Kirk & Kirk
Jason and Karen Kirk
Words Alessandra Albarello
Jason and Karen Kirk have continued the family tradition with an innovative spirit, passion and sense of colour; so much so that their brand is also appreciated by world- famous stars. Do the names Robert Downey Jr and Samuel L. Jackson mean anything to you?
Co-founders of Kirk & Kirk, Jason, CEo, and Karen, Designer and Creative Director of the brand, fell into optics in 1992, picking up the extraordinary legacy and savoir-fare of Sidney and percy Kirk, but also that of neville, Jason's father. The secret of ‘The Kirks’, as they call themselves, is to never stop, to be looking constantly towards other challenges and working in advance on new projects. In fact, they are already preparing for Silmo 2023 which will also see the European product launch of the Contour collection, where acrylic fronts merge with the Alpaca Silver temples: another foreseeable success.
Optics for you has been a family affair since 1919... How important are your legacy and background for your present and future projects?
We are inspired not only by the work of Sidney and percy Kirk through the 20th Century but also by their approach to optics. for them, it was important to drive the industry forward. for us, it is important to change consumer attitudes to eyewear. for them, it was essential to innovate. for us too, and this innovation is found mostly in the unique material that we have developed: our own customised Italian acrylic.
Talking of family, do you still name the models after family members? What are your latest proposals?
We try to stick with family names like horace and neville. They all have genuine stories behind them. Sometimes we move to names of people that have inspired us. In our new Contour collection, for example, you will find Layla – our lovely niece. Kirk & Kirk has evolved into a recognisable and individual lifestyle thanks to the exclusive made in Italy acrylic, bold frames and vibrant colours.
Karen, could you share with us the choices and vision behind your creative process?
I take my inspiration from vintage retro glass and I am inspired by the material itself, treating each frame as a form of sculpture to create that unique styling. from a functional point of view, Kirk & Kirk frames treat the medical side of our profession with enormous respect. The lightweight acrylic makes the frames extremely comfortable to wear and this can often be a game-changer with a strong prescription. The thickness of the frames can also hide a lot of lens, so they are both functionally excellent and aesthetically pleasing. our frames are hand-made from sheet material, respecting the artisanal traditional craft of frame-making. not all of our frames are fuchsia, some are Midnight, but the same person can wear both according to their mood and what they are trying to achieve.
You won the last ‘Silmo d’Or’ with the Thor frame, while Horace in the Cadillac of Centena collection has been nominated for Men’s of the Year at the Love Eyewear Awards at 100% Optical in London. Upcoming projects, shops and dreams?
Retail is a great opportunity to get first-hand feedback from consumers. our pop-up last year, in Shoreditch, London was very successful and we may well do more in 2024. for the moment we are focussed on our new sun collection which will launch in the autumn of this year at Silmo.
You are present in 40 countries and since 2019 you have opened 2 shops a week worldwide... How do you explain this exceptional growth?
Opticians need visibly different products to make them stand out from their competitors. not only do Kirk & Kirk provide eyewear that is distinctive, but it also sells, so this has contributed to what has been a great, few years.
Kirk & Kirk eyewear is beloved by stars like Robert Downey Jr, Samuel L. Jackson, Kirsten Vangsness amongst others... What do people need and what can Kirk & Kirk promise them in terms of aesthetics, function and emotion?
Our glasses are designed to help you express your unique personality. Whether our wearers are famous like Robert Downey Jr or not, they are independent, rebellious – they will not be told what to wear and they make their own decisions. ‘Confidence’ and ‘empowerment’ are words that we would associate with the feeling of wearing Kirk & Kirk. The art is to find the frames that reflect who you are and what you want to say about yourself in a particular environment. It is not only about how you feel when you are wearing the frames but also how other people interact with you. people seem much more engaged. I am not sure that we ‘designed’ this to happen but it is a definite phenomenon. once discovered, Kirk & Kirk frames never leave you cold. They provoke opinion and bring eyewear to the forefront of the conversation, something that percy and Sidney Kirk would have enjoyed.
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