When you’re the great granddaughter of famed British eyewear designer Oliver Goldsmith, the chances of you working in the eyewear industry are pretty high. But ask Claire Goldsmith and she’ll tell you that making glasses was the last thing she wanted to do growing up. Though she was surrounded by eyewear until the age of 10 (when the Oliver Goldsmith line was shuttered), Goldsmith studied marketing at Manchester and figured she would pursue a career in the business world. But as she began to study consumer psychology – and what triggers emotions about certain objects – she saw the way people were connected to the “Goldsmith” name, and perhaps more importantly, the way people were connected to their glasses. A chance afternoon digging through her family attic unveiled handwritten messages from British royalty and Hollywood elite like Audrey Hepburn and Michael Caine, all thanking the Goldsmith family for helping to “dress their eyes.” Inspired, Claire decided to revive not only the original “Oliver Goldsmith” frames, but to design a new collection under her own name as well, with a renewed focus on quality materials, strong design principles and above all, good service. The “Claire Goldsmith” collection was launched in 2009 and it appears the family legacy is stronger than ever.
We had a chance to chat with Goldsmith while she stopped in Toronto earlier this month for a trunk show and high tea with Josephson Opticians.
What is your design process like?
For the most part, I like to design on my own rather than designing by committee. I take a week in my design room where I drink lots of Yorkshire tea, listen to my own playlist and get to work. I like to take responsibility for my collections; I design for myself and what I like and what works for me. It’s important not to get sidetracked and look at the competition, as it takes your eye off of what you’re all about.
Tell us about the inspiration behind your latest collection…
I shut myself in a room and looked at cars. My father loves cars and all three of his daughters love cars. For my latest collection, the temples of the glasses are designed based on car grill lamps. It’s difficult to create something visually recognizable, but I think you can see the inspiration in the frames. I prefer to do “branding through design” rather than slap a large logo or stamp something onto the side of the frames.
You place a lot of emphasis on the customer experience. Why is that?
Consumers should ask as much as they can about the product as it taps into your emotions. There is so much choice out there for eyewear, so how do you decide which one is the best for you? I like to tell the person about the story behind the brand. Transparency is important. Humans need emotion and relationships, even through a product or brand. So if you can connect with customers on an emotional level, I really believe that they will buy your glasses.
How do you compete with websites like Warby Parker, which are pushing cheap and trendy frames online?
Warby Parker hasn’t really broken through in the UK, where I live, but I can understand their appeal. However, you’re missing the human touch. In addition to making quality glasses, we try to wow people with customer service and respect that they have purchased something great from our collection.
What should people take away about the Claire Goldsmith brand?
I want our brand to be like the “vintage of the future” – make a good product, treat people right, pay it forward and it will come back.
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