Krewe du Optic’s sunny new flagship in New Orleans’ French Quarter is a far cry from the brand’s tricycle-powered mobile showcase (officially known as the Krewe cart), but its purpose is a little different, too. “We know that people don’t come to buy sunglasses every day,” explains Stirling Barrett, the two-year-and-one-month-old brand’s founder and creative director. “But we want to be part of the conversation every day.” As if famous fans like Alessandra Ambrosio and Gigi Hadid weren’t enough to talk about, the shop at 809 Royal Street is a topic in itself, with an espresso bar by the local Merchant Café and a cozy side courtyard designed for creative collaboration. “We kept most of the tables outside and really low bench seating inside so it’s not a space to come and work,” says the New Orleans native. “It’s a space to come and conversate.”
Conversation is key for a brand that relies on word of mouth marketing, something that’s no doubt become easier since Beyoncé became a fan. (“She was our first celebrity endorsement—and by celebrity endorsement, she just wore a pair and we found out about it,” Barrett recalls, laughing.) “We don’t pay for advertising. What we try to do is put all of our money into the best customer service, the best quality product, and being a young, youthful, adaptive company,” he says. “I think people just love the idea that there can be a company that is based totally in the middle of nowhere in the fashion sense, creating a product that is unique, and doing it with a smile. It’s this idea of Southern hospitality and how that can be interpreted by a brand.
But don’t mistake Krewe’s niceness for naiveté. “We work a lot—we try to breed a culture at Krewe [keeping in mind] that somebody in New York is working at this same problem to beat us at our own game,” Barrett says earnestly. “So, you know, in a city of laissez les bon temps rouler, you have to stay buckled down and keep the team buckled down.” Luckily there’s plenty of espresso to keep the Krewe crew fueled as long as it takes.