Cutler and gross London Eye

The British brand that introduced the world’s first bespoke frame service

The handmade design process

WHEN asked why he’s rarely spotted without a pair of sunglasses, Bono responded: “Rock star with them on, ordinary bloke without them.” He has a point. And like Bono, we have all cottoned on to the transformative power of shades.

Graham Cutler and Tony Gross had this in mind when they founded London-based cult eyewear company Cutler and Gross in 1969. The duo launched the brand by opening a small store in Knightsbridge, offering the first truly bespoke eyewear on the market. “At the time, there were no luxury, bespoke sunglasses on offer,” says the label’s chief executive, Majid Mohammadi. “Fashion labels were not doing sunglasses.” Today Cutler and Gross has stores across the world, including New York, Toronto and Hong Kong, and recently revamped its London flagship.

At Cutler and Gross, sunglasses are a celebration of design. Yes, they’re stylish, but quality is paramount. It’s an ethos that saw the likes of Bryan Ferry, Grace Jones and Elton John calling on them in the ‘70s to create one-of-a-kind designs. Made in the store’s chic first floor atelier, everything from the milling of the lens grooves to the fitting of the hinges is done by hand.

Today, leading fashion labels including Alberta Ferretti and Maison Martin Margiela have taken advantage of its skilled stable of technicians and designers. A collaboration with the label has become a rite of passage for many designers expanding into the sector; an unspoken stamp of approval. Victoria Beckham’s upcoming eyewear range is being made in the brand’s factory in Cadore: the “eyewear valley of Italy”. The brand snapped up the 35 year-old family-run company back in 2007 in order to be in 100 per cent in control of the production process and is now one of the few global eyewear companies manufacturing entirely in Italy.

If you haven’t heard the name before, well, that’s the point. “It’s not a brand everyone wears and that’s intentional. Our customers are club members and, just like with a club, you have to control who gets in.”

In a sea of mass-produced frames, its eyewear stands out but the designs are discreet. None have logos: even if you’ve seen someone sporting a pair, unless you’re in the know, you’re probably none the wiser. “We want to do something original, to push boundaries. People are sick of the mass, of seeing the same thing over and over. They come to us for something special.”

Each pair is produced in limited numbers and takes up to four weeks to manufacture. It involves 37 separate processes and all are assembled and polished by hand. “It’s like expensive underwear,” Mohammadi says. “No one can see it but you know you’re wearing quality and that’s enough.” It’s the reason you’ll never see a Cutler and Gross sale. “All of our designs are timeless. We sell design, not fashion, so why would we ever hold a sale?”

The customisation options are endless. “One of the benefits of being a one-product brand is that we really focus on giving customers choice. People’s faces are different so we cater for that by having a wide variety of different shapes and fits for each style.”

Bespoke is a word that is thrown about a lot in the fashion world: shoes, suits, bags, everyone is doing it. But truly bespoke sunglasses are still hard to find. It’s something Cutler and Gross holds dear. In 2011 it introduced a dedicated service in the first floor atelier of its Knightsbridge store, where it all began, through which customers can choose from a selection of 4,000 models from its archive or create something from scratch. So whether you want a pair to match the colour of your suit, or are simply looking for a one-off design, you are well and truly catered for.

The price of sunglasses range from £300 to £1,000. The Bespoke service starts at £580 and is available exclusively at the flagship store at 16 Knightsbridge Green, SW1X 7QL. For more information call 0207 581 2250.