THE ORIGINATORS OF FASHION EYEWEAR
Established in 1926, this is the story of one family’s mission to change the way we see the world through eyewear design and innovation.
Oliver Goldsmith is a British heritage brand with nearly 100 years of experience. With four generations of knowledge behind us, we continue to make some of the most beautiful eyewear in the world. Eyewear that pushes the boundaries of expectation, self-expression and individuality.
THE FULL STORY
In 1919, Phillip Oliver Goldsmith was working as a commercial salesman for Raphael’s, a popular optical firm in London. The glasses he sold were functional and practical, serving purely as a medical device to his patients. He knew things could be different and set off on his own to create a new wave of eyewear where functionality and fashion worked hand in hand.
This is where it all started.
PASSION & FASHION
Oliver Goldsmith is a British heritage brand with nearly 100 years of experience in eyewear design and innovation. With four generations of knowledge behind us, we continue to make some of the most beautiful eyewear in the world. Eyewear that pushes the boundaries of expectation, self-expression and individuality.
In 1926 Philip Oilver Goldsmith stood at the door of his first mobile showroom presenting his latest designs to the London public. His frames were made mostly from metal, since this was the only material readily available, apart from real tortoiseshell, which was expensive, brittle and difficult to work with. Fuelled by his passion to find new ways to revolutionise the eyewear industry, he came across a local button factory who were using a ground-breaking raw material, coloured plastic.
A few sheets of this radical new material were purchased, Philip returned to his workshop, emerging several weeks later with the first ever colourful spectacle frames. These historical artefacts are now kept at The Victoria & Albert Museum in London, in the History of Fashion.
THE BIRTH OF 'SUN SPECS'
By 1939 WW11 struck and put an end to innovation and creativity. Six long years passed, yet what arose from the ashes of war was a new surge of optimism and originality, attributes that Philip’s son Charles, had in abundance. They opened a small factory in Poland Street in London and by 1946, at the age of just 21, Charles had taken over the business. A new dawn of ingenuity, enthusiasm and passion was about to take hold. Charles continued his father’s legacy, campaigning the idea that eyeglasses should be an extension of your personality, an accessory for your face, and it was his ambitions that led to some of the most significant years in the business’s history.
In 1946, Charles saw an opportunity to turn the humble spectacle into an item of high fashion. He designed a small selection of frames and fitted them with coloured glass lenses. He called the collection ‘Sun Specs’ and placed them in the window of the two biggest retail stores of the time in London, Fortnum & Mason and Simpsons. Within a week, they had sold out and more were eagerly requested. ‘Sunglasses’ had officially arrived.
GOLDSMITH MEANS GLASSES
During the mid-fifty’s, sunglasses gained high profile status and were worn by the most stylish men and women of the era. A selection of unusual designs started to appear, with Oliver Goldsmith at the forefront of this movement. Not only did these SunSpecs protect your eyes from the sun’s rays, but they also created a fashion statement. Even dress designers such as Christian Dior and Givenchy approached Goldsmith to create designs that would compliment their seasonal collections.
“A Spectacular Success” said the press - Oliver Goldsmith were the first eyewear brand to appear in Vogue, cementing their designs as an essential fashion accessory rather than a necessary medical device. As the music and film scene grew and fashion became less restrictive, the brand followed suit and swiftly become synonymous with stars and style. Frames were intentionally designed to gain attention and headlines, styles to woo the most fashion savvy, and by the Swinging 60’s Oliver Goldsmith was firmly established as the brand worn by rock stars and Royalty alike.
WORN BY ICONS
From Vidal Sassoon to Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly to Michael Caine, Peter Sellers and John Lennon, The Rolling Stones to Princess Diana and more – Goldsmith was meteoric in its appeal, dressing the faces of some of the most famous and iconic names in history.
By the mid 1960’s, Charles’s two sons had joined him in the business and the brand continued its dalliance with the bold and adventurous, creating frames to match the desires of the 70’s disco era. By the 1980’s however, licensing and the early stages of fast fashion were introduced resulting in a short hiatus for the brand.
THE LEGACY CONTINUES
In 2015, it was now Claire Goldsmith, Philip’s great-granddaughter and the fourth generation Goldsmith's turn at the helm.
“As a child I used to pore over the pictures of iconic celebrities and models wearing Oliver Goldsmith glasses. Michael Caine, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Peter Sellers were the poster boys and girls for style defining eyewear’ – Claire Goldsmith
Passionate about the maintaining the legacy of her forefathers – her promise is to ensure that the collections continue to deliver the prestige of the Goldsmith name. Archival designs are brought back to life alongside new and unique styles, but each frame carries the significance of an unparalleled design heritage.
STANDING THE TEST OF TIME
Oliver Goldsmith designs aren’t a luxury or a trend, they represent a moment in fashion history. Designs that deliver beyond the constraints of fast fashion, they have style longevity and autonomy and Claire Goldsmith’s ambition is to create products that continue to stand the test of time.
Whilst tradition is vitally important to us, we are also a 21stcentury brand and the developments in modern manufacturing and lens quality allow us to offer the best of both. Our frames demonstrate the perfect synergy of old manufacturing techniques and new, advanced materials.
We largely work with artisans from family owned and operated factories. Their expertise and experience allow us to use many traditional techniques, methods that have been proven to provide the most hard-wearing and robust frames.