Gogosha Optique in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles offers a curated selection of independent, handmade eyewear brands with a focus on individualized fittings and consultations. Owner Julia Gogosha joined the Jewelry Journey podcast to discuss what eyeglasses have to do with jewelry and how her boutique helps people tell stories through their eyewear. Read the transcript below.
Sharon: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Jewelry Journey podcast. Today, I am pleased to welcome Julia Gogosha, owner of Gogosha Optique in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles. Gogosha is known for its variety and selection of very unusual eyeglass frames, and if you want to know what eyeglasses have to do with jewelry, here’s an example. I recently met someone for the first time and they told me that they liked my eyeglass frames. They kept looking at me while we continued the conversation and then they said, “Your eyeglass frames are like a piece of jewelry,” and with that, I’ll welcome Julia to the podcast and we’ll hear more about it. Julia, welcome today, so glad to have you.
Julia: Hi, Sharon, glad to be here. Thanks so much.
Sharon: Tell us about the story that led you to open Gogosha. It’s such a unique place and we’d love to hear how you got there.
Julia: Wel, I’ve always loved glasses—well, that’s not quite true. I’ve always worn glasses and once I fell in love with glasses when I was about fourteen years old, it was such a transformative object that I didn’t even realize it until it took me on a path of exploring optics as a career, and it’s such an unusual path because it marries design and technology and all of these interests that I had and never knew how to marry.
When I came to Los Angeles, I was representing different independent designers and I was traveling all over the country finding homes for them, but Los Angeles was a difficult nut to crack, so to speak. It was hard to find or house independent eyewear that was unusual in Los Angeles all through the shops and the buyers that existed. So after many years of trying to find homes for these designers, I decided to make a home for them myself, originally in Silver Lake, where we were for nine years, and now we’re in Echo Park.
Sharon: Wow, so when did you know that you wanted to have a career in this field?
Julia: I was about eighteen years old and it found me. I was wearing the same pair of glasses I purchased when I was fourteen, which happened to be a pair of L.A. Eyeworks that I saved up all summer to buy, and I was wearing them four years later and an optometrist in a lovely little neighborhood in Birmingham, Michigan, found me walking down the street wearing them and asked me where I got my glasses, and as great glasses are often a conversation starter, this one just happened to be the beginning of my career.
Sharon: And so the beginning of your career was because he said those are great glasses and then—
Julia: Those are great glasses and he asked me what I did for a living and I didn’t have a living yet. I had just graduated high school and didn’t have a direction or path. I knew the thing I wanted to be when I was seventeen was to be Simon Doonan and I wanted to be like a creative director.
Sharon: You wanted to be who?
Julia: Simon Doonan, who’s the creative director of Barneys. So I loved design merchandising and I loved fashion, but they didn’t really quite fit into any of those molds and those were the optics of a really interesting fit and so it was something I pursued and never got bored with and it always interested me.
Sharon: You said you were trying to find homes for some of the more unusual designers, but still to actually open your own business, that’s a huge step. What made you decide to do that?
Julia: I’ve always been one of those people that when I say I’m going to do something, once I say it out loud, I hold myself accountable to it and I was frustrated. It came out of a place of frustration and I was adamant that I knew that all the nos didn’t reflect my needs in this area. All these people would say, “No one wants these things in Los Angeles.” I said, “I live in Los Angeles and I don’t have these things and my friends love these glasses.” I was just adamant that I was right and at one point, I said I was going to do it if I found a space.
I found two streets that I wanted to be in between on Sunset and I just started looking for spaces and after months of looking, I found a space on Sunset in between these two parameters that I set for myself and looked at the space and signed a lease that morning, which was Christmas Eve of 2007, and opened in March 2008, and yeah, I loved these designers so much and I wanted a place where they weren’t something for the others, so to speak. The people who would carry these lines would kind of put them in the corner and have an idea of the client that would wear them and it was always someone else and it was someone that looked a certain way or always an idea that they already had in their minds rather than letting people discover what they loved and having the client really explore new ideas. They already had an idea of who liked interesting things and that’s the only person who could look at them.
Sharon: What made eyeglasses become so cool? I mean, I wore contacts for twenty years and now I don’t want go back to contacts, but what happened?
Julia: I mean, there’s more of a platform now. There have always been great independent designers, but there were only a few of them. At any one time, there was maybe a dozen to two dozen independent designers around the world who were making things and there were only so many places to showcase them as far as stores went and they were always part of popular culture and there are brands now that are heritage collections that have been around in the same families for the last almost hundred years at this point. They would dress people like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly and things to that effect, so there was that avenue, but now I think there are many more stores; there are many more designers. When I started there were maybe fifteen or twenty designers that we would go and look at their collections and receive them and now there are hundreds. My schedule is booked for five days, twelve designers a day and I’m not even seeing a fraction of what exists out there and so there are some new designers making things.
I think there are a lot of really interesting points of view that are being expressed and each person—like there is a mass market eyewear that most people are familiar with and it’s no vision of choice, but they’re all licenses; they all have different names, but they’re all really made by the same three manufacturers, the same three licensors and so those are all the designers that people are familiar with by the name, but the names are being sold, but all the people that I’ve always worked with are independent designers. So these are individuals who are artists or artisans or craftsmen with a point of view, a voice, a vision, an inspiration that they want to put into the world, and they want to see on individual spaces. Rather than thinking of a market, they think as people, but that’s the way to make something cool or desirable or anything. It’s really a repetition of people having something that’s reflective of themselves and that starts the turn, “Well, I want something that I look good in, that I show good in,” and it’s different for each person and that’s what keeps it exciting.
Sharon: That’s really interesting. I keep thinking about the word that you use, that eyeglasses can be transformative. I mean, you can look so different in so many different ways depending on whether [add the text: you have] no glasses or a round frame or a small frame or whatever. So the independent people, they’re not going to sell to—I mean, they just are one company and they just make the frames, or we had talked briefly and you had mentioned somebody who does jewelry. They actually make jewelry and they transferred those into making frames.
Julia: Yeah, absolutely because they are all independent designers, so what they do is eyewear is their focus. It’s not an additional accessory that they’ve tacked onto their clothing line or onto something else in order to have them in a more visible market from the accessory. This is their forte. This is their expertise. This is their art and we have a few designers that we work with. Some come from jewelry like Peter Kuhns who started and continues to make jewelry. We have someone like Bavier Derome who’s in the large alley and not only does he make eyewear, but he has also made jewelry for runway for people from like Jewelry Baton in the past. Then there are people who are sculptors who we were lucky enough that they chose to do small-scale sculptures in the form of eyewear and they could just as well be sought-after sculptures of large scale, but they chose eyewear because it’s such a personal way to wear the art.
Sharon: In some of our conversations, you’ve said that eyewear is more important than any other accessory in your closet and it’s right up there with jewelry. Why is that? Why is it that it’s O.K. now for people—I know a lot of people still think, “O.K., I get one pair of glasses and I wear them for a couple of years and then go on to the next one,” but so many people are now O.K. with having multiple pairs of glasses. What happened?
Julia: Well, it’s so visible and it’s so memorable. When it’s done well, it’s such a great conversation starter or icebreaker. It can elevate any outfit. It can accessorize just like you would with either bold jewelry and subtle jewelry, but it’s what we engage through our eyes and it’s something that—it’s (1) most visible and (2) when you’re really present or someone, you’re looking through this object and they’re looking at you through the one you’re wearing and we look different in each of them and the statements are different. If you’re wearing a delicate middle frame and it’s something geometric, it evokes something very different than a big, bold chunky colorful piece as well. You can really be expressive in so many different ways.
Sharon: No, that’s really true. Is this just happening in Los Angeles and New York or is it in Iowa and whatever? I mean, is this a national trend?
Julia: We get calls from all over the world for eyewear that we have featured and people who will meet someone in an elevator or at a conference or over dinner at a friend’s house and I think it’s happening everywhere. The access is different everywhere, so people will still try to source and it’s easier to source in places like Los Angeles or New York or Rome or London or Tokyo, but there are some great shops that are really elevating their selection and challenging their clientele to—rather than giving what they want, they are challenging people into letting people discover what they really want rather than a preconception before they come in.
Sharon: How do you find new designers? Are they e-mailing you? Are you looking on Instagram, the trade shows? Where do you find them?
Julia: All of the above. People contact us almost daily from all around the world with either new collections or a new release or a new idea. I use Instagram far too often and you can fall down a great rabbit hole at times, and there are some really interesting designers who are just making art for art’s sake in the sense of eyewear. Some are making things that are a little more commercial, things that are experimental, and I love that there are more people kind of participating in the design of eyewear and there are some things that will be forgotten and there will be some things that I think will have a really lasting impression and it is because of the avant-garde that any look in any industry or any accessory is propelled forward. I love the fringe of any industry because even it feels radical or unwearable; I think it’s most valuable because it’s what propels all the ideas forward. I will look everywhere.
Sharon: That’s a really interesting thought. I hadn’t really thought about that, but that’s so true that it’s the fringes that all of a sudden you turn around and you go, “Hey.” That’s really interesting.
Where do you see eyeglasses going? Do you see this trend just continuing to grow? What do you see?
Julia: I think wardrobing, like we’re discussing as far as having multiple pairs, I think it’s just starting. There have always been a few people who have been collectors and have been wardrobing eyewear, but it’s becoming much more frequent. We’re having many more sales which are multiple, where people are buying a wardrobe for glasses, even if it’s two or three at a time or even one at a time, but with more frequency. We have that much more frequently than we have in any other years prior and I think it’s because of the array of the selection and the spectrum of choices and it’s one of those things that you can change your eyewear as you go forward as well.
We refurbish and we will change eyeglasses to sunglasses and it’s one of those things that the more you wardrobe—I think that’s where it’s going because you can change those options even once you own them. We can dye the frames that are translucent or crystal and make them a different color or we can change the lenses and completely transform something you already own so it becomes something that is a pretty permanent piece in your wardrobe.
Sharon: Now, that’s really interesting. I certainly didn’t know that because I’m thinking of some friends that have—at one point, they were really edgy, but now I look at them and I go, “Oh, my God, they’re so blah.” That’s really interesting. I haven’t heard that term “wardrobing,” wardrobing eyewear; I haven’t heard the term used that way before. I like that. That describes it perfectly, having a wardrobe of shoes and a wardrobe of jewelry and a wardrobe of whatever, all kinds of accessories, so that makes sense.
Julia: Sure, and it’s fun to look in your closet and it’s also fun to display them. Everyone displays them differently and I love how people store and display their eyewear in order for them to be able to make their selections in the morning or what they carry with them on a daily basis. All of that’s really fun.
Sharon: What kinds of comments do you get when people stumble into the store?
Julia: When they stumble in and they’ve never heard of us—they weren’t referred, they were just walking by—I think it’s both a sense of the novelty of, “I didn’t know that this existed. I didn’t know that glasses like this existed or a space like this existed for me to discover things that I really like.”
The way that we typically work with individuals is that we will make a wardrobe, meaning, we’ll make a selection of frames that fit you, but I always think that’s like “Touch of Mink,” where she’s sitting there while everyone is walking out with a wardrobe for her to select from of everything that will set her to be her. If we bring out things that would fit you and suit your features, and then people get to play with the aesthetic—and that’s a really new way for adults to play dress up. I love the sense of play that comes with it and I think that’s what we try to encourage with people and what they find in the space is you get to play in something that used to be just considered a medical device that you had to have and you really resented wearing.
Sharon: That’s really interesting. That’s a very good point, too. When you see some of the men trying different things on and they are playing and it’s not allowed in other areas, so that’s really interesting. Well, Julia, thank you so much for being here today. This was so interesting and you definitely have a really fabulous selection, a very unique selection we all appreciate, and to everybody listening, we’ll have Julia’s contact information in the show notes at TheJewelryJourney.com.
That wraps up another episode of The Jewelry Journey. If you like what you heard and you would like to hear more, you can subscribe at iTunes or wherever you download your podcasts and please review us. We’ll be back next time with another thought-provoking guest giving us their professional take on the world of jewelry and/or accessories or anything related. Thanks so much.
Julia: Thank you, Sharon.
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