We've been quite the jet-setters lately haven't we? First Italy, then the USA, where next is anyone's guess (but if you've got money to bet you should probably look at placing it on Indonesia, hint hint)
With borders well and truly open we've been dusting off our passports and our neck pillows and heading abroad to reconnect with friends, suppliers and hopefully some potential retailers abroad. The 'Golden State' AKA California has long been a place that when visiting feels like we are returning home in a sense. Maybe it's the climate, maybe it's the food, maybe it's the eccentric locals who call the Venice boardwalk home, all things that don't feel like too much of a stretch from our own home town of Byron Bay. Yet California - and L.A in particular - has a distinct, unmistakeable energy unlike anywhere else on earth, and by gosh is was good to feel it coursing through our veins again. Our Sales Manager Elle headed over to reconnect with both friends and retailers in the Golden State.
I've been visiting L.A regularly since once of my best friends' moved there about 8 years ago, and every trip is better than the last. I am met with a strong sense of nostalgia every time I pass through the infamous LAX border security. Los Angeles has many reputations, but I'm a big believer that it can be whatever you want it to be. A true melting pot of culture, culinary delights and cool, it has all shades, dark and light. I spent two weeks there recently, my time split between Venice Beach - my home away from home - and San Fran - a first visit for me since another Aussie friend had moved there just pre-pandemic.
A visit to L.A involves all the usual stops - coffee from Great White sipped by the skate bowl, multiple lunches spent chowing my way through the health food options at Erewhon, a film enjoyed under the stars at the Hollywood Cemetery and a live gig at the Greek Theatre - this time for the sweet croonings of Norah Jones.
This was my first time visiting San Fran, and I get a special type of joy out of visiting a place for the first time that I've seen or heard so much about in TV and movies. San Fran did not disappoint, with it's famous steep streets lined with coloured and character filled Italinate styled homes (think Full House), the awe-inspiring Golden Gate bridge and eclectic food and cultural scene. There was not a moment to spare when discovering all of the gems this place has to offer.
Another special joy of mine is seeking out any food spots that were visited by the late great Anthony Bourdain as part of his Parts Unknown series. Most of the world's most famous cities and some less travelled have an episode filmed about them as part of his series that ran for 12 seasons until his untimely passing. So naturally I rewatched the San Fran episode before visiting and made it my mission to eat at one of Anthony's favourites.
I don't quite have words for how special my experience at Swan Oyster Depot was. Do yourself a favour and find the episode online, because I won't be able to do justice to the magical character of this place, not to mention the crazy fresh and beautifully simple seafood that made for my best meal of the whole trip. This larger than life institution has existed since 1903 and you can see why this tiny 18 bar stool restaurant continues to draw lines down the street day in and day out. It was worth the one hour wait on a unseasonably hot 35 degree summer day in the bay.
A focus for me this trip was the L.A retail scene to see what other brands and creatives are up to in a post-COVID world and where Childe Eyewear might fit into that scene. You can draw a lot of parallels between east coast Aus and west coast American style, and I was keen to see what opportunities there might be to introduce our sunnies to the market.
American retail is particularly prideful yet warm. Shop spaces are well thought out and finished, and service is warm and inviting. I have never been more than two steps through a door before hearing a big loud "Welcome In!" sing across to me from the counter. There is also a lot of thought that goes into personalisation and creativity, and it's great to see stores' showing their own unique personalities through their space.
I was excited to discover that while there were a few great eyewear brands on offer, none had the same take on style and quality as Childe, and our humble little Byron Bay brand definitely has something to say for itself in a big bold L.A market.
I'm excited to get back over there soon and continue having conversations with some great independent retailers who appreciate when brands endevour to do things differently, breaking the moulds and paradigms of what traditional eyewear looks like. Watch this space!