Profiles | October 10, 2017

Proud to be different

From the pioneering spirit of the two founders to the current creative dynamic leading towards innovation and moving forward. Cutler and Gross Style Director Marie Wilkinson remembers the successes of a brand which is at the foundation of eyewear history

words Antonella Reina

“At Cutler and Gross we’re proud to be different and do things our own way. We always will”, affirms Marie Wilkinson, who leads the creative team of Cutler and Gross. She has been part of the company for more than 30 years, ever since she joined as a trainee under founders Graham Cutler and Tony Gross. Through her memories we learned something more about the heritage of a brand which represents an important part of eyewear history: “When a brand’s aesthetic is informed by the excellence of the artisans with whom it works, it is fair to say that there have been 3 important eras in Cutler and Gross history. 1969-1981: When every single frame was handmade by George Smith in the workshop above 16 Knightsbridge Green. 1982-2008: The era when Tony Gross and Graham Cutler visited Mido and Silmo to meet with the factories and started small production runs. 2009 to the present day: With the help of new CEO Majid Mohammadi, Cutler and Gross purchased their own factory in Italy for their eponymous production.”

Right back to their very beginnings, it is really surprising to acknowledge the true pioneering spirit of Graham Cutler and Tony Gross. It was 1969 when they founded Cutler and Gross, inviting the principle frame maker at Princes factory in North London, George Smith, to join them at the former wiggery at 16, Knightsbridge Green. In the little shop, designed by friend and renowned architect Piers Gou, they would encourage clients to be inspired by the frames on show and to develop their own taste in commissioning their frames, taking different elements from the examples on show, to create their own unique style. Wilkinson remembers: “They wanted to create frames that were modern and clean; ‘a lightness of touch, with a certain wit’. They made glasses that were of the modern world; they went with the music, the current politics and the nightlife rather than looking backwards to NHS austerity.
A typical conversation might go like this: ‘I would like style number 29, but with a keyhole bridge, in deep blue Perspex, with fine 9mm parallel temples (an iconic temple shape still within our current collections) with the rims thicker and no nose bump.'”
At the time, the hardest part was keeping up with the demand: “Word spread fast in the fashion and design community and discerning clients came from abroad to have their glasses made by Cutler and Gross. Tony Gross is known for being a wonderful raconteur, with his wit, charm and humor never failing to mesmerize the design and fashion cognoscenti around the world.” That’s why in past years, the company acquired its own factory giving them control and the ability to experiment and expand the collections. The acquisition gave also another important chance, enabling the brand to work on important collaborations with like-minded designers who would not have been able to have their own eyewear collections. Among them, Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons Homme Plus was the first major collaboration and Victoria Beckham was the first production license. Today the brand remains independent despite the wave of consolidation in the eyewear industry that has been taking place for several years now, representing the perfect balance between the traditional craftsmanship of the past and the innovative designs and technology of the future. “The past has secured us solid foundations upon which to grow and develop. Furthermore, it has given us a legacy and a very special loyalty from our customers. From this we want to continually innovate and attract the next generation, introducing them to the best of British design and Italian craftsmanship.” And the new Fall/Winter 2017-18 collection aims to do just this, enhancing Cutler and Gross’ range of iconic models with cutting edge designs and new manufacturing techniques, yet remaining loyal to the artisanal roots with an uncompromising dedication to handmade craftsmanship.