1st May 2012 On Thursday I visited Hastings, not so far from home, and a place that is full of surprises, from great food to vintage stores to art… I was visiting designer Tom Herrington at his optical shop by the sea! I love this little place and before I knew that it was Tom’s shop, the vintage vespa in the window had already caught my eye…
Tom greets me in ’60s French beret, black polo neck and his oversized Antibes sunglasses. First we take a look around the store which stocks collections you might not expect to find down here out of London, from Oliver Goldsmith to Kirk Originals, and people travel to find him…he loves to break the mould in his choices which is always refreshing.
A similar uniqueness is there at the heart of his own label, RockOptika, which he launched in Paris last September, after 15 years working with other independent eyewear labels in London. The present collection includes 10 very classy designs, 5 for girls and 5 for guys, including punk tortoiseshells (so cool!) and a favourite for me, a small round shape that fits beautifully on my narrow face. I also love the elegant and distinctive French lace.
Tom explains: “My frames are very nicely put together, produced in Italian acetate, and made in one of the traditional workshops in the Jura region of France. I go out there to see them being made, to check on every detail, from the width of the bridge to the final finish. The collection is strong on design, and I work for hours sketching from my imagination….I like the inspiration I get from the 1960s, sci-fi..I wanted strong retro but with a really modern feel. I use a lot of architectural angles which means the frames are quite flat, I think that’s interesting. ”
And the colours? “Well with very strong angles and very strong shapes, I have used classic colours…and that’s where I am trying to carve my niche. I like bordeaux and olive for guys who tend to be quite conservative in their colour choices. And I enjoy tortoisehell which is everywhere, but I think it works and has a lovely classic look, it is so stylish.
Do you follow trends? “There is a fine balance between following trends and doing something that is interesting. So I have classic tortoiseshell but I have added a punk tortoise; and I’ve used lace because it is trendy, but I’ve not used a predictable lace, it’s this incredible blue and gold, it’s wicked. In eyewear, you have to keep an eye on fashion because it drives the industry forward, but I like to do this with my own take on it.”
Asked to comment on what is coming up for next season, Tom tells me about his plans for a new campaign, some very special limited materials he has put away in preparation for the collection, and he alludes to some unique colour combinations…I am hoping for a preview myself in September!
RockOptika sunglasses and spectacles are available at Wolf & Badger, Notting Hill, London (www.wolfandbadger.com), McClintock, Covent Garden, London (www.mcclintock-eyewear.co.uk) and The Optical Lounge, Hastings. CN www.rockoptika.co.uk