Nothing conjures the seriousness of the American mid-twentieth century more than the Ronsir by Shuron, with its iconic browline and heavy, top hoods. There were many other browlines, like the Ray Ban Clubmaster, but the Ronsir is the king of the brow, the biggest of the boys. It epitomises American design of the 50s and 60s. It lends the wearer authority, credibility, intelligence and no one more prominently than Malcolm X. His trademark Ronsirs gave him the look of an educated, resolute black man of a particular stance.
MARCHON AND MARCOLIN
Marchon and Marcolin are two of the largest manufacturers in Italy. If you add Safilo to this group, and then Luxottica [link], we’re talking about the big four that command 90% of the mass-market eyewear industry and own every single fashion brand licence known to man. It’s all becoming the same, basically, all blurring into one. I’m finding that my customers are becoming aware that fashion-brand eyewear, in particular, is all licensed, tired of design and not very well made. It’s regrettable, but I don’t, on principle, deal in fashion-brand eyewear licensed to the big four. I prefer to deal in things of beauty, objects that boast their quality not in their association with some other garment or accessory in fashion but in their originality, craftsmanship and artisanship. I am always captivated by the beautiful, disappointed by the second-rate, reflected glory of mere licensed product.
Masunaga are the oldest manufacturers in Japan and started out in 1906. Lots of Japanese manufactured frames are American designed. These are Japanese designed and the engineering is incredible: accurate, subtle, beautiful. The excitement I get from these frames is delicious to me. I fall in love with them very easily. I have no idea whether I can sell them. I just want these beautiful objects in my life. I see them, I want them, I don’t care if I can sell them. But of course, if I fall for them so hard, if I can convey just a scintilla of that passion, I will sell them, I will.
Beyond The Windmills on my Mind being on the soundtrack, pretty much all anyone remembers about 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair are Steven McQueen’s iconic blue-tinted, customized and folding Persol 714 sunglasses. The Persol 714 is where Steve McQueen enters the eyewear Hall of Fame. Yes, these were great sunglasses, very new and now for 1968. For a while I sold a lot of them, but first Luxottica bought Persol, pretty much ending Persol as a creative force, and then they bought the rights to the footage in The Thomas Crown Affair in which Steve McQueen wears the Persols so they can now flog these images to death to sell more of the same sunglasses. It seems like now we’ve stopped designing for the future, (see Futura by Silhouette) iconic moments can have an afterlife in branding. Steve McQueen looked so cool in his Persols that they won’t let him die.
When I see a designer’s logo on the side of a pair of frames, I often think, ‘Why do you need to do that? Is it because your frames are not distinct enough in and of themselves?’ Alain Mikli didn’t have that problem. He was a visionary, with his exciting, different frames with their bags of personality and zest. He even made some pieces for Elton John. His ranges were wonderful, very much a part of the evolution of eyewear, another trailblazer, another of our forward-thinkers and artisans. He has now been swallowed by Luxottica.
I have always loved the silver-hooded catseyes that Marilyn wears in How to Marry a Millionaire. These 1953 Oliver Goldsmith frames lend her a startled innocence and doe-eyed allure. I don’t have the pair that Marilyn wore, but I do have an identical pair in my collection. This makes me feel special. It’s a piece I used to pull out frequently if I’d got stuck late in the shop, enthusing with a customer over glamourous eyewear and beautiful things. Be careful not to ask me about any of these collection pieces in the shop or we may get stuck talking until well past 10pm
I love Nana Mouskouri. She was made fun of perpetually for her glasses and continued to wear them. She’s part of an elite band of spectacle wearers that includes Sue Pollard, Dierdre Barlow, Timmy Mallet and Christopher Biggins: very uncool but still iconic.
See IC! BERLIN