Courage to experiment
Style director at Cutler and Gross, Marie Wilkinson, tells OT how her first pair of glasses made her feel like she could take on the world
How many pairs of spectacles and sunglasses do you own?
I have 205 pairs of glasses; half of which were made for me with my prescription and the other half are vintage pieces that I use for inspiration. I keep my collection of frames and sunglasses in a chest of drawers, which was designed for that purpose by Jasper Morrison in 1988.
Can you describe your favourite pair?
This question is a little like asking to choose a favourite child. The ‘0734’ in gingham (pictured below) for Comme des Garcons Homme Plus does come to mind because working with Rei Kawakubo was such a fantastic experience, coming together to combine the two brand's DNA.
What frame shapes, colours or styles do you usually go for?
I usually go for cat’s-eye shapes in acetate. I love the bold attitude they have.
Within this genre, this eye shape can be modern and vintage looking. The Cutler and Gross ‘1241’ (pictured above) is an angular cat-eye with a ‘low cut cleavage’ brow-line and is very versatile.
In terms of colour, I have blue/black hair, so I love the classic navy blue and Russian blues. I don’t wear tortoiseshell, but I am loving ‘1329-02,’ which comes in a new deep burgundy tortoiseshell.
When my hair is cut in a very square bob I love to wear round sunglasses such as the ‘1327’ or rectangular ‘slice’ styles like the ‘1295.’
Who would you pick as your style icon of glasses wearers and why?
Sir Elton John has always been my style icon because he makes the glasses part of his look and he has the courage to experiment and genuinely loves wearing frames. He personally selects the frames himself and brings joy to the process.
How long have you worn spectacles for, and what prompted you to go for your first sight test?
It was the classic reason; my mum noticing me sitting too close to the television set at the age of eight.
Mum let me choose my first glasses myself. I chose an oval tortoiseshell pair of frames — how I loved those glasses. I still remember the moment when I first put them on and how magical and bright the world looked. Without glasses I felt I was invisible and with glasses I could take on the world.
Do you wear contact lenses?
In my late teens I worked on Saturdays for Baxendine Opticians in Romford and Mr Barber fitted me with gas permeable contact lenses.
In fact, I was wearing contact lenses when I first started working with Mr Cutler and Mr Gross, but I soon switched back to wearing glasses once I discovered the wonderful design universe at Cutler and Gross and have not worn them since.
Is there a particular Cutler and Gross frame, old or new, that is a personal favourite and why?
The Kingsman frame ‘0847’ is a particular favourite because it involved designing for a fictitious character. Working with the director Matthew Vaughn and actor Colin Firth, understanding his taste and interpreting it into glasses to create the perfect handmade frame.
I still remember the moment when I first put them on and how magical and bright the world looked
What are your top tips for choosing the right pair of frames?
I would say having a conversation with staff and being receptive to trying different shapes and colours.
At Cutler and Gross, we ask our clients questions and assess their face shapes, colouring and desire. We aim to seek out what the client really needs and offer them a frame or sunglass that offers what they want.
What are the main things you consider when designing eyewear?
First, we establish the type of style. We strive to offer a complete eyewear collection to appeal to our clients internationally.
We embrace the different handmade technologies in acetate, titanium and stainless steel at the eponymous Cutler and Gross factory in Cadore, Italy and we always critique the design from the customer point of view.
What’s the key ingredient to great eyewear design?
The key ingredient has to be the attention to detail. Great design comes from a passion for a great solution, the courage to take risks, integrity, innovative thinking and real enthusiasm.