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Wednesday, Apr 17, 2024

Bugatti, Larry Sands Debut Luxe Eyewear Collection

Glasses start at $1.5K a pair

Eyewear pioneer Larry Sands is secretive about how he crafted his new collection of sunglasses for French ultra-luxe carmaker Bugatti.

“If I told you that, I’d have to kill you,” the 84-year-old told the Business Journal with a laugh.

One technique he can divulge: positive vapor deposition (PVD), a process that uses a vacuum to layer carbon fiber onto a glasses’ metal frame.

According to Sands, PVD ensures that a black pair of glasses will retain its original color after 10 years of wear.

“Most other eyewear companies use black paint baked under infrared lights,” Sands said.

“It wears off every time you slide it in and out of your case and becomes a little more off-black or gray.”

A-List Clients

Sands’ clients appreciate the details. Notable customers include Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford and singer John Oates of rock duo Hall & Oates. He has designed eyewear for the late Karl Lagerfeld, the former creative director of Chanel, and made over 1,000 pairs of glasses for Elton John.

His pieces for luxury goods brand Chrome Hearts run from $800 to $3,000 a pair. Other eyewear brands under his creative direction include Matsuda, Kieselstein-Cord, Shamballa Eyewear and Paradis Collection.

Sands’ Bugatti collection debuted earlier this month in Italy at the Mido 2023 trade show, the largest international show dedicated to eyewear.

He plans to release the Bugatti collection this spring at his store, EuroCollective, located at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.

“What we’re trying to do with Bugatti is make a pair of glasses that, in some form, says loudly ’this is a fusion of what the automobile and eyewear looks like,’” he said.

The most affordable Bugatti models go for $2 million, while its priciest cars frequently top $5 million.

“This collection is an idea of what a guy behind the wheel of a Bugatti would like to be wearing on his face,” he said.

Bugatti last year opened a new showroom in Irvine with Newport Beach Automotive Group. It had already become the second-largest Bugatti dealer after working with the brand for two years, despite not having a dedicated showroom.

Luxury Car Enthusiast

Sands admitted he did not expect Bugatti to reach out to him for its eyewear collection.

“They have the greatest car in the world,” he said. “Bugatti would want nothing less than the best. I’m absolutely humbled that they asked me to do this.”

An owner of 31 Porsches and eight Ferraris, Sands is a sports car enthusiast himself. He previously worked as the chief operating officer of luxury used-car dealer EuroCar OC in Costa Mesa, helping rebrand the company and increasing its sales by 43% three years ago, he said.

Rock Stint

Sands got his start in eyewear working for an optometrist in Kansas City, Mo., while in high school.

After dropping out of college as a music major, he built and owned a chain of five optical stores called 20/20 Optical in southern Missouri.

Sands sold the stores to start his own rock band, Bartok’s Mountain, which opened for Led Zeppelin, Sly and The Family Stone and Vanilla Fudge, among others. He played guitar.

After years of doing rock shows, Sands decided he had fulfilled his dreams of being a musician and went back into eyewear.

In 1969, he founded in Kansas City what he believes was the first optical boutique in the world, called Optical Shop.

“Catchy, not!” Sands said of the name in eyewear magazine 20/20. “But to the point.”

Aspen to OC

He then expanded the concept to Aspen, Colo., starting the Optical Shop of Aspen after seeing a demand for luxury eyewear in the area.

“There were a lot of celebrities there,” he said. “Everybody important was there, including Elton John.”

Sands moved the headquarters of Optical Shop of Aspen to Aliso Viejo in 2000. Two years later, he acquired a license from Chrome Hearts, whom he began designing eyewear for after being a fan of its clothing, accessories and furniture for over 15 years.

Optical Shop of Aspen expanded to 14 stores across the country before Foothill Ranch-based eyewear maker Oakley Inc. acquired the company in 2006 for an undisclosed amount.

Over a decade later, Sands opened EuroCollective at Fashion Island. He visits the shop on Saturdays and receives plenty of design input and requests from customers, he said.

Clients often bring in their suits and buy up to multiple pairs of glasses that match their wardrobe.

“Men are way more fashion-conscious than they were 10 years ago,” Sands said. “Even attorneys have discovered if they look a little different and a little bit better, it helps them make their case.”

Diamond-Like Coatings

Sands’ Bugatti pieces are as luxe as the company’s hyper sports cars, going for $1,500 to $3,200 a pair.

Pieces pay homage to Bugatti, with red enamel logos and metal accents that mimic the grill pattern of Bugatti’s horseshoe radiator.

The collection, which took over two years to design and develop, is crafted from solid 925 sterling silver trim with 18-karat gold and palladium. Each piece, which also features diamond-like coatings, is made in the same Japanese factory Sands used to create his designs for Chrome Hearts.

“You can bang these on concrete without chipping them,” Sands said. “I still have people coming into my store at Fashion Island for adjustments for glasses I made 20 years ago, and they’re still in one piece.”

The Bugatti collection also includes a diamond piece that costs $15,000.

About 100 to 125 copies will be available for each color in the collection.

“Exclusivity is one of the key ingredients of luxury,” Sands said.

Collection Two

Sands has already finished the designs for his second collection with Bugatti.

“I’ll see the prototypes in Italy next week,” he told the Business Journal in late January.

He expects Bugatti’s Collection Two to be available sometime in September. The second collection will feature around 20 different pieces, while Collection One counts 10.

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