Schitt’s Creek meets high fashion: Dan Levy and SS Daley’s new eyewear
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Steven Stokey-Daley reminisces about the first pair of glasses he ever had. “It’s not glamorous at all,” grimaces the 25-year-old Liverpudlian designer, winner of both last year’s LVMH Prize for young designers and the British Fashion Council’s Foundation Award. “How do I romanticise them in a fun way?” He turns to Dan Levy, best known for the award-winning Schitt’s Creek, which he wrote, produced and starred in.
“Dan – do you know Asda?”
“Yeah?” replies the 39-year-old Levy, shakily. Asda, the quintessential British supermarket chain, is surely a whole world away from Levy’s native Toronto, but he is too sunnily Canadian to dampen the mood. Stokey-Daley, meanwhile, is undeterred. “That was my first pair of glasses – from an Asda optician.”
“Wonderful,” nods Levy.
“I hated them,” replies Stokey-Daley. His first frames were “really brutal”, with a very 2000s wire. “I was eight years of age, and they were so awful. But I think it forced me to seek beauty elsewhere in a more passionate way.”
Levy sighs in sympathy. “Why does it always start with a wire frame..?”
Stokey-Daley and Levy have convened today in London not for a counselling session but a celebration. Together they have produced three different pairs of glasses, a collaboration between Stokey-Daley’s clothing brand SS Daley, much admired since it launched in 2020 for its take on English romance, and Levy’s DL Eyewear, founded in 2013. The Cloudsley, the Lonsdale and the Charlton (named after the north London squares near where Stokey-Daley lives) are classic, accessible and a little bit eccentric – not unlike their genial creators.
Levy – an avid fashion fan, spotted several times on Loewe’s front row – and Stokey-Daley had already sent each other appreciative messages on Instagram when a mutual friend, the stylist Harry Lambert, suggested they work together. “I was in a fitting for my AW22 collection,” says Stokey-Daley, “and I said to Harry, ‘Can you find me some vintage glasses?’ We found nothing good at all.” This was especially vexing for the designer, for whom glasses are intrinsic to his vision: “I draw every look with glasses – I just always have.”
Glasses are as much a part of Levy’s brand as they are Stokey-Daley’s – maybe more so. He too remembers his very first pair with mixed emotions: “They were this gigantic, black-wire sort of… I don’t know what they were. And the fact that my parents put me in them and sent me off to school and thought, ‘We’re doing the best for our kid’, is really frightening.” He resorted to buying sunglasses and putting his own prescription lens in. And by the time he came to fame as a host on MTV Canada, his frames had become a trademark.
“They became comically large,” he says. “I feel like around 2006 or 2007, the larger the glasses you were wearing, the cooler it was – and now, in retrospect, I’m unclear…” It became so part of his identity that when he came to play David in Schitt’s Creek, he chose not to wear glasses, to give some distance. “It’s a big way of stepping outside of myself, because I do tend to love a nice heavy frame.” When DL Eyewear first launched, the price point was accessible for his MTV-era fans and the frames were unisex, “because I think it would be such a strange way to limit how people express themselves”. Each frame has “See With Love” inscribed on it, and annually DL Eyewear donates a percentage of profits to LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), which offers financial relief to small businesses in historically under-served communities.
The creation of the frames was blissfully easy. For Stokey-Daley, who is growing his own business slowly, this is his first foray beyond ready-to-wear. The designer brought along core references that had inspired his collections thus far, and “it’s funny”, he says, “because there just happened to be a lot of eyewear in the images already.”
Ultimately, Diana, Princess of Wales, who was unexpectedly fond of chunky frames, and David Hockney are the dominant influences in the final products – yet plenty of others lurk near the surface. “Gloria Steinem, Elvis Presley and Paul Newman are always in and around my brain,” says Levy. Steinem’s distinctive look stays with him, he says, “because it doesn’t feel forced – it’s not disingenuous” (the activist once sent Levy a note that read “Thank you for thinking of me”). As for Stokey-Daley, it’s all about Yves Saint Laurent: “He was one of the first people who made glasses feel really sexy.”
The idea is that you can buy all three frames (each at $200) and have them on rotation, or just choose one that suits your personality. The square-shaped Charlton, says Levy, is “completely timeless”, a “fail-safe frame”; the proudly circular Cloudsley “changes, depending on who wears it”; and the “shield-like” Lonsdale brings the drama.
“I had a moment when I was walking through the St Pancras Hotel last summer, wearing the Lonsdale, and I had a silk flowy shirt on, and I thought, ‘This does have White Lotus energy,’” says Stokey-Daley. (Today, he has more sober classic round frames on, while Levy switches into the Lonsdale to showcase its sassy qualities.) Levy is equivocal about calling them “personality” frames. “It depends on who wears them, because that’s the amazing thing with eyewear: there are people who can wear incredibly dramatic frames and make them look totally casual, and then there are people who can wear really casual frames and make them look totally dramatic.”
The range serves to underline how far eyewear has come. “People didn’t see glasses as an accessory,” says Levy. “They saw them as practical things that they needed to see with. And it’s been amazing, with my company over the past few years, to see people change the way they view what glasses can be to them.” DL’s lower price point allows, he hopes, for multiple purchases: he likes the idea of “collecting, of switching your glasses to reflect your mood, to accentuate a particular outfit”.
“Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s character expresses it amazingly in Veep, when she says that ‘glasses are like a wheelchair for the eye’,” says Stokey-Daley. “I think it did feel like that at school, especially in England.” But now, “it feels less like a point of separation and a thing to be ridiculed; it feels part of the wardrobe”. It surely warrants the investment, they agree. “What other item in your life – other than maybe a pair of shoes and some jeans – do you wear as consistently as your glasses?” asks Levy.
And yet the level of their own investment seems to have varied. “At this point, my collection is insane,” confesses Levy. He can’t quite give an exact figure, but “I recently treated myself to a custom case, and it’s like a 3ft-tall proper case with drawers.” “Wow,” says Stokey-Daley, who clearly can’t compete. “I think it fits around 100 pairs,” continues Levy. “I’ve been collecting for a long time, and I like to keep everything, even my old frames that I’ll never wear again – which is a whole other issue.”
“Does that case come everywhere with you?” asks the designer. No, replies Levy – he actually has another smaller portable one for long journeys, so he “always has options”. But Stokey-Daley is still fixated on the 3ft number.
“I’ll hook you up!,” says Levy brightly. “It’s a person from France. They do custom stuff, it’s a whole thing!” “Sounds great,” says Stokey-Daley, “I’m going to do it” – unfazed, it seems, by Levy’s inexhaustible vision.