May 14, 2019
Graham Cutler and Tony Gross in 1995
History, inspiration, and a rare chance to understand a little bit more from the Co-Founder himself.
20/20 Europe spoke with Graham Cutler and Marie Wilkinson, Design Director, Cutler and Gross about the onward success of a very prestigious British heritage brand.
Q: There are few brands that have a history and heritage as rich as that of Cutler and Gross. What has allowed that lasting legacy?
A: Graham Cutler: I believe our lasting legacy is one of uncompromising hard work, striving for the best of the best.
The best design, using the best materials and the integration of our handmade production within our company.
Q: What was it like to have an optician’s store back in the 70s and 80s with so much interest from the famous faces of the day and a unique view of eyewear and how a frame could add glamour and style?
A: GC: Having our optician’s shop in Knightsbridge felt like a club where the rebellious would convene to celebrate pure glasses style, by which I mean glasses without gold embellishment and visible logos. Tony and I were habitués of Soho bars and clubs and our clients were artists, designers, musicians and architects that we met there so it all just felt very natural.
\\ The new 1371 sunglass style
Q: Do you have fond memories of those times, and which moments were crucial to the success of the business? I believe there was a turning point in 1982 after the Paris fashion shows?
A: GC: My memories are extremely fond of those times working with Tony and with our appetite to grow the brand together. Tony went to SEHM in Paris with the first ten piece collection of sunglasses with predominantly mirrored lenses and I remember his calling the shop on Saturday to say that the stand was mobbed and he needed urgent assistance and would I book a flight for Marie, the young optician we had hired, to come over to Paris to help him.
Q: Your partnership with Mr Gross was fundamental to the speed with which you established success for the company, is that right?
A: GC: The partnership worked because I believe we each played to our strengths - Tony was the front man; the face of the company; our PR if you like.
Ever gregarious, he had a wide circle of friends through his many interests, whereas I always liked the style and design side of the business. Early on, I wanted a computer to ease the running of the business and I enjoyed the programming.
\\ New optical designs 1362 and 1361
Q: Do you remember visiting the MIDO trade fair?
A: GC: I remember first visiting MIDO in 1981; Tony and I would go on alternate years so one of us could stay in the shop. It was here that we met the factories that made the glasses (before we acquired our own factory), viewed the latest collections and lenses and soaked up the atmosphere of what was happening in the world of eyewear.
Cutler and Gross did not exhibit at Mido until the late 1990’s, when Tony felt it was a vital step to secure our reputation with fashion stores likes Barneys New York, Joyce Boutique Hong Kong and Browns Fashion London prior to selling to opticians, who might be perplexed as to why we chose not to display our name on the outside of the frame.
Q: What do you hope for the future of the brand?
A: GC: I hope to continue with the success of the last fifty years. And ultimately to be the most prestigious and desirable brand in the world.
“I remember first visiting MIDO in 1981; Tony and I would go on alternate years so one of us could stay in the shop.
It was here that we met the factories that made the glasses....viewed the latest collections and lenses and soaked up the atmosphere...”
Graham Cutler in the Cutler and Gross archive earlier this year
\\ The new generation slice frame, 1367 in solid red
Q: As a member of the team at Cutler and Gross since the 1980s, you understand how the brand has moved forward in that time while preserving its special qualities and “signature style”. Can you comment on how you see that evolution
A: Marie Wilkinson: I believe it has been one of the secrets of our success for us to evolve our glasses and marketing simultaneously. Mr Gross was an early adopter of talent; being the first to commission Jasper Morrison to design a wholesale showroom complete with furniture as a means to communicate the ethos of the brand to working with Platon on a provocative photoshoot.
Q: What do you most enjoy about designing for the brand today?
A: MW: It is intoxicating! You’re always surrounded by a deeply passionate, supportive community of like-minded people.
Being a designer at Cutler and Gross means you’re part of something big. Our designers understand each other because we process the world around us in similarly different ways. It makes us close knit in a way that other professions don’t seem to understand. We embrace this line of thinking because all of our most innovative creations have come from Mr Cutler and Mr Gross; making the bravest of designs exist.
Marie Wilkinson at work in head office
“The thread that flows through Cutler and Gross is the quality of the construction of our glasses and the materials selected.”
Q: What direction do the Cutler AND Gross collections take for 2020 and can you explain any special “thread” in the collection that connects it to its past and heritage?
A: MW: The thread that flows through Cutler and Gross is the quality of the construction of our glasses and the materials selected. As our relationship with our colleagues in our factory matures, so our confidence grows and this shows in the bolder collections where the boundaries of style and technicity are pushed further and further forward.
Q: Do you have a favourite frame in the new collection this year that you believe will be one of your icons of 2020 - when we look back at this year?
A: MW: I am crazy for the new model 1367 which for me encapsulates all that Cutler and Gross stands for: London, bold and eccentric style, exquisitely handmade in the eponymous Cutler and Gross factory in Cadore, Italy. The meticulous contours that inform this frame’s profile combined with a rebellious ‘Devil may care’ attitude genuinely excite me. This sunglass demands attention and respect!
\\ Oversized 1369 sunglass in Red Havana