Joyous: Tom Davies on creating frames for Cruella

OT  caught eyewear designer, Tom Davies, for a conversation about designing frames for the new Disney film


British eyewear designer, Tom Davies, has given OT a peek into his design process for creating the frames used in the newly-released Disney film, Cruella.

“They called me in originally just for one frame,” Davies told OT, explaining that the script required a “glamorous” frame for one of the film’s key characters, the Baroness von Hellman (played by Emma Thompson). 

In researching the time period of 1970s London, however, Davies highlighted that many people would have been wearing glasses.

Looking over archival footage sent from Liberties, Davies said: “Everyone was wearing glasses. These were high-fashion, glamorous ladies in these photos and they were wearing oversized 1970s glasses.”

Working with the film’s costume designer, Jenny Beavan, Davies shared: “I was handed a script and I was marking on all the pages where I felt someone should be wearing glasses.”

Davies later produced a total of 120 frames for the film, including multiple frames for the title characters to illustrate their transformation through the film. Though the total number of frames produced was more likely around 500, Davies told OT, as multiple pairs of all the frames featured had to be created.

Creating the frames for the Baroness, Davies shared: “She is an ageing fashion designer, so I put her in these really glamorous 1960s frames with points on.”

To make the frames particularly special and give the Baroness her own signature eyewear style, he added a browline of gold on both her spectacles and sunglasses. As the film progresses, her frames become “even pointier” and without the gold, to illustrate her shifting emotions.

“I talked a lot to the producers about the fact that glasses are subconscious and they can communicate to people on a level you don’t obviously see,” Davies explained. “If I’m designing glasses, I’m always talking about personality and what the details do and how it makes you feel.”

For the title character, Cruella, played by Emma Stone, Davies first created a soft round frame, “which had an innocence to it,” which she wears early in the film. Her frames then took on more of a cat’s-eye shape through the film, as she transformed into the title character.

For the seamstresses in the film, Davies created 60s-style frames, noting that though the film was set a decade later, “In those days, people would keep their glasses going, if you bought a pair of glasses in the 60s, there was a very high chance you were still wearing them in the 70s.”

Davies also used an old-fashioned acetate press to handmake raw materials for the frames, including making some of the vintage colours needed for the models.

Explaining his detailed approach to creating the frames, Davies told OT: “I have to press pause to see them when I’m watching the film. But it all adds to the authenticity of the film.”

Reflecting on the experience, Davies described it as “joyous.” He suggested that, in the past, eyewear hasn’t always been seen as important as perhaps it should be in costume design, noting: “Whereas on Cruella, glasses were such an appreciated part of it.”

He explained: “I read an interesting post on Facebook where an optician had written: ‘Finally, a film with decent eyewear in,’ which was the biggest compliment I’ve ever had.”

Tom Davies on creating frames for Cruella

Unfortunately, the designer recently took a hit, when Tom Davies’ Sloane Square site was broken into in the early hours of 9 June. Hundreds of frames were stolen, valued at around £500,000, including six frames designed for the Cruella film.

The Cruella frames had been due to be auctioned for charity and the designer has put up ‘Wanted’ posters around London seeking the return of the frames.

A man was charged with burglary in early July, in relation to the break-in, with Davies sharing: “We’re hugely grateful to the police for acting so swiftly. The incident was horrible for me and my staff, but we’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of people all around the world who’ve heard this story.” 

Though hundreds of frames are still missing, the designer is hopeful that the story will have a happy ending.