A Conversation with Claire Goldsmith
of Oliver Goldsmith Sunglasses

Vidal Sasson Campaign (1960s) featuring Oliver Goldsmith Pyramid sunglasses and Oliver Goldsmith Mask sunglasses captured in 1966

Founded in 1926, P. Oliver Goldsmith‘s self-titled company set out to revolutionise the eyewear business. Creating glasses that transcended mere optical needs, designs in colours such as Caramel SplitRhubarb Chessboard and Bonfire appeared on fashion magazine pages next to the finest Haute Couture creations. Named after a sparkling crew of muses, the OG Icons collection pays homage to erstwhile owners, such as Audrey Hepburn, for who Oliver Goldsmith personally designed numerous styles. We join the company’s current head, Claire Goldsmith, to discuss fashion for eyes, working within a family owned business and her equally directional own label.

Please tell us more about Oliver Goldsmith, both the person and brand.

Oliver Goldsmith is my great-grandfather. He started the business in 1926, as a travelling salesman and optician, but it was his son (my grandfather) who was the true visionary. He transformed the business into its iconic status and produced some of the most famous sunglass styles in history.

How did you start within the family business?

I joined the business in 2005. I started by re-releasing handmade (in England) replicas of some of Oliver Goldsmith’s most beautiful sunglasses. Demand and popularity quickly grew, so I realised I needed to consider a new level of production. Now my collection is handmade in some of the best factories in Italy.

You also create sunglasses and spectacles under your own name.

After working with the OG collection for nearly 5 years, my vision and confidence grew and I realised I wanted to put my own stamp on the industry and the future of the Goldsmith brand. So, in 2009 I launched Claire Goldsmith Eyewear. It is a collection of contemporary and classic styles that are most definitely modern, yet have an indisputable nod to my heritage.

What is the Claire Goldsmith design signature, and can you see parallels between your work and the original Oliver Goldsmith?

The CG signature is a bevelled temple. It’s a design feature that I love, if I see someone in the distance wearing what I think is one of my frames, but I can’t be sure, when they turn to the side and I see that temple, it confirms it. It’s a design alternative to a logo. The main similarity between OG and CG is simply the material choice, with most styles from both collections being made from beautiful heavy acetate. There may be a distant influence there, it’s only natural, but I have tried to give the CG brand its own identity.

Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses have a wonderful link to the cinema and its stars, both and off screen. How did this come about?

My grandfather was a natural when it came to publicity. He was going to the cinema, watching these celebrities perform and witnessing their power and influence over the general public, with that, he just knew he had to get them to wear his frames. He also saw the importance of product placement before it was really a ‘thing’. So he simply went to the recording studios and movie locations, he made friends with the costume designers and designers and through these actions, his frames fell into the hands of the rich and famous and a relationship was cemented.

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Can you pick a favourite from the ‘Icons’ collection? Which one do you wear?

My favourite pair of OG Icons would be the Manhattan. It is a replica of the frame Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I don’t wear it though, it’s not quite my style; I wear the Piero, which is one of our metal aviators. The little rubber OG buttons on the end of each temple are actually original components from the 1970s, my mum found a bag of them in her garage so I incorporated them into the frame design.

The ‘Fish Diamonds’ pair is so wonderful, what is the story behind the design?

I’m sorry to say that I don’t actually know anything about that frame! We have some wonderful vintage versions of it though. It’s a real showstopper.

What makes a great pair of glasses?

The most important aspect to great glasses is actually their fit. Frames that are too small and pinch, or temples that are too long so the frame slips down the nose, or even a bridge that is too big or too small so the lens sits too low or high – there are many reasons a frame can fit badly – and it will be the first reason a frame doesn’t suit someone, less so than the actual style. Find the right fit and a shape that compliments the structure of your face and you’re winning.

What are the steps involved in making a pair of glasses?

I could fill pages answering this question so I will try and simplify it. The main aspects are design, your materials and components, your production which includes your craftsman and finally the packaging, marketing and branding of the finished product. It takes many, many people to take a frame from an idea to a finished product and the key is to use the best; from talented and skilled designers to the finest materials, lenses and acetates. The skill of incredible manufacturers and the enthusiasm and passion of each and every person involved. Use the best and fingers crossed, you end up with the best!