Vanessa Harrington + Ann-Margret Kearney

FRAME CHAIN – The pain of misplacing your favourite pair of glasses is something we can all relate to, Annie and Vanessa – the founders of FRAME CHAIN, are no different. It was after losing countless pairs of designer sunglasses that the epiphany of FRAME CHAIN came to light; not only an efficient and aesthetic solution to an everyday problem, but one that doubles as a high-quality piece of glamorous jewellery. This brand has given a resurgence to the glasses chain I once knew to be a “grandma staple” – now spotted on catwalks from Gucci to Chanel, and available across luxury department stores and retail outlets worldwide. 

I would love to know a little bit about the founders of FRAME CHAIN, could you tell us a little about how you two came together? Annie: My path wasn’t really linear, I was obsessed with the entertainment industry for most of my life – a failed professional singer/dancer, so, I headed into marketing in the music and film industry. That was in-spite of studying biology, chemistry and maths beforehand – I wanted to be a surgeon at one point and a lawyer at another. It was my marketing degree that really kept me interested, though. I met Vanessa when I was working temporarily at Oasis – I had fallen up an escalator with a tray of cupcakes, and she was the designated first aid / Visual Merchandising extraordinaire. I consulted in a number of jobs – always in industries facing huge change; I was at Nokia and Microsoft before going to LOEWE. I have almost always had another job as well as FRAME CHAIN, topping up with consulting gigs along the way.

Vanessa: I started off by studying textiles at Loughborough University, as part of my degree I decided to do a year in industry working for a print fashion studio in London – here, I fell in-love with fashion and interior design. After I graduated I dabbled in different areas in the industry, which enabled me to set up my own business in interior styling. I met Annie when I worked in Visual Merchandising and I thought “Oh my life who is this girl?” – the rest is history, she is the best business partner and friend in the world. Above: Vanessa (left) and Annie (right) of FRAME CHAIN, London outside a FRAME CHAIN event at Cutler & Gross

FRAME CHAIN: a solution for your mask

Why do you think glasses chains, which are obviously a necessity to many of us, disappeared in the first place? We always say they didn’t really disappear – they just became less popular – along with trends like MC hammer pants, mullets, stone wash denim, smiley T’s or kick flares. Then, like all good things – they come back eventually; with the help of some tireless plugging, a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work.

Until recent years glasses chains were seen as something only grandmothers wore – my grandma wore fabulous gold chain ones and some with tiny freshwater pearls – I would kill for them now; what do you think enabled the resurgence of glasses chains as a popular ‘trendy’ accessory?  We love this question – go Grandma! There are all kinds of theories about how trends start, and now there is social media to add to the mix; how many people carry a smartphone in their pocket? That brings with it an inevitable shift of behaviour and constant communication, plus there is also a complete democratisation of retail with ecommerce. Before things like Shopify or Instagram we had to solely rely on the taste levels of buyers to add products to a store – so the momentum was strained – now people can build a ‘direct to consumer’ brand in a matter of weeks. We were lucky that the independent eyewear business seemed to kick off around the same time we got started; people generally wanted to consume differently and independent eyewear brands became a much more visible thing. We found people who understood what we were doing and began to grow day by day, chain by chain, customer by customer…we restricted access and focused on fashion accounts. I think we really hit momentum when Browns and Matchesfashion approached us, then, about 2 years ago – Gucci, Chanel, and Berluti were just a few of the brands beginning to push glasses chains down the runway. Brands like those highly validate a trend indeed, now everyone – Gentle Monster, Kaleos and Linda Farrow are echoing what we have created.

FRAME CHAIN: A solution for your eyewear

One thing I find particularly interesting with FRAME CHAIN is the ability to use the glasses chain as jewellery; are the chains utilised more as jewellery or as chains? Annie: Our concept was to create a chain that could double as jewellery with 100% true equal use. Vanessa was a jewellery designer and really insisted on this feature as she didn’t wear glasses, even now she rarely even wears them; she really saw it as something else. I wanted something practical that looked good – Vanessa gave it a beautiful spin and a big point of difference from the very beginning. Judging from what we see on social and in the street, it’s probably 50/50 in terms of how our chains are worn.

The new VINTAGE DISCO collection is fabulous – it seems to encapsulate everything the young people are craving across the world right now; dancing, glamour, getting dolled up and having a good time. Was the inspiration for this collection ignited pre or post pandemic? Also, if you could dress as though you were from only one era of style, what would it be and why? Annie: I love this question. Without fail, it would be the 70’s for me; disco, denim, glam, slogan t-shirts, platforms, sequins, sexy, casual, feminine, suits – oh god I could go on! The inspiration was pre-pandemic, we plan our collections about a year in advance. The original idea was to wear these on a dance floor, so now that isn’t possible, it’s become more about having a little slice of that ‘disco’ mood even if the ‘disco’ itself is absent – a reason to celebrate.

Vanessa: Oh how exciting, I like this game; for me, my favourite era style-wise would be the 1920’s – I love the embellishment and pure decadence.

A solution for your mobile phone: new at FRAME CHAIN this season, MAXSIE and MINI phone chains

In light of the pandemic, the trend of face masks has erupted globally, has FRAME CHAIN joined in with this evolving fashion niche? Well of course – we are in it! We started showing masks on chains almost from the very beginning; all of our chains can be used as a mask chain. We also give reusable masks away for free with every purchase on the web – we are cooking up some other plans, but we can tell you about them later.

What accessories, other than FRAME CHAINS of course, can’t you leave the house without? Annie: I am generally wearing at least two FRAME CHAINS – one for reading glasses, one for sunnies and probably one or two as necklaces. I always wear my diamond ring that was a gift from my parents for my 21st, Manolo Blahnik heels, a LOEWE or Bottega Venetta Handbag and a spritz of BYREDO fragrance. Vanessa: I can’t leave the house without my rings that I have collected over the years, most as gifts from my parents, and at the moment – my mask, of course – with my FRAME CHAIN attached to it!

FRAME CHAIN has become such a well established brand – appearing in most of the major department stores across the UK, as well as across Europe and beyond; what can we expect next? Thank you for saying this – we still feel like we are building and growing – yet there is still so much to do. We do have more exciting new products in the pipeline for next year. We will let you know when we are ready to share!

FRAME CHAIN is a brand founded by two brilliantly diverse and creative women, and their innovative, stylish product range is a testament to them; with such a rapidly evolving brand, on the forefront of a trend that seems to be emerging more prominently in the catalogues of every major brand – I can’t wait to see what comes next for Vanessa, Annie and of course – FRAME CHAIN. Shop the FRAME CHAIN styles online at www.framechain.co.uk  Interview by Victoria G. L. Brunton exclusively for Eyestylist.com