“We really are very involved with the design process, which I absolutely love”
Prue Leith spoke to OT about her new frame range, Specs by Prue, and her longstanding love of colour
Could you tell me a bit about your new collection for Specs by Prue?
I’m genuinely thrilled with them. What I like most of all is colour, so we have 75 different styles and colour combinations. It was such fun doing them.
The thing I didn’t realise about glasses when I first started was that the shape matters so much, so that it doesn’t fall off your head and it’s comfortable to wear.
I choose the shape and then I sit down with Jane [Galpin, Leith’s stylist and producer], who helps me with everything I wear and my necklaces, and she and I put the colours in. So, we really are very involved with the design process, which I absolutely love.
It's such fun. You start off with a scribble on a bit of paper, and then you do it on a computer, and then you end up with something really lovely.
We started thinking, “all right, we better have cords as well.” It’s another opportunity for more colour, which suits me.
I’m thrilled with them all. I think they’re terrific.
Are you influenced by any key trends?
Not really. I’ve been into colour long before you could get anything in colour. I started wanting to get into the eyewear business because I couldn’t get anything really brightly coloured. Now, colour is much more fashionable, and you can get brightly coloured clothes much more easily. But you still see people getting off the Tube in nothing but black coats in winter. Nothing but black glasses, or very few.
When people do wear brightly coloured glasses, people notice them. I always say, “why do women spend so much money on handbags and shoes?” Shoes and handbags are what women think it’s fine to spend huge amounts of money on. But where do they go? They’re under the table, or they’re in the cupboard. Whereas, your specs are bang on your face, exactly where everybody looks at you. And the same with necklaces. I’m for specs, necklaces and earrings – everything where you can see it.
I started wanting to get into the eyewear business because I couldn’t get anything really brightly coloured
How was your partnership with MAC Eyewear developed?
Because Mark [Carpenter, managing director of MAC Eyewear] used to distribute my previous range we had already worked together, I realised he was just such a good salesman and so enthusiastic. He really loves eyewear. And so, we thought we might work together instead of him just being a distributor and me just being the name. This is my first collection with Mark, and I love it.
What have you learned through this process of designing eyewear?
It isn’t about following trends, but I think we're coming back to a kind of Jackie O style: bigger and bolder. I like that, and I would always encourage anybody who is a bit nervous about colour to go into an optometry practice and try something that they think is too bright for them, or too bold for them, or too big for them. Just a tiny bit bigger than they’d like, and put it on and look in the mirror. It has such an effect. People often long to wear this stuff, but they don't have the courage to do it until they see it on themselves. So, it’s worth a try.
I would always encourage anybody who is a bit nervous about colour to go into an optometry practice and try something that they think is too bright for them, or too bold for them, or too big for them
Do you have a favourite frame from the collection?
I absolutely love this [the Pink 22001 C1]. When I get up in the morning, I start with the glasses and then I find what will go with them. I always like multicolours. The neon pink is a very extreme colour, but it looks really good on you.
I like multicolours because they help with what you’re wearing. You can pick out any colour you’re wearing. I could wear glasses with blue or yellow.
My next thing is, I want to get a bit more yellow in. I’d like a bit more yellow. Red has been in for a long time. When people first risk having a coloured coat, it’s nearly always a red one. Their first pair of coloured of glasses will be red ones, but I think yellow is coming. That’s my prediction.
Any standout moments from the design process?
It’s always exciting. When you get your first book published, and it rolls off the press and it’s still warm, if you can possibly be there when it’s made, it’s very, very exciting. I never had that thing of seeing the glasses made. But the first time you open a box is amazing. If you have a whole box of specs, all the samples, and they’re all different colours, it gives you such a thrill. It’s lovely.
How has your personal style evolved since you began designing?
I’ve never been a designer and I don't consider myself a designer. Really, what I’m best at is the colour combinations. But when I met my husband, which was about 12 years ago, he was a fashion designer and manufacturer. He and I both love colour, but I wasn’t as brave as I could be. I would always say, “Do you think this is too much?” And he would say, “no, it’s not enough. Why don’t you add yellow earrings? Why don’t you have bigger earrings?” He has been hugely, hugely influential. So, I suppose in the last 12 years it has really taken off.
What does it mean to be showing off your frames at an event like 100% Optical?
I’ve been to hundreds of exhibitions here, but as a caterer. So, I know it best through selling kitchen gear. This the first time I’ve seen it like this, and it’s wonderful. It’s really lovely. It’s so nice to be here. Of course, I’m such an egotist. I just love seeing a great photograph of me, five times too big.
It’s exciting. I’m doing a one woman show at the moment, all over the country, and I think what I really love most is the idea of having my name in lights above a theatre. It doesn’t happen very often.
The audience often ask me about my specs. I say, “you can buy them at an independent optometrist.” I have become a great saleswoman.