Words: Garrett Leight
Photos: Sophy Holland
I remember the first time I saw Kerin Rose, which doesn’t mean anything. She’s a peacock. Everyone sees Kerin Rose every day. But when I saw her, I got the exclusive. It was 2011 and Kerin, in all her glory, was at a launch party I was hosting at this much-to-do store in SoHo. The owners don’t talk to me anymore, and so it goes in New York. - Who are you? - I’m just like you. I make eyewear. I love your collection, I had to meet you. You’re just like me, I thought? Judging from the outside of course that had to be impossible. - We don’t dress alike. I said with a smile. - I like to dress in cerebrally provocative ways because it actively challenges people to see if they treat me differently. That’s how I decide who I want to talk to. Fuck, I thought. What a line.
- Well what’s your eyewear all about? - I love putting crystals on things. I’ve always loved putting crystals on things. One day I was toying around and needed a new pair of sunglasses and thought to myself, this could be cool. Kerin explained to me that she had recently launched her brand, A-Morir. I had seen them at Joyce in Hong Kong. They were these amazingly bedazzled sunglasses, the same ones I had seen on Rihanna and Lady Gaga. - So, are you an eyewear designer or an artist? - I’ve always been an artist. I’ve always been interested in where things come from and why things are the way they are. She spoke a lot about authenticity, and French existentialism, and the sense that everything we do can be something for public consumption.
- Everything we do can be a spectacle. I totally agreed with her. Kerin was clearly much more of an artist than me in the traditional sense, but her explanation of art and commerce made me feel like I belonged. - So how’s the industry treating you? - I find that lot of opticians and a lot of optical stores don’t understand what I’m doing. She could have said that again. For all intents and purposes, which is exactly what we were talking about, eyewear is a medical device and opticians are practitioners. But Kerin didn’t see it that way. - I want people to understand eyewear can be really exciting, and really beautiful, and really extravagant, and really wearable. I want people to stop saying, where would I wear this to? Just put it on, and you fucking wear it. You can throw this shit on and go buy your groceries. I think it was her enthusiasm that made me fall for her. It could have been her eyes or her smile or her style. Her positivity and excitement were electrifying. You could see that she’d seen things, been places. Or it could have been her sense of humor. I’m a sucker for girls who like to laugh. - I see women wearing $50 gas station Ray Bans on their face when they are wearing $2000 Nicholas Kirkwood shoes and an Hermes bag. It fucking angers me. Kerin had this way of acting out the words coming out of her mouth with extreme emotions. You could visibly see the anger. I changed the subject.
- I’ve seen your designs on tons of celebrities as well as in all the best magazines and stores. I like what you’re doing. It’s different. - Thanks. Kerin was humble. Kerin always says thanks when you compliment her. Then she proceeds. - I was working for Patricia Field when Katy Perry came in and bought my glasses and it kind of spiraled from there. Also if you’re the only person making something it’s very easy for people to find you. What a simple notion I thought, but so very hard to actually be anyone’s reality. The only person in the whole world making something? Is that even possible? Kerin was. - Tell me more. - I hate selling myself. I find it draining. I find it inauthentic. Trying to convince someone that what you make is good is terrible. Could anything be more articulately said? I felt the same way. - Sometimes I have to put on a face and shake hands and kiss babies. I laughed. Kerin’s sense of humor is unique. She doesn’t notice when she’s saying funny things. She says them and carries on, but if you laugh, she stops and laughs with you. I’m not sure if she realizes how funny she is, or what it is that she says that makes people happy, but in any case she does it consistently.
- So can you have it all? Can you be an artist in commerce and be happy? - I don’t know. In this world where 19-year-olds are winning Grammys and 17-year-olds are building the next Uber app, there’s nothing wrong with the slow burn. I am truly an artist whose business is in commerce. If you’re an artist who doesn’t have a trust fund you’re an artist dealing with commerce. But I’ve realized that the joy of what I do is not just the designing but the actual therapy of making things. I love it. I love it so much. Kerin perked up at this. And then she said it, and I’ll never forget it: - Eyewear is the final frontier of the exciting accessory. It made me feel like what I do matters and nothing else did. This incredible one-of-a-kind artist chose eyewear as her medium, and here I am taking it for granted because I was born into it. This is the final frontier, man. And then as quick as she arrived came her departure. - It’s time to leave. I was a little too close to adhesive yesterday and definitely wound up high at some point. - Maybe you should wear a gas mask. - I’ll need to bedazzle it. - I think we just created something. She hugged me and went on her way and the rest of the party sucked.