High profile launch for new Made in England eyewear brand

Walter & Herbert collection celebrates 65 years of British frame-making heritage

20 Oct 2015 by Robina Moss

A new ‘Made in England’ eyewear brand aimed at the independent sector was launched at a high profile celebration in the City of London last night (19 October).

The event attracted over 100 guests, including English interior designer Kelly Hoppen, optical stalwarts, the press and practitioners.

The Walter & Herbert collection has been developed by The Optoplast Actman Eyewear Company which is highlighting that every spectacles and sunglasses frame has been designed, manufactured and tested in England.

The launch marks the company’s first foray into an owned brand, drawing on its design and manufacturing acumen. The company is behind high profile eyewear brands such as Julien Macdonald and Karen Millen.

The new brand, Walter & Herbert, has been created to be a quintessentially English collection of frames supported by over 65 years of experience. The bowler hat has been chosen as its mascot to help convey the message.

The range pays homage to the best of English heritage, with designs named after iconic figures such as Bronte, Churchill and Kipling.

The 20-piece optical and sun collection has been two years in development, and specifically priced to retail from £200.

The brand name is taken from the company’s founding fathers who were optical pioneers, the late Walter Conway and Herbert Thorn, who sadly died just 10 days before this week’s launch. Together, in the 1940s, they established the Optoplast Manufacturing Company and developed the PIMO machine, which shaped the way spectacles were manufactured worldwide. The company merged in 2009 to form The Optoplast Actman Eyewear Company.

 At the launch, chief executive of The Optoplast Actman Eyewear Company, James Conway, grandson of Walter Conway, told OT: “We wanted to be true to what the company did before. The frames are all retro but with the twist of modern techniques as there are far greater colours and acetates available than there were before.

“We specifically wanted the frames to retail from £200 so that they are more attainable for the public and to help the independent sector. This brand gives them a great story to tell.”

He added: “We hope independent opticians will get behind what we have done, creating eyewear in Liverpool and investing in manufacturing in England, helping to create jobs. This is the biggest investment the company has ever made since it was founded in 1946.”

Each of the 20 styles has been created by the four designers in the company’s studio in Surrey before being crafted in its factory in Liverpool, which employs 75 people.

Explaining the manufacturing process, Mr Conway told OT: “Once the designs have been created we do technical colour drawings and then use 3D printing to create the shapes to see if they really work, which has really speeded the process up. Even the soldering process is really different.

“We had a lot of problems to fix but now we have innovative production processes so that the frames are a real mix of retro styling with modern manufacturing techniques.

“We are really confident we have got it right as this project has been two years in development. It’s been a lot of fun though and this launch event is a real milestone for all the team.”

Mr Conway concluded: “With Walter & Herbert, we’re offering a distinctive brand that is an exciting new addition to eyewear, carrying on the legacy of my grandfather and signalling a new chapter. We hope the debut range is one Walter and Herbert would be proud of.”

For more information, visit the Walter & Herbert website.

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