Claire Goldsmith Keeps It in the Family
“A good pair of sunglasses will make you look hot no matter what,” said Claire Goldsmith—and she should know. The London-based designer is the great-granddaughter of Oliver Goldsmith, who became London’s leading creator of high-fashion frames when he launched his label in 1926. The still-family-owned-and-run brand was favored by Audrey Hepburn (remember those black stunners in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Oliver Goldsmith), Michael Caine, Peter Sellers, and Grace Kelly, who had 42 pairs. Dior and Givenchy commissioned Goldsmith to make custom shades for the runway, and Vidal Sassoon enlisted OG to design the iconic pyramid glasses, shaped specifically to complement the hairstylist’s arched bangs, featured in a 1969 campaign. “[My grandfather] broke the mold,” asserted Claire. “And he built himself a reputation of being the best.”
He may have been the best, but Goldsmith’s business, which in its prime turned out eccentric styles like butterfly frames, winking shades, and Union Jack glasses, shuttered in 1985. He was forced to close his doors due to the original logomania movement and the popularity of sunnies embellished with the emblems of big brands (Gucci, Versace, and the like). “When I was little, I actually recall saying to my dad, ‘Can you get me a pair of Gucci sunglasses?’ And I just remember his face—he was horrified,” Claire said.
Years later, Claire found herself studying marketing at college, where she specialized in heritage brands. “Finally, I kind of naturally came around to thinking, Well, hang on a minute, my family has a heritage brand. Why don’t we make glasses anymore?” She couldn’t find a single reason why the market should be deprived of OG’s fit, craftsmanship, and utterly unique wares, so in 2005, Claire put Olivier Goldsmith back on the board. Today, OG offers vintage shapes as part of its Icons series, as well as ready-to-wear and custom-fit styles, all of which are handmade in England (just as her grandfather would have insisted). “Someone described us as the ‘best-kept secret in eyewear,’” Claire recalled. “But I’d really like to be less of a secret.”
After five years of reworking her kin’s eccentric designs, Claire had racked up her fair share of inspiration, and in 2010, she decided it was time to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and bow her own brand. CG Eyewear, a dynamic line of made-in-Italy frames, was born. “CG is a whole lot more personal and emotional,” Claire told me. “I would say with Oliver Goldsmith, I’m a narrator. But with Claire, I’m much more sensitive. I think it’s nice to have a playground of sorts where we can produce glasses at the same level of quality and care, but aesthetically, we’re free to do what we want.” Naturally, she’s influenced by her grandfather’s handwriting, but Claire insists that her own collection is younger, more colorful, and “you can clearly see that it does not look vintage.”
As far as her hopes for her fledgling brand, Claire offered, “It would be so lovely to get people to start buying some really good, well-designed eyewear. It’s such an important accessory. People always say, ‘Oh, my God, your lenses are amazing [compared with big-name designer styles]. Like, noticeably better!’ We just have to catch [clients] first, and then we’ve got them for life.” Seeing as Oliver Goldsmith and Claire’s line are stocked at more than 300 points of sale worldwide, including Barneys New York, it seems more and more sunglass connoisseurs are falling into her well-lensed net.
—Katharine K. Zarrella
Photo: Courtesy Photos