Cutler & Gross are a refreshingly traditional, yet excitingly innovative brand, and have become synonymous with prestigious optometric design. They succinctly combine high quality with high fashion; a combination which is made all the more delicious by the fact that they are fashion's best kept secret since 1969. Unlike many British brands Cutler & Gross has maintained a low profile outside of the fashion world, a move which is entirely intentional. The refusal to expand beyond what the brand sees as necessary is due to an unshakeable loyalty to its customers - something which seems alien in an industry driven by consumerism and profit. This attitude was conceived by Graham Cutler and Tony Gross when they bought their first store together in 1969; and it has been continued by their protege Marie Wilkinson who started out at the company in 1982 as an intern, and is now the Design Director. These three dedicated optometric gurus all believe in quality over quantity, and practicality with fabulous design - two factors which make Cutler & Gross so delectably individual.
Cutler & Gross glasses and sunglasses are delightfully pretentious, and have a right to be so. Each pair is lovingly handmade in their very own factory in Cadore, Italy, and go through unique processes to achieve that imperfect perfect finish which only handcrafted items will achieve. To find out more about these processes have a look at their website:
Each pair is delicately adorned with the gold foil logo on the inside of the frame, with only a number appearing on the outer frame - an elegant touch which echoes the sentiments of the company. Their products are so exquisitely made that they speak for themselves, and garish logos splashed on the outer frames would be completely unnecessary and out of sync with the brand.
However, as well as being a brand that is permeated by tradition, it is also not afraid of youthful injections. The London Fashion Week party was intended to celebrate Project 0734, as well as to promote the SS13 collection. Project 0734 was a collaborative effort with London College of Fashion, and gave a select few graduates the opportunity to enter their designs into a competition which would reward them with a position within the Cutler & Gross design team if they were successful.
The judges included Marie Wilkinson, Jonathan Saunders, Richard Young, and London College of Fashion Head of College Frances Corner. The graduates were set the task of designing a collection of glasses to go with their final graduate shows. The talented winner was Nicola Brindle, whose inspiration was "tacky Vegas weddings". Her final pieces are wonderfully fun and vibrant, but also obviously handcrafted and unique, making her the perfect candidate to bring some youthful vigour into the brand. The willingness of Cutler & Gross to take on a fresh graduate is key to the development, and also to the continuity, of the values of the brand. Here are some of Nicola's final designs:
To find out more about Nicola's progression be sure to check out the blog on the Cutler & Gross website: www.cutlerandgross.com
I also had the opportunity to chat to Rose, who was the runner-up of Project 0734. Her creations are equally as colourful and exciting, basing her concept on Glam Rock and 80s street wear. Her designs impressed the Cutler & Gross team so much that they created an internship for her, and she is now gaining invaluable experience with the brand.
As mentioned, another significant point to the evening was to promote the Cutler & Gross SS13 range. I was extremely fortunate to talk with Marie Wilkinson herself, who enchantingly explained what the collection is all about: surrealism.
The concept is surrealism; and Marie's influences were Salvador Dali, the Bauhaus exhibition at the Barbican, melting clocks, eyes, seeing, and merging. This is a wonderfully self-conscious concept, and I find it utterly intriguing that Cutler & Gross are committed to making exceptional glasses, but at the same time are playing with ideas which are inspired by an exploration of twisting optical truths. Marie Wilkinson is a design genius, and is obviously highly passionate about her career and her products. She described the processes of how a pair of Cutler & Gross glasses are made, and although I admittedly did not understand everything she was saying (my background is not in design or production), I was thoroughly intrigued, and was nearly inspired to pack a bag and jump on a plane to Italy to see the wonderfully traditional factory where the Cutler & Gross products are made! The SS13 collection will be shown at Paris Fashion Week next week.
The evening was complimented perfectly by the inclusion of Clash magazine. Clash is a publication which is also fairly underground, but committed to the quality of their product. The October issue covered the walls of the Cutler & Gross Vintage store, and just so happened to match the eccentric purple staircase at the back of the shop!
The evening was a chilled-out, understated triumph. It was a chance for the loyal customers and fans of Cutler & Gross to come together and to celebrate the old and the new. The gift bags contained: a copy of Clash magazine; a copy of Forty Years of Vision and Style, 1969-2009, Cutler & Gross; a Cutler & Gross glass cleaning cloth; and a tube of Berocca. The message from the gift bag was clear: we appreciate our collaborators; we uphold our history and traditions; we take care of our products; and we look after our customers (and the hangover they will have tomorrow!).
I have certainly now been made into a lifelong fan of Cutler & Gross, and look forward to purchasing my first pair in the not-so-distant future!
Love Lucy x