The early designs of my Black Eyewear collection took inspiration from glasses of the 1950s. It was a decade of eyewear design that shaped the future of the optical industry. The transfer of skills from the redundant ornamental comb industry to Optics in the late 1940s combined with the sunglass-wearing icons of Hollywood were major influencers that transformed eyewear from an indicator of physical abnormality to a must-have fashion accessory; glasses wearers could look as cool as everybody else.
Fashion frames in the UK began to emerge as an alternative to the glasses available on the National Health Service. Many small frame factories were geared up across the UK to supply the large volumes of NHS models that were both cheap and efficient. At the same time, they offered their own designs which were classified as ‘private’ frames and cost more. Both NHS and ‘private’ frames were all hand made and often made to measure. The choice was then left to the patient, NHS frames were free or private frames at an extra cost.
My collection of archival, early hand made frames, showed how the focus on the fit was paramount. Frames of the 1950s seemed made for much smaller faces and the challenge of refreshing these as larger sizes became my major challenge. I loved the simplicity of these small 1950s frames perhaps because they rekindled happy memories of my time at Dollond & Aitchison and Selfridges in the early 1960s when products were supplied by an array of small UK companies. Life felt so simple then.
— Robert Roope