Photos above Matt Ford.
After launching his amazing new range of sunglasses in Paris recently, Oliver Goldsmith treats guests at Sakura restaurant to an exclusive showcase.
Oliver's designs have been worn by everyone from John Lennon to Michael Caine and now even lady Gaga.
Read Joel Jelen's interview to find out more about the iconic frames designer...
Oliver Goldsmith reads like a book of firsts...
He was the first to see glasses as a fashion accessory, the first to create ‘sunspecs’, the first to make ‘winter sunglasses’, one of the first to work alongside fashion houses to create one-off pieces for the catwalk, the first to appear in Vogue and the first to be endorsed by celebrities and royals.
But the modest Goldsmith said: “I just create what i like men and women in particular, to wear and feel comfortable wearing all day and I always have done.”
He admits that some of his designs in the sixties were considered outlandish back then but the virtuous circle that is fashion has seen their return without any fuss other than the demand created by their re-appearance.
Goldsmith feels his mission in life is to make women look beautiful…”younger and more glamorous in this age of rapidly changing fashion.
“Women may not be able to change their specs as often as their clothes, so a compromise takes place on the face.
“A good design can be worn for several years and then kept safely in a drawer, until that person is ready to bring them out again.
Goldsmith says this can be seen on e-bay with the number of ‘previously loved’ Oliver Goldsmith specs and sunglasses changing hands daily.
The brand is a family business, founded in 1926 by Goldsmith’s grandfather, Philip Oliver Goldsmith, a salesman for a small optical firm in London.
“My grandfather Phillip died at a young age but had an already left a legacy, producing every frame genuinely handmade in London ’s Poland Street.
“ My father continued this practice and he put me through a very hard training course at 18 for five years before he would allow me to design spectacles and sunglasses.
“I learned all about the production of frames and how the ‘engine room’ worked, directly from him.
“During that training period, I earned the respect of the staff that boded well for the future. They knew that I had done the hard work, before being allowed to put pencil to paper.”
Goldsmith says that when it was his turn to look to the future, he made a decision not to expect any of his children to follow him into optics.
“They did what they wanted, rather than what I expected. So now i have a professional portrait photographer, a film producer and a financial wizard.”
That said, his daughter does not want the optical business to fade away and wants to keep the ‘tradition’ alive, working more closely with him to achieve this aim.
“Her maiden name is A. Olivia Goldsmith and who knows, one of my grandchildren may even become the fifth generation”, says Goldsmith.
Maintaining the same smile and breath almost, Goldsmith jokes that he’ll be “watching with bated breath from heaven!”
He is also delighted that his niece has used his designs to start her new business and is “keep the flame alight”, as he sees it, for the sunglasses side of the company.
Goldsmith has kept and will keep for the future, an original sample of each design that has ever been produced.
“There will be history for my future families to delve into, either in my personal storage, or at the V&A where they safely house a collection of our three generations of designs in their archives.”
Goldsmith speaks proudly of his father Charles Goldsmith, who entered the business in 1936.
“After the second world war, my father set about creating fashionable glasses, especially when worn as sunglasses, which did not exist as we now know them.
“They were merely a pair of specs with tinted lenses and he was already breaking traditions within the industry back then.
He started designing both sunglasses and optical frames and managed to get magazines, such as Vogue, to publish photos of his creations on the models of the era.
“He sold the sunglasses to Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason, to name a few. This was the route that gave him success in the 1950s.”
The brand Oliver Goldsmith became synonymous with eyewear. It was also the name that people read in magazines and in newspapers and met with disapproval from opticians who frowned a service provider trying to steer people away from their traditional approach.
“It was a radical route to market back then but in many ways, my father has been the catalyst for the way the optical world has gone about marketing their business ever since.”
Goldsmith’s father and his legacy left him with one ambition…to see his own name in print as a great eyewear designer.
“To have any chance of achieving this, quality, elegance and comfort have had to remain the trademark words by which I’ve adhere to in making eyewear. The standards were started by my grandfather and are still valid today.”
It’s a decision that has seen Oliver Goldsmith the brand become the eyewear of choice for royals such as
Princess Grace of Monaco, Princess Margaret, Lord Snowdon and Lady Diana along with celebrity icons including John Lennon, Audrey Hepburn, Peter Sellers and Michael Caine.
Goldsmith’s father sought publicity by writing to Princess Grace of Monaco asking if he could make her a ‘wardrobe of glasses’, enabling her to change them with different outfits or occasions.
“She liked this original idea and so he sent a few designs and colours for her to select from. This was followed up with a visit, by my parents, to the palace in Monaco for an audience with Princess Grace. I still have a letter my mother wrote after the visit.
“When Princess Grace came to London, my father would always go and see her. Then came Princess Margaret. I don’t remember how she became a customer, but I do know that once she was on board, she would not wear anything other than Goldsmith frames. It was kind of spooky though, as she only liked one of my designs and if it broke, we had to repair the frame or supply an identical model!”
Lady Diana was a real coup.
“When it was announced that Diana would go to Australia to see her mother to discuss marrying Prince Charles, my father realised that this would be excellent publicity for us, if she was photographed wearing our eyewear.
He sent her a few pairs to wear in Australia, but with the postal delays, they did not arrive in time. But the good news was that Diana wrote a personal thank-you letter to my father, for the sunglasses that she received and promised to wear them in London to protect her eyes from the press photographers and their flash bulbs.
There was not a day that passed that Diana was not in the press and in most cases wearing her Oliver
Asked if people purchase glasses to look smarter, just for appearance, to create a particular illusion or character, Goldsmith says, “for a lot of people, it ’s great to wear specs as you can hide behind them.”
“In the past, people would light a cigarette to give them confidence to walk into a room of strangers.
“Today, it’s the specs that give you that air of confidence.
People purchase glasses, as they need the corrective vision. Some will wear outrageous glasses in ultra bold colours and others in conservative shades. You can be noticed or not as you desire.
“For example, Woody Allen has always worn the same shape so for him to change would probably change his character as well, so better to stick with what works. Allen said himself, “people say I look intelligent but i just have this look.”
Oliver Goldsmith frames are available from September, exclusively in Liverpool at Blankstone Opticians, 2a, Derby Square. Tel. 0151 236 5392 www.blankstoneopticians.co.uk
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