Eyewear Icon: Oliver Goldsmith Part II
Family business. For close to a century, the Goldsmiths have birthed immaculate and unique eyewear designs. Since its conception, the business has evolved over three generations, making leaps and bounds from generation to generation. The previous blog post, “Eyewear Icon: Oliver Goldsmith” was a broad overview of the iconic brand which opened the door of communication to the actual Goldsmith family. Wow! The wonders and benefits of social media outlets are countless. I live for moments like this and greatly appreciate when eyewear designers take time out of their busy schedules to reach out. With my new found insight, I would like to delve deeper into the brand and share an actual interview with Andrew Oliver Goldsmith III.
In the late 1920s, Philip Oliver Goldsmith put together a group of skilled craftsmen and started a family business that has survived three generations. The Oliver Goldsmith brand started with authentic tortoise shell frames in the 1920s and 1930s which created a buzz.
In 1936, Charles Goldsmith, Philip Goldsmith’s son, joined the optical firm. For decades, the Goldsmith brand continued to make an impact in the optical world. Some of Charles Goldsmiths accomplishments include providing eyewear for troops during World War II and changing the perspective for eyewear by entering the fashion world and capitalizing on the publicity that that celebrities command
1967 Andrew, Charles and Ray at an Optical Show at the Grosvenor House Hotel London. In the early 1940s, Charles Oliver Goldsmith sons, Andrew Oliver and Raymond joined the optical firm and took the company to another level. After learning and mastering the business, Andrew Oliver worked as the frame designer of the company while Raymond headed the sunglasses sector of the company. As of today, Oliver Goldsmith is now a two part company divided by sunglasses and spectacles. The sunglasses side is run by Claire Goldsmith (future blog), Oliver Goldsmiths great grand-daughter. The spectacle division is run by by Andrew Oliver Goldsmith III. Andrew is still very hands on and attends trade shows all across the world. The Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear company has great potential to become a bigger brand with todays fashionable society and with its newborn: M. Oliver Goldsmith.
Interview with Andrew Oliver Goldsmith II
What is the vision for Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear for the next 5 years?
Oliver Goldsmith: My main Licensee in Japan sees a gradual slowing down of retro. It has been going since 2002 which is actually quite a long time in the circle of fashion. So to prepare for this eventual change, I have created a new collection to be called OG x Oliver Goldsmith. The “X” is to indicate the “cross over” from retro to modern. We shall be having a major launch party in April 2014 at the British Embassy in Tokyo. Why Tokyo, you may ask…….well I am a major brand name in Japan and since the Japanese are big followers of OG Spectacles, it seems the perfect place for a launch. Getting back to the “X” the cross over is intended to be drip fed into the market over a few years. We cannot go from retro to modern overnight, so at the beginning the styling will still be retro-ish, with a twist ! Having said that, retro OGOG will not disappear completely as I see all my classic designs going on alongside the OG x OG.
Do you feel you have maintained your grandfathers vision for the company?
Oliver Goldsmith: In respect of QEC, yes! Quality, Elegance and Comfort. Let me explain: my Grandfather worked for a British Optical Company called Raphaels. When he decided to set up his own company in 1926, his Boss said to him, Philip (Philip Oliver Goldsmith) call your company Oliver Goldsmith. People will remember the name better than Philip. The very original Oliver Goldsmith was an Irish poet from Sligo (no relation by the way) who came to London to seek fame and fortune. Fame he achieved, but fortune not. He died in his forties. But he left behind some famous farces and poems. The most famous of which is the stage play (farce) called “She Stoops to Conquer” As I get Google alerts all the time when the name Oliver Goldsmith being used, I know that the play tours around the USA, so who knows, one day you may get to see this on the stage. My Grandfather made real tortoiseshell spectacles and fitted prescription lenses. Apart from making one frame for a London Optician, who in turn had the frame made for King George V, my Grandfather had no ambitions to become famous. My Father (Charles Goldsmith) entered the family business in 1936 and on the death of my Grandfather at the early age of 53, assumed the name “Oliver” as his full name was Charles Myer Goldsmith. But from my birth onwards, it has become a tradition, that the middle name of the first born would be called Oliver/Olivia. So my full name is Andrew Oliver Goldsmith. My daughter, as the first born, is called Alexandra Olivia Goldsmith. Alex is assisting me in the business on a part time basis (she is a very talented professional Photographer). She will eventually become the 4th generation. To add to this the 5th generations are in place in the form of Max Oliver Goldsmith and Spike Oliver Goldsmith. To say the least I am very happy that this tradition is on going. My Father after the second world war, created some outrageous design to capture the imagination of the Magazines and Newspapers. To his credit are Diana Dors (an English actress being promoted as a film star in 1953) and a little later Princess Grace of Monaco. He suggested to Princess Grace that she should have a wardrobe to change with her clothes, and she invited my Father to go to the Palace in Monaco to show her his designs. This developed over the years and Princess Grace had around 45 pairs of specs! I joined the family business as a failed Architect who was advised to design something smaller. This was in 1959 and I was put through the mill (as we say in British English) for a full 5 years before my Father would allow me to design glasses. So in 1964 (the beginning of the “swinging 60s in London) I started and my first design was chosen by Princess Margarets husband, Lord Snowdon. From that moment on, it was famous persons one after another. John Lennon, Audrey Hepburn (I was commissioned to design and make sunglasses for 2 films: Two for the Road, and Charade). Michael Caine for two films: The Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin. More recently, Colin Firth in A Single Man and the actors in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, that was produced by my son Nick! Princess Diana also wore my sunglasses. I could go on and on, but that would make a book! Hopefully though, that will be coming. u00a0So with three generations of “Oliver Goldsmith” the brand name has become iconic.
What makes the Oliver Goldsmith eyewear unique?
Oliver Goldsmith: It all goes back to Q E C. I remembered these words from my Father who told me that if I incorporate these words into my design, I might become successful. I kept an archive of all my spectacles and sunglasses from 1964 and so when my Japanese Licensee wanted to launch the retro look in 2002, I had actual samples that I took to Osaka so that they could be re-produced accurately as they were from the original samples. A question you need to ask, is this: if a Rep came to see you with a retro collection, your first question should be: How old is your Designer? If he/she is younger than 60, then they have no conception what retro is really like. You have to be able to handle the frame/sunglass to appreciate how it was made and how it fits. I make all my frames in Japan, as this is the only country that really understands how to make quality. This does, of course make my line a little more expensive, but with QEC it is worth that little extra cost.
Will the brand continue to be family oriented?
Oliver Goldsmith: Yes, the brand hopefully will remain a family business, but in 2 parts. One Optical and the other Sunglasses.
What is your game plan for tackling the US market?
Oliver Goldsmith: We have been selling to the USA on and off since 1960. My Father went to Chicago to give a lecture to a group of Opticians hosted by The House of Vision (No longer in existence!). He was asked to wear a bowler hat ands carry a folded umbrella. In those days, that was what an Englishman looked like! Then from 1965, I started going and selling my designs to the US, but unfortunately met with some resistance to being paid! These set backs hurt the bottom line and eventually I decided to withdraw from the US market and concentrate in the UK and a few other overseas countries. Then in 2002 I signed a major licensing agreement with my Japanese friend. Our plan was to develop the Asian market, iron out all the bugs and then consider going international with the retro OGOG Collection. In conjunction with my Japanese Licensee we have for the last couple of years taken a Booth in New York and Las Vegas. We opened a few accounts, but as the Americans resist paying in advance for the frames, the business was just a trickle. In 2012 my licensee appointed an excellent Canadian Company, called Prisme Optical Group out of Montreal who had Reps in both Canada and USA. Working with them has been a dream! Apart from New York, I have decided to concentrate on California, as my sort of Customer lives and works there, and to be honest I am looking forward to spending more time doing Trunk Shows and Media interviews in North America. We have a really great Sales Representative who is now introducing the Original and Genuine Oliver Goldsmith Spectacle Frame Collection to Customers in California but based in LA who has been told that there were optical Oliver Goldsmith frames available!! So there is a lot of excitement in the optical profession and this is being milked to the hilt.
Would you consider going through a large distributor?
Oliver Goldsmith: No…….it would damage the cult image. They would want to create a mass market line that would not fit with my current thinking. But who knows what the future holds.
Why the separation of eyewear and sunglasses?
Oliver Goldsmith:u00a0My late Brother and I were unable to work together and in 1989 we decided to “divorce” As the name Oliver Goldsmith was/is a registered trademark, Ray (Claire’s Father) wanted the sunglass side of the business whereas I actually wanted the optical. When my Brother died of Cancer, the sunglass division lay dormant (I was too busy developing the optical Division) and in 2004 Claire approached me to ask if she could re-start the Sunglass Division in memory of her Father. I was delighted, since she would be using all my sunglasses designs. At this time there is little possibility of joining the 2 divisions. We shall continue as Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear Ltd and Oliver Goldsmith Sunglasses Ltd. Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear.
Rip – First frame Andrew Oliver Goldsmith designed in 1963.
Ballyhoo in Tortoiseshell
Below are few of my favorite frames from Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Victoria & Albert has a display of 70 OG frames and sunglasses. V & A has captured the Oliver Goldsmith iconic brand story.
Oliver Goldsmith: Tennis Rackets – Designed for Teddy Tinling
Oliver Goldsmith: Jester