A quest for the best eyewear

At the start of this new episode, we will review 5 optical frames and 5 sunglasses each month. The aim is to pick out some of the trends, and products with a special design, feature or technical attribute that we believe meet our goal in this “quest” for the best eyewear and sunglasses from around the world. Our aim is not to overload our readers – but to create a personal selection of individual pieces which we believe are representative of our times, unique in their features and absolutely worth a peep if you are into eyewear, sell glasses or sunglasses, or if you simply want to find a style for yourself that stands out from the crowd. We are fastidious about recommending quality designs. We are also pleased to hear other views and experiences so please feel free to contact us with any thoughts. Our other stories are about all kinds of subjects linked to eyewear: shops we have discovered on our travels, trends that are coming up; new gorgeous accessories; fabulous kid’s products; click on our Editorial Calendar for more…

Tortoise jungle Robert Marc

Tortoise Jungle

Robert Marc

Robert Marc’s Tortoise Jungle is a collection of optical frames and sunglasses inspired by the organized and rhythmic pattern of tortoiseshell with new unexpected colours. Tortoise is a central theme in eyewear history but can still look thoroughly modern, as Marc proves here. And as the New York designer puts it, tortoise says beauty, quality and craftsmanship.

I have viewed the whole collection first hand and I’m a fan of the quality of the acetate teamed with clever colour proposals. The exotic interpretations work brilliantly, red spotted tortoise and chic onyx with black tortoise are for those who want a walk on the wild side.

Robert Marc is an established luxury name in New York with an enviable celebrity following and a passion for quality, creativity and hand-finished products. If tortoise is your thing, don’t let this pass you by…   www.robertmarc.com

Paint by Numbers by KBL

New York brand KBL is relatively new in Europe. But they are already stocked by some important opticians including the Mykita Shop, Zurich (www.mykita.com), Probst Optik Switzerland and JLC Opticien in France. This is one to watch….they started in 2009 with sunglasses…now they have launched a first optical range, with a discerning approach to materials, precision milling, careful hand finishing and, they say, rigorous quality control. I may not have seen them up close but there are some cute designs and the model “Paint by Numbers” has a clever approach to vintage, combining a lovely-old-fashioned shape with fresh, hip colours and a lush finish. www.kbleyewear.com

Meccano by Vanni Nico Design

Meccano by Vanni

Nico Design

Turin’s Nico Design has some particularly outstanding optical frames in its Vanni collection. I have not tried this frame on, but the technical side of the Meccano line is interesting. There are 3 sizes of temple for a good fit and as well as stainless steel styles, there are several combination ones, using stainless steel and a very decorative acetate that is reminiscent of a natural horn, as seen in this image above. In the UK, there are plenty of opticians stocking these handsome Italian designs, so it isn’t as hard as you might expect to get your hands on them. I am told by the UK distributor that Vanni is currently available at Black and Lizars (Scotland), Roger Pope, Dulwich Village, Frames in the Lanes, Brighton, and Derek Spivack (Mayfair).

Showroom Baricole Nico Design
Show Room Baricole, Nico-Design


Nico Design is steeped in design history…and is proud of its “passion for all things lovingly crafted” with an “eye for detail”. The company has its own amazing store in Turin “the Showroom Baricole” (www.baricole.it) which is an impressive setting in itself for the presentation of the latest Vanni and Derapage ranges by the company. Should you be visiting Turin don’t miss it, it’s an eyewear emporium of the highest order. CN

Larry Gotti Switzerland


Götti Switzerland

I am one of the first lucky customers to try this frame, thanks to Sven Götti who has me wearing it just weeks after I’ve viewed the new Spin & Stow collection at the optical exhibition in Paris. This is a 100% titanium frame with temples in epoxy, a material that is soft to the touch and anti-allergenic. Götti has developed a matt finish for the epoxy which adds to the sophistication of the design. I’ve chosen a lilac front, always a good one for me given my pale complexion, teamed with neutral arms.

Apart from its streamlined elegance, the innovation that makes this frame special is the Spin and Stow mechanism which allows you to twist the temples around so that the frame can be super thin when you want to put it away in its case. It is a perfectly executed detail which you can really only appreciate if you take one in your hands and give it a go.

Götti is a Swiss brand www.gotti.ch that is hard to come by in the UK but if you are in London I know that the 20/20 Optical Store (www.20-20.co.uk) on Tottenham Court Road is a stockist.

303 W-Eye by Matteo Ragni

303 W-Eye

Matteo Ragni

A new entry on the eyewear scene in Italy, which hasn’t yet reached the UK but it will soon. 303 has a pure shape and is made of sheets of wood and aluminium which may sound a bit surprising….but the use of these two materials together has been carefully studied to offer flexibility and a curvature in the frame that moulds to the wearer’s face. This style features the tropical timber Wenge; other woods featured in the collection are maple, ebony, cherry, walnut and there are more! A very precise artisanal production technique is used to make each model…and the varnishing and finishing is all done by hand.


6 Beech from the White Tie Collection by Theo

Elton John is an inspiration for many people, not just for his music, but also for his energetic fundraising pursuits. One of his most exciting projects is the annual Black & White Tiara Ball. This gala occasion fired the imagination of fashion designer Tim Van Steenbergen who collaborates with the eyewear label. The result is White Tie, a Limited Edition line of stunning sunglasses that are seductive and mysterious. Precision crafting in luxurious, over-sized acetate with metal side inserts ensures glamour and panache, plus the frames fit perfectly.

Antwerp based Theo is an experimental eyewear company that produces truly innovative and unique frames: www.theo.be


OG Icons by Oliver Goldsmith

This is an iconic brand that I was writing about in the 1980’s, and then it disappeared from the eyewear scene. However, in 2006, Oliver Goldsmith’s great granddaughter, Claire Goldsmith, re-launched the brand. With her finely honed entrepreneurial skills and marketing know-how, Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses are now back in the limelight, and sold internationally, much to the delight of former fans and a host of new ones.

The sunglasses that so captivated wearers like Michael Caine, Grace Kelly, Princess Diana and Audrey Hepburn, are as much in demand today, as they were over fifty years ago.

Ms. Hepburn wore “Audrey” in Charade, the 1963 film in which she starred with Cary Grant. These elegant frames in fine quality acetate, hand made in Italy, are now in demand globally by style aware women.

The fit of these frames is superb – they are designed to offer incredible comfort, and the high quality lenses offer protection from the sun’s invasive rays.

The frames can be found in the recently opened Oliver Goldsmith Boutique in London, just a few steps from lively Portobello Road. I have also seen OG Icons in the Marais in Paris at Les Lunettes d’Also www.leslunettesdalso.com, and at Oogappel Optiek www.oogappel.com in Amsterdam. For more stockists check out the website www.olivergoldsmith.com



Acetate and I have a long love affair. I started wearing glasses at fourteen years old; the first pair was in basic black acetate, but the frames were comfortable and from the start, I liked the feel of acetate. And so the relationship began. Over the years, acetate has evolved far beyond basic into a very luxurious, romantic material for spectacle frames. My latest acetate love is Reina from Face à Face. The sculptured oval retro shape features a solid colour frame front with contrasting colour on the sidepieces and interior of the design. A ruby red frame front features black, sculptured sidepieces and interior. Or there is a black frame contrasted with smooth Cappuccino sidepieces on the interior. The pièce de resistance is a discreet decorative art acetate blossom on the side of the temple. A little touch that adds distinction to this elegant frame. Face à Face is a Paris based company that has been creating exciting eyewear for fifteen years. They have won several Silmo D’or awards, the equivalent of a Palme D’Or or an Oscar, for their designs. Face à Face frames can be found in London at the Observatory boutique, in Paris at Bastille Optic and in Milan at L’O on Via Giuseppe Verdi 2. Further information on stockists worldwide at www.faceaface-paris.com

MODEL 13435


Tom Davies has been creating eyewear designs since he was 21 years old. Now at 36, he can claim an international following of professional luminaries and international celebrities who wear his designs.

Angelina Jolie wears this Jackie Kennedy Onassis inspired frame in her latest film, The Tourist – see the link on the Telegraph website about this at http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/columns/hilary-alexander/TMG8193628/Angelina-Jolie-wears-TD-Tom-Davies-sunglasses.html

The glamorous oval shape in polished acetate (one of his own acetate creations) is part of a Limited Edition series by the designer. Davies not only creates elegant frames in acetate, he also works in eco-friendly buffalo horn and titanium, and these hand-made masterpieces are produced in his own workshop, to ensure quality and precision. I’ve not tried on these particular frames, however, other designs I have had on fit gracefully on the face and they are exceedingly comfortable to wear. For stockists, contact [email protected] or go to www.tdtomdavies.com for more information on this enterprising designer.

MODEL S312-105


The play of light on these sunglasses is beautiful, and in the sunshine, they radiate a soft glow. Thin “stripes” of gold, black, grey and crystal delicately enhance the modified oval shape. Another colour version is red, gold and tortoise. This Beausoleil creation is a fine example of the subtle, understated frames that Fréderic Beausoleil has been designing since the mid 1980’s. They are a favourite of professionals, artists and actors who demand quality and performance in eyewear. Star quality, in a refined, elegant manner is the basis of Beausoleil’s inspiration.


This month’s sunglass reviews are by Joan Grady and the optical reviews are by Clodagh Norton.

Celine Vuarnet

Sports choice

Vuarnet revival

An interesting new partnership, Vuarnet is now part-owned by Alain Mikli. The brand has been revamped and promises sports edge and serious design, with new technical activity-specific lenses including Citylynx, a lens offering visual comfort for town and city, and Skilynx, for winter sports and particularly skiing. Vuarnet by Mikli is available from 2011, and whilst a number of the styles are perfect for the slopes, the range also offers some very wearable designs for winter sun in the city.

And of course, Vuarnet Vintage styles are going to be in fashion for their wonderful classic shapes and French “flavour”. It’s a brand that has a strong heritage and has earned, without doubt, a prestigious place in sunglass design history.

Decorative art


The Vera Wang sunwear collection launched for the S/S season exhibits great elegance. There is an emphasis on decoration, as expected from the bridal designer who has created dresses for many female celebrities including Jennifer Lopez and Sharon Stone.

Each frame in this collection boasts stone clusters, golden accents and Swarovski crystals. Inspiration has been drawn from Wang’s jewellery range to bring an exquisite luxury to the sunglasses.

Colours are subtle and feminine, with shades of merlot, iris and cabernet predominating. 


Céline eyewear collection

by Phoebe Philo

This collection is attracting some serious attention from the fashion press, owing to British designer Phoebe Philo’s involvement…but also the line has some strong, gutsy vintage shapes such as the one pictured, with clever oversized proportions which give it the glamorous yet edgy feel. And of course the look works impeccably well with the masculine chic theme of some of the images in the shoot. Apparently it’s sold out in Browns in London so good luck if you’re on a hunt for these. Anyone who’s got one and wants to send us a picture, we’d love to see how it looks….unfortunately I’ve not had these in my hands but would love to see what the details are like, the retail price in the UK is “from £180”.

Maison Bonnet, Paris


We will be reviewing optical boutiques regularly; we plan to find some of the most exciting stores across the world. One of my favourites in Paris is Maison Bonnet, a fabulous optical find in a charming, historical area of the city. This chic little shop, located between the Palais Royal and The Bourse, is situated in Passage des Deux-Pavillions. Old Paris and history leap out at you upon entering this cosy oasis, designed in warm chocolate tones.

Maison Bonnet has its own special history. A family business that began in 1930, they create bespoke, exquisitely crafted frames in tortoiseshell, their speciality. Heads of state, Princes and Princesses, politicians and business tycoons, all wear Bonnet frames. Maria Callas and Onassis reportedly had artisanal designs created to their specifications. Continue reading “Maison Bonnet, Paris”


Creative spirits don’t allow a bumpy economy to interrupt plans. Despite rocky global predictions in 2009, Guya Montermini and Ciro Tugnoli launched their first eyewear collection, Blue Magic Eye, at Silmo, where we discovered them. Their risk venture paid off from the debut, as the frames are now sold all over Europe, America, Canada and New Zealand.

The charming design duo have a specific concept for their frames. “We want to create eyewear in clean and traditional shapes, but not the “usual” version,” says Montermini, “and we create frames without thinking about a special target audience. We design what we like, and think about what we would wear. It’s important that the frames are comfortable and easy to wear. We don’t like big logos on frames; that is all too showy and extreme for us.”

Film inspiration

The unusual company name is taken from the movie, American Gangster. “Blue Magic was a famous product in the film, very competitive and very high quality. This is our philosophy for the frames,” says Montermini. Continue reading “BLUE MAGIC EYE”