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Profiles | February 20, 2016

Rooted in the past. Focussed on the future

Talking with Claire Goldsmith is like diving into a long novel. A novel that describes the story of the eyewear industry through four generations. A story that bases its roots on a forward-thinking past in order to inspire a brilliant future

words Antonella Reina

Chapter I The history
It was 1926 when P. Oliver Goldsmith decided to found his namesake brand. Claire Goldsmith never had the chance to meet her great-grandfather, however she talks about the time when he was a peddler, presenting his eyewear collection to local shops in order to invite optics to buy from his stock.

That was a very innovative initiative for that time, which set the beginning of a story made of singular intuitions that would change the sunglasses industry. When his son Charles took the company’s lead, everything changed for good. No one remember better than Claire how it all happened: “My grandfather was a brilliant and funny man. A man capable of understanding and listening to people’s desires. At the time there were many sunglasses makers, but he was the first one who succeeded in giving an identity to his frames, giving birth to a brand based on quality, excellence and comfort”. Charles Goldsmith was also the first person that believed that sunglasses could be fashion accessories, and not just as a mere optical necessity.

This idea set the beginning of the revolution. A revolution fostered by a special connection with the movie industry. “In his diary”, says Claire, “my grandfather writes about that time when, towards the end of 1940, he went to the movies and felt so impressed by the size of the actors on the big screen: he could finally appreciate each detail of their outfits. He thought that if he managed to give a pair of his glasses to those actors, maybe some other people would appreciate them. Today we call it Product Placement, but during those years this was just a brilliant idea”.

This intuition didn’t take so long to bear fruit: it turned Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses into the protagonists of the most famous movies from the 1950s and 1960s, framing the gaze of legendary movie stars like Audrey Hepburn, Michael Caine, and Grace Kelly.

Chapter II The present
Almost thirty years have passed since that moment, and Oliver Goldsmith is now led by Claire who, after graduating in marketing, decided to take care of her family business in order to carry on values such as craftsmanship, quality and timeless design. She identifies herself with these values and she is ready to pursue them with strong determination. “I borrowed 10,000 pounds from my mother, I left my old job and I invested ten years of my life in order to rebuild the authenticity of the brand. It has been a long ride but it worked, and nowadays the brand has finally regained its rightful place within the eyewear industry”. According to Claire, each generation of her family played an important role in the story. She belongs to the fourth generation, and she is more than motivated in giving her contribution: “The past is our anchor. Many answers for the future come from the past. But is important to keep the youngest blood of the family running through the company’s veins: without a new lymph, the brand could not impose itself in a world that keeps evolving all the time”.

Chapter III The future
That is why Oliver Goldsmith has been experiencing a series of important changes lately: from the use of advanced technologies allowing handmade frames to be even more refined, to the creation of a well organized and carefully selected distribution. “The brand’s DNA is, and always will be the same”, continues Claire. “Our sunglasses are made with the same “ingredients” we used in the past. We have a 90-year-old archive to take inspiration from when it comes to materials, and this is how we manage to instill a feeling of authenticity to our frames. I like to think that OG is a brand rooted to the past yet oriented towards the future”.
And the Legacy collection, indeed – which has been created during the launch of the brand Claire Goldsmith – points straight to the future. Legacy offers a collection of contemporary frames that carry the same DNA of the family company, but that reveals a different personality, allowing Claire’s creativity to give birth to innovative solutions. “Eight years ago I launched the CG: Claire Goldsmith project, and I decided to call my collection Legacy.

The truth is that I didn’t feel that I was good enough to design for the OG collection. I was scared to damage the perfect picture of the brand. I decided to propose my work under my own name, and my initiative has been approved with great enthusiasm by the eyewear industry. Some people say that it adds a touch of freshness to the OG collections. My line has been designed for everyday life. We are working on new models characterized by innovative combinations, a job that has never been done with OG. I am also experimenting with some lighter frames. We are doing a good job, or at least this is the kind of feedback I got from my customers. And customers are always right, aren’t they?”

Chapter IV The celebration
Looking towards the future without forgetting the past. This is the winning recipe for Oliver Goldsmith, which this year celebrates its 90th anniversary. An important anniversary that the company wants to be unforgettable: “I am so proud of being part of this family and being able to give my personal contribution to this amazing company. We will celebrate this anniversary as much as we can, involving all our customers. We are also working on a special capsule collection that we will launch at the end of the year. It is something that has never been seen before and you should definitely not miss it”.