While New Yorkers are braving December’s dropping temperatures, Californian artist and writer Alex Israel is dreaming up the chic-est winter shades. The L.A. native founded Freeway Eyewear last spring, modeling each frame after one of southern California’s freeways. "I was driving all the time and all over the city, and I always needed sunglasses in the car," explains Israel. "It seemed like a natural pairing." The 10s (inspired by the interstate that leads to downtown L.A.) have thick frames with a "gangster" edge, he says. The 15s give off a retro, Rat Pack–inspired vibe, named after the roadway that goes to Vegas. The 110s are more traditional, appropriate for drivers en route to Pasadena. Alternately, the L.A. Rays are the only model not named after a freeway. Rather, the style pays homage to a resurrected 1990’s Laguna Beach brand.
After getting his MFA at USC and working in various facets of the art world for five years, Israel created the eyewear line as an extension of his artwork, which includes sculpture, video, and writing. “I see it as making an accessible artwork object; a way of extending my practice into a different realm," he says. "And it relates to all of my other work, which deals with the landscape of L.A., ideas about framing and seeing, and excavating the cultural history of Southern California."
With DJ Harley Viera-Newton as his poster child, Israel is veering further into East Coast fashion. His $100 unisex glasses are stocked at Barney’s, the Gagosian Shop, and the Smile, as well as the brand’s online store, which launched this month. Click ahead for a closer look.