Garrett Leight Hires K-Swiss’ Barney Waters to Serve as President

Garrett Leight California Optical has found its president.

Weeks after selling a majority stake for $20 million to The Untitled Group, the Los Angeles-based eyewear brand has snagged Barney Waters of K-Swiss to serve as its new president. Waters has been president of K-Swiss since 2016 and is credited with returning the heritage sneaker brand to profitability after several years of losses.

At GLCO, Waters will lead the executive team and work on efficiency, operations and systems; however, the company will also tap into his marketing experience as it works to extend its reach beyond eyewear into other lifestyle products. GLCO has said it expects to add 20 percent in sales to its top line each year as it works to double its volume within five years.

“I’m thrilled to bring in a footwear industry legend who understands that marketing, p.r. and design are the bloodline of what makes our brand special, and simultaneously knows what it takes for us meet our business goals,” said founder Garrett Leight. “His experience at larger companies will help us achieve our targets and the potential we believe GLCO has, not only in optical but beyond. Having Barney on the team will allow me the opportunity to get back to focusing on the creative parts of the business that I most enjoy.”

Waters said he looks forward to “to translating my experiences from the footwear market into this unique product category and help amplify the brand as we aim for global growth.”

Waters, a native of the U.K., started his career at the software company Lotus, where he worked for 11 years. He then joined Puma as vice president of marketing for seven years before joining K-Swiss. While at K-Swiss, Waters also worked with Palladium, a French heritage boot brand owned by the corporation, and increased its sales from $15 million to $100 million globally in under five years.

GLCO was founded in Venice Beach, Calif., in 2010 by Leight, an eyewear veteran whose father is Larry Leight, founder of the Oliver Peoples brand. GLCO has grown into a buzzy label that is a favorite among celebrities including Brad Pitt and Selena Gomez. The company operates six stores in the U.S. and posted sales of $23.2 million in 2019. Sales slipped to $18.3 million last year during the pandemic but this year, Leight expects to return to at least 2019 levels. The brand is distributed in more than 25 countries on six continents.

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