Stirling Barrett ’11 – Bringing His Creativity into Plain Sight

By Caitlin Drott

His sunglasses have been spotted on Beyoncé, Kristen Bell and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.

He was named to the 2019 Forbes “30 Under 30” list for Art & Style. But before Stirling Barrett started KREWE, a multi-million-dollar eyewear brand that was named the runner-up in the 2016 Vogue Fashion Fund, he learned his “radical attention to detail” at the Temerlin Advertising Institute.

“My time at SMU Meadows was extremely positive,” Barrett said. “It helped me develop a dedicated work ethic. And it taught me that traditional art forms were not the only form of creativity.”

Barrett earned his B.A. in advertising with a creative specialization in 2011, along with a minor in art that focused on printmaking and photography. After graduation he returned to New Orleans, his beloved hometown, to pursue a career in photography. Instead, he channeled his creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to found KREWE. Since starting the company in 2013, Barrett has worked tirelessly to make his brand and company culture unique.

“KREWE is about ‘us,’ not ‘me,’” Barrett said. “We are able to think about problems differently, and arguably at times more creatively, while not sacrificing speed or profitability.”

Barrett did not know anything about designing eyewear before he started the company. However, he had learned a deep appreciation for high-quality eyewear from his grandfather.

“My grandfather had a vast collection of eyewear, and it was something that I was always interested in and started collecting at a young age,” Barrett said. “I started KREWE out of the desire to create something physically tangible.”

To create his chic eyewear, Barrett combined his background in art with a commitment to excellence, which he developed at SMU.

 “The attention to detail was essential to learn, especially in this industry,” Barrett said. “Every millimeter counts when it comes to eyewear.”

After growing up in Louisiana, Barrett was passionate about bringing attention to a place no one would expect to find high-quality fashion: the jazzy, joyful streets of New Orleans.

“I chose New Orleans because I wanted to prove that you could establish an international fashion brand in a city that didn’t have the infrastructure for the fashion industry in comparison to New York or Los Angeles,” Barrett said. “Once I left Louisiana, I realized what was exceptionally special about the city and how no other city could recreate the culture or the people.”

Barrett’s passion for New Orleans is embedded in his celebrity-adored brand. Many of the styles are named after streets and landmarks in the city. One popular frame, the St. Louis Classics, is named after a corner of the French Quarter. The delicate metal bridge across the nose mirrors the winding cast-iron balconies that overlook the bustling hub.

New Orleans has permeated the brand in more ways than the eccentric design. Named after a Mardi Gras tradition, a krewe describes a diverse group of people parading in the street to celebrate the carnival season. Barrett made his company reflect a krewe: It embraces diversity and thrives off the spirit of creative collaboration. Barrett says his employees are continually growing, experimenting and learning, and so is he.

“I feel like I’m constantly evolving as a leader and a human being,” Barrett said. “Leadership is about people and being what the culture and its people need at a given moment. That challenge has never been more rewarding than it is today.”

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