A California Original
Few companies have been as influential in the eyewear industry as Barton Perreira. One of the original California luxury brands with a global customer base, it is a fiercely (and proudly) independent company, especially in the days of globalization, and was founded and still helmed by Bill Barton and Patty Perreira. We were fortunate to sit down with co-founder Bill Barton in his Orange County headquarters and find out what makes this brand so unique.
What was the journey that led you to create Barton Perreira?
Bill Barton: Well, you can say that my career started around 1984 at the Optical Shop of Aspen, where I served as President of the company for a little over a decade, followed by a stint at Oliver People, also as President. I met Patty during my time at OSA, and we were friends for just about ten years, and eventually, this took us to 2006, where we dreamed out loud of what would become Barton Perreira. We shipped our first product in 2007, which quickly led to the recession of 2008, maybe not the best timing ever, but after making it through those tough couple of years, it gave us the confidence to forge ahead.
Your eyes lit up when I mentioned Patty. What makes her such a great partner?
BB: If I were to use a cliché, I would say that she is the Ying to my Yang. While I oversee our business operation, from planning, production, manufacturing, and distribution, she has complete control over the creative process. Her vision is what leads this company in so many ways. She has a spirit of adventure that is unmatched. It’s not always a given that business partners care for one another, but we honestly do! Ultimately, there is absolute trust between the two of us, and this trust enables this company to create great products.
What do you say to people who say that eyewear is somewhat disposable and that it shouldn’t be so highly priced?
BB: Ultimately, it is relatively simple. We are a luxury brand, and we make no bones about it. Our commitment to creating the best eyewear in the industry is absolute, which means that there are no shortcuts when it comes to our products. All our frames are manufactured in Japan, and our process is unmatched, which allows us to deliver to our customers’ expectations every time.
How can you compete with the Warby Parkers of this world, or do you?
BB: We are two different models. We don’t see this as competition. However, we are aware of what this trend has created, and while we don’t diminish the impact it has had, and continue to have, on the industry, our business model and products are different, and so are our customers. Over the years, as our reputation has grown, we have built a robust network of partnerships with brands such as Barneys New York, and Neiman Marcus, amongst others, which we are very committed to, and have been able to tap into their audience, who in return have stayed faithful to our brand.
What is your take on the whole “influencers” angle, and the reach of social media?
BB: I am not sure how influencers truly convince people to buy our products, but we know that those associated with Barton Perreira are genuinely fans of the brand. We have been very fortunate to have a handful of celebrities wearing our eyewear, which has proven to be very successful over the years. Social media has also shown to be a useful channel to promote the brand, let’s face it, we are visual people, and because of the immediacy of the response, we’ve been able to build quite a loyal fan following over the years.
Who is the luxury consumer of today?
BB: He or she is not unlike any other luxury brand consumers, whether it is Louis Vuitton, Dior, or any other, this particular consumer knows precisely what he wants, and will not expect anything less. We approach our customers with this exact philosophy. We know that we have a unique brand, with all it implies. We are very discerning in the way we offer our products, which is to say that we have learned to say “no” to anything that would make Barton Perreira less than what it should be.
What keeps you motivated to keep the brand fresh continually?
BB: That’s an easy one. If you’d meet Patty, you’d be amazed at how her brain works. She is always challenging herself, and her staff to come up with new designs, colors, concepts, and new ways to keep our brand relevant, and at the cutting edge of the industry. She is inspired by everything she sees, and her unique eye leads her to create products that we believe have no equal in the industry. From an operation standpoint, we simply don’t cut corners. We are committed to a disciplined approach to growth, which has allowed us to continue to expand our reach while staying true to who we are.How vital is Southern California to Barton Perreira?
BB: As Southern California goes, so does this company. When people think of sunnies, as an example, they think of California. The lifestyle that we are fortunate to have, functions as a de-facto laboratory for what is to come next. People all over the states, as well as abroad, are continually inspired by what we design for them, and it also brings a certain level of aspiration that we do not underestimate.
What is next for Barton Perreira?
BB: More of the same! (laugh) We want to continue to grow at a pace that we can manage, stay true to our core mission, and continue to collaborate with our employees, whom have become our family.
Words by Yves Le Sieur