River. So, why not spread its rich culture across the world with a pair of shades?