April 08, 2022
Alessandro Marcer, Creative Director for Cutler and Gross
Cutler and Gross and British jewellery brand, The Great Frog have joined forces to create an exclusive collaborative eyewear collection, launched this month. Both brands share a heritage of over 50 years and are similarly inspired by the arts, particularly music, resulting in a range of frames that distil the design ethos of both. 20/20 Europe spoke to the Creative Director for Cutler and Gross, Alessandro Marcer, in a special preview of the line in New York City.
Q: This collaboration is a very new departure for Cutler and Gross in many ways. Please tell us about this exclusive new collection launch and how it came about?
A: It is interesting because as you know collaborations are indeed part of our heritage. We always look to push the boundaries by collaborating with unique and interesting brands. It’s a kind of 2.0 restart for our brand in 2022. We wanted to approach and collaborate with someone who is close also to younger generations – Reino Lehtonen-Riley is very much the perfect fit as a 40 something designer who has inherited his father’s London shop and who is continuing the traditions he created, with finely crafted jewellery. The two brands have a lot in common. We both have a long and rich history – both brands are British. The Great Frog also has a fresh approach to craft and we believe this is important to be able to reach out to the younger generations Cutler and Gross is interested in. Reino Lehtonen-Riley is very well introduced in London, Tokyo and New York – in music and by word-of-mouth. The brand is very hot right now with young creatives and the music and film world.
Q: The Great Frog has a cult following as does Cutler and Gross. Would you agree? Please comment.
A: It’s all about the history of the two brands. The Great Frog is rooted in their past, yet continues to move ahead, renewing... creating their product for the present. We are too, we are evolving. When we met together, it was quite organic. You know when you meet somebody and you feel that the energy is right. We felt it was the right fit for us – given that The Great Frog has a real and historic British story. We are also real – we have never had to make up stories about our brand because we have an iconic following and a rich and celebrated history. So we refresh and evolve through our past ...and we put it out there for the world we are dealing with now. We also keep growing with our loyal customers in mind, they are always interested and open to new products and new ideas that come from our world of design. Of course, we are not a fashion brand either...we are closely linked to the design world; music, art, architecture, photography and film. We do not need to create something that is fast and new but rather something that preserves our values, that evolves our brand DNA, and that is still very likeable to our existing customers.
\\ The frames also feature The Great Frog's Dagger and Crossbones, hand cast in .925 sterling silver
Q: What were the key objectives in the design process for the line?
A: It has very much evolved as an organic process, as I’ve mentioned. We spent time with them in their laboratory where they really work just as they did in the past. They are an example of genuine craftsmanship. They are based in East London in Shoreditch. Reino is very hands on although he is always very busy. We were both discussing the first pieces together and how we could bring together their design details and our DNA without distorting or changing our identity. If we look at the details of The Great Frog designs...such as their reaper and chain icons...they come directly from a piece of jewellery and we looked at how we could incorporate these symbols with depth...layering the details, hiding perhaps something like the chain subtly but bringing it out with specific colours. So there is nothing too showy or bold... we want the customer to have the chance to focus on the details – little by little. Overall it has taken almost a year to develop the whole collection. Because of the nature of our work at both brands and our respect for craft, we wanted to address the senses, to encourage touch of the frame – to touch the emotions. Both brands were sharing that in the realisation of the designs.
“The objective of this collaboration was simple, to merge both our stylistic codes. Incorporating The Great Frog’s irreverent aesthetic and our fundamentals of design to create something dramatic but wearable....."
Q: Can you describe the resulting designs in detail?
A: The exclusive collection comprises five styles; three sunglasses and two opticals, which embody Reino’s passion for unexpected details. Each frame incorporates an iconic .925 sterling silver emblem which has become synonymous with the brand; the Reaper, the Chain, the Crossbones and the Dagger. These emblems can be found on the temples and fronts of the frame, combined with Cutler and Gross’ handcrafted Italian acetates and classic shapes. The hardware is produced by Cutler and Gross, and so we had to learn with The Great Frog and our jewellery partners how to realise these elements in miniature – and how to achieve the best results. Reino created a wax mould of all the signature icons and our jewellers created them in the ideal sizes. Of course, the frames have the architecture of a typical Cutler and Gross frame, and the dimensions and unique bevelling. From the rivets to the hinges, to the acetates and chain temple core, the materials were very important to us. It was also the first time we got to experiment with sterling silver applications, which was exciting for us. The result is a collection that is visibly robust, classic with a twist and the perfect blend of both our brand DNA’s.”
Q: I understand the colour palette is extremely sophisticated. What is the key theme and primary tones used and how did this palette evolve as part of the DNA of the line?
A: The collaboration colour palette embraces moody hues including herbal browns, deep reds, muted greys and military green shades. Punctuated with streamlined chain detail temple core highlights, created by layering fine transparent washed acetate tones using the highest quality materials. When we met Reino we were immediately projected into the Gothic world of his brand. It’s quite dark and evokes certain colours....the black with the red lining was inspired by deep blood colorations – a dramatic energetic idea that is actually done quite subtly in a lining. We also have some classic shades of grey – typical of the London taste – that are archive colours at Cutler and Gross and a green that Reino was very keen to include.
\\ Each style takes their name from the iconic emblems that are instantly recognisable as belonging to The Great Frog; The Reaper is an oversized square sunglass, with British .925 sterling silver reaper emblem detailing
Q: For those who don't know The Great Frog so well, which are the most important brand values and details that you have been able to incorporate into the line (regarding the frames and also the logo/emblem/packaging.
A: Established in Carnaby street in 1972, The Great Frog has a solid reputation for quality, luxury jewellery while continuing to remain true to its authenticity and Rock ‘N’ Roll roots. Collaborations with monolithic bands, ingenious bike builders and distinctive individuals have transformed the family-owned brand into a culturally significant tour de force that includes six stand-alone stores across London, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo. All the pieces are designed by Reino Lehtonen-Riley and handmade by a team of jewellers. For the collaboration, we started with the design of the eyewear collaboration and then we created the POS and packaging... incorporating the insignia of The Great Frog and elements that they already use in their packaging. We have essentially changed our own approach to packaging here. We started experimenting with new ways and a softer case which reflects the biker’s world, the lining with the repeated crossbones pattern and precious elements. Regarding the branding, both brands' logos are subtly etched into the inner temples, with The Great Frog logo hallmarked in a hand-written yellow gold font. The frame cloth and the cover slip are also customised with the collaboration.
Q: Is this new exclusive collaboration a new step that might become a special focus at Cutler and Gross for the future regarding collaborations?
A: Yes it is. There is always something boiling in the Cutler and Gross pot! We can say that there will be more collaborations in the future, and this collection is definitely marking the start of that and what we hope will be one collaboration per year.