He did. After signing off on Schitt’s Creek, Dan Levy has not only landed a new Netflix deal — the Canadian polymath is relaunching his eyewear brand with a distinctively L.A. point of view
Words by DAN ROOKWOOD
Photography by BRAD TORCHIA
Fashion Direction by MARYAM MALAKPOUR
In the six all-consuming years that Dan Levy spent as co-creator, showrunner, producer, director, writer, sweater wearer and lead actor on the universally beloved sitcom Schitt’s Creek, there wasn’t much time for anything else. Like a social life. Or sleep. Some weeks, he says, between the 5 a.m. call times and all-night rewrites, he didn’t get more than eight hours’ sleep in seven days.
Exhaustion was part of the reason he called an end to the show in 2020, even as it was at the very height of its late-blooming adulation. But also, he had other ideas. Plans. Projects. Plotlines. They filled up a journal he’d scribbled in during the odd moments when he wasn’t totally preoccupied with running the show. And he was desperate to act on them — and in some cases, in them.
But first, he needed to settle somewhere. “I’ve relaxed a lot since I’ve found my place here,” says the 38-year-old, looking rested as he dials in from his house in Los Feliz — a place he can finally call home. “As a Canadian, I grew up spending a lot of time in Los Angeles and never liked it. I didn’t even know where to start. It’s so big. It’s intimidating.
“[Then] I realized that I was looking at Los Angeles as this total experience, as opposed to loving the fact that L.A. is made up of small, incredible neighborhoods.
“You can’t go about loving the city as a whole, you have to find your way into it through a neighborhood that suits you. At the time I was spending a lot of time on the Westside: My parents live in Pacific Palisades, and it wasn’t my vibe, it wasn’t my speed.
“I eventually ended up having dinner at Little Dom’s in Los Feliz. And I remember sitting in that restaurant and thinking, OK, well, this feels like something I could get into, this feels more community based. It’s a full 180 from where I started.”
Elena Doukas wears HYKE dress, $745. Prada shoes, $1,150. Dan Levy wears ZEGNA XXX jacket, $3,695, and pants, $3,695. KUON sweater, $225. SALVATORE FERRAGAMO shirt, $620. Converse sneakers, $60.
As for life after Schitt’s Creek, Levy wasn’t exactly short of options after the final season’s historic clean sweep at the Emmys in 2020. In a single year, not only did the show become the first comedy to scoop every major award (they left the night with nine total), but also Levy himself became the only individual ever to win Emmys for all major disciplines — producing, writing, directing and acting.
Now that he finally has the time, his main problem has been deciding which opportunities to pursue first. “It’s been an incredibly inspiring couple of years,” he smiles.
Netflix, the streamer that distributed Schitt’s Creek’s medicine to the masses when we needed it most, recently snapped up the multitalented multihyphenate on a rumored eight-figure deal to bring several of those ideas to life through his own unique lens. He’s currently writing a rom-com that centers on a gay love story, which he reportedly intends to direct and star in.
The words “See With Love” are engraved on every pair of D.L. Eyewear glasses.
Another pot on the boil is The Big Brunch, a food show for HBO Max that will give a platform to deserving but unsung and underrepresented cooks from all over the country. Levy is the creator, exec producer and host. Maybe — Schitt’s Creek reference alert! — he’ll finally learn how to fold in the cheese in the process.
Levy is a wearer of many hats (metaphorically) and statement sweaters (literally). But he’s also famous for his frames. “I collect eyewear and knitwear,” he says. “I share that with my character on the show.”
And right now he’s focusing on the recent relaunch of D.L. Eyewear, a company he started in his hometown of Toronto about 10 years ago. “But when the show happened, I realized that I didn’t have the energy or manpower to continue to build this business,” he explains. “The website was still up, we just stopped making more frames. But as the frames started to appear on the show, we were selling a pair, two pairs a day, pretty much for the six years that the show was on TV. … I realized when the show ended that there was an appetite to continue this brand, now that I have the time and the resources and the ability to put a team together to really do it properly.”
Levy’s philosophy? “Try everything, nothing’s off limits”
Levy recently recruited highly respected eyewear designer Elena Doukas from Garrett Leight California Optical as president and co-creative director. The pair met a while back through a mutual friend, and it was love at short sight. “A few years ago, I was in Japan to meet some eyewear suppliers, and Dan happened to be in the country at the same time,” Doukas recalls. “We went vintage eyewear shopping for fun; both of us just loved exploring and trying things on. He explained to me the workings of D.L. Eyewear and how he wanted to relaunch the brand after putting it on hold for years.”
“I’ve always loved fashion,” adds Levy. “I’ve always wanted to participate in it, in some capacity. I’m not a designer, I can’t draw, I’m very much aware of my limitations within that world. But glasses were something that I felt like I had a really fundamental knowledge of — not just what I look for in glasses, but also how I want them to fit.”
Levy has worn prescription lenses since the age of 8. “There was a time where I hated it,” he says. Back then they were for function, not fashion. “As a kid I had one pair of glasses that would get swapped out every three years or until I broke them. But being a kid that loved to express themselves through clothes, the glasses were the thing holding me back, because I remember being very young and trying on a sweater and thinking to myself, Well, this would look much better if I had a different pair of glasses, but I don’t.”
Levy first launched D.L. Eyewear in 2013.
When, “at the height of hipster culture” in the mid-2000s, he landed one of his first jobs in front of the camera — as a VJ for MTV Canada — statement glasses became part of his signature look. He recalls, with a raise of the Levy family eyebrow, a particularly bold pair of white Ray-Bans. “I would kill for the confidence of the guy that [wore them] on national television. It was a look.”
His collection grew. “Kids who were watching MTV would stop me on the street and ask me where I got my glasses from. And at the time, I felt uncomfortable telling them to invest 400-plus dollars in a pair of Cutler and Gross or Tom Ford. Beautifully made glasses, but [not usually affordable] for young people.”
So he cold-called a glasses manufacturer in Toronto to see if they’d help him develop his own range at a more democratic price. “And we’re still working with them today.”
Levy estimates that he has around 100 pairs of glasses in his personal collection, some of which are too old to wear but freeze-frame specific chapters in his past, so they cannot be thrown away. “I like the idea of having times in my life documented by the glasses I was wearing,” he says. But he also has many current pairs in rotation. “I always just inherently like to have options. I never like to be in a situation where I don’t have a pair of glasses that can match either a mood or an occasion.” Frames for fashion as well as function.
SACAI blazer and pants, prices upon request. LOUIS VUITTON shirt, $820.
At a very reasonable $135 a pop, the range is inclusive in terms of price as well as gender and age. “There’s no gender assigned to any of the frames, and when we photograph them, we photograph them on everybody, because for us, you should feel free to try on any shape you want. It feels kind of silly in the optical world — and generally speaking — to put parameters on what people should or shouldn’t wear.” Levy’s philosophy: “Be fearless in terms of what you try. Try everything, nothing’s off limits.”
“I’ll continue to tell stories about people that are not in the spotlight”
Sounds a little bit like the famous “I like the wine, not the label” analogy from Schitt’s Creek, I say. “I mean, a little bit, yeah! There’s a lot of rules that somehow have crept into our society that have stopped a lot of people from living authentic and free and inspiring lives. I feel like anything we can do to kind of remove those barriers for people…”
Levy and Doukas shot their recent Fall/Winter collection on a diverse group of teachers, as a way of honoring their contribution through the pandemic. Each one shared what it means to be a teacher and what inspires them to teach. “We thought, why not celebrate the teachers who have been on the front lines of this whole thing and have gone to extraordinary lengths to continue to educate this generation of kids?” Levy says.
Dan Levy wears PAUL SMITH sweater, $595, shirt, $295, and pants, $420. Elena Doukas wears PRADA shirt, $1,200. PRUNE GOLDSCHMIDT pants, $1,019.
Each pair of D.L. Eyewear is engraved with the purpose-led brand’s ethos “See With Love” inside the right arm: a universal inscription with every prescription. “It’s been the motto from the very beginning, and I think it’s just a nice life philosophy, a little reminder to just be nice to your fellow humans,” explains Levy.
That mission also comes through in the company’s give-back commitment through donations to LISC (the Local Initiatives Support Corporation). “It was important for Dan to be able to help other small businesses grow, and this organization does great work in creating economic opportunities for businesses in underserved neighborhoods,” says Doukas.
“If you follow the brand, I think you feel Dan’s voice in a lot of what we put out,” she continues. “‘See With Love’ serves as a mantra for how we strive to operate, and I’ve seen firsthand how our community has embraced this force of positivity. On our social channels, customers help one another with launch details, as frames have been known to sell out fast. I’ve even seen a customer buy frames for another customer who couldn’t afford them.”
You don’t need glasses to be able to see the unifying vision behind Levy’s different ventures, be they Hollywood rom-coms, food shows or eyewear. “See With Love” is the lens through which he views the world and transmits his creative output.
“What I learned through Schitt’s Creek is that the stories that you tell really have the potential to impact people in far more fundamental and meaningful ways than I had ever thought,” he says. “That’s not to say that everything I do has to come with this mandate of changing people’s lives, because I don’t think you can intend to set out to do that. But I hope I’ll continue to tell stories about people that are not necessarily front and center in the spotlight, that we can continue to expand conversations and open people’s eyes to the fact that there are a lot of stories to be told that are not just about one thing.”
Stylist assistant SARAH NEARIS.
Grooming for DAN LEVY by JOHNNY HERNANDEZ using KEVIN MURPHY and DIOR Backstage.
Hair and makeup for ELENA DOUKAS by DIANE DUSTING at OPUS BEAUTY using R+Co and CHANEL Le Beiges.
Feature image: SACAI blazer, price upon request. LOUIS VUITTON shirt, $820. Levy’s own CARTIER watch, seen throughout. All eyewear seen throughout is D.L. EYEWEAR, $135/pair.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of C Magazine.
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