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What is the Optical Women's Association's Pleiades Award?

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Each year, our Pleiades Award honors an individual who has shown exceptional support in advancing the leadership role of women in the optical industry. This award is named after the star cluster "The Pleiades" in the constellation of Taurus. "The Pleiades" is also known as the "Seven Sisters" - referring to the seven brightest stars in the cluster.

According to Greek mythology, each star was named after the seven daughters of Atlas who were turned into stars by Zeus. Together these stars create one of the brightest clusters visible in the northern hemisphere, just as by working together, the women of the OWA have created an organization that is bigger and brighter than the sum of their individual efforts.

Gai Gherardi

2021 Pleiades Award Recipient, Gai Gherardi

Gai Gherardi is the co-founder and co-designer of l.a.Eyeworks, which she and Barbara McReynolds began in 1979 as a single storefront in Los Angeles. Best friends since their high school days, Gherardi and McReynolds transformed their early training as opticians into a vision of l.a.Eyeworks as a vehicle to challenge the prevailing norms of eyewear with proposals for new, provocative revelations of the face. More than four decades and hundreds of frame designs later, l.a.Eyeworks encompasses two namesake retail stores in Los Angeles and a wholesale division that channels its influential designs to a global network of independent opticians and retailers.

In addition to groundbreaking eyewear designs, l.a.Eyeworks has made an indelible stamp on the look and language of what an eyewear company can be. From streamlined architectural spaces to the cases that protect the frames, Gherardi and McReynolds leave no creative detail untouched. An abiding love for artists led to an ongoing series of in-store exhibitions, event programming, and commissioned works. Since 1981, the brand's signature portrait ad campaign has featured an eclectic mix of more than 200 high-profile celebrities in an ever-evolving series of stunning black-and-white images, anchored by the legendary tagline, "A face is like a work of art. It deserves a great frame."

Having lectured internationally on l.a.Eyeworks' unique approach to design and brand development, Gherardi has also served frequently on arts/design juries and is a longstanding board member of Art Matters, an arts granting foundation. Besides her role on the executive committee of the Eyewear Designers of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (edCFDA), Gherardi is a member of the optical industry's first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force sponsored by The Vision Council.

Past Honorees