Years of Vision and Style
1969 - 2013
Cutler and Gross was founded by Graham Cutler and Tony Gross who met in optometry school at Northampton College.
In 1969 the pair bought the Cutler and Gross flagship store at 16 Knightsbridge Green where they started creating handcrafted frames above the shop. Clients met in the atelier for a true bespoke consultation. Everything from the milling of the lens groove to the fitting of the hinges was done by hand.
As Tony and Graham designed their own models, they started numbering rather than naming each frame and chose to place the brand's gold foil logo on the inside of each right hand temple. Rather than the logo becoming a gaudy promotional sticker, the frames keep a quiet elegance about them, a sort of firm yet graceful classism.
Design Director Marie Wilkinson joined the company in 1982 when Mr. Gross showed the Cutler and Gross collection at Paris Fashion Week. The brand's classic, iconic frames became known and demanded by a wider international audience.
My idea of design is a bit old-fashioned. It should be practical, functional then look good – in that order”
— Graham Cutler, February 2008
For decades Cutler and Gross frames have relied in part upon their reputation being whispered amongst style and fashion circles like verbal quicksilver, dripping through the ranks of artists, architects and designers that have provided our brand's core custom.
Over the years many companies have opted for mass production, manufacturing their frames from moulds. The Cutler and Gross customer has always been an individual, craving the handcrafted feel of a bespoke pair of glasses, the tiny inaccuracies that give them character and make them unique to the wearer.
Cutler and Gross has remained true to its tradition of handcrafting frames, producing in their own factory in Cadore, Italy.
Cutler and Gross Design Director Marie Wilkinson gives us a peak into the company’s manufacturing process and outlines exactly what it is that makes a pair of Cutler and Gross frames so special.
It’s nice if glasses can be sexy and mysterious. People who need glasses don’t have to feel separated from glamour
— Tony Gross, December 1998
You have been with the brand since 1983. How has the design process changed since you first joined?
In the ’70s, ideas would come from Tony [Gross] or Graham [Cutler]. It was all very spontaneous. Ideas would stem from a shape, a piece of furniture, a rare slice of film noir or just some imaginary concept. The production process has remained. The shape is sketched onto plastic and then manually, with a Jigsaw, cut into basic frame and temple shapes. All processes including the fitting of the hinges and the polishing are done by hand just as they have always been done.
Doesn’t this make the whole process a whole lot more expensive?
Not only more expensive, but it takes more time, and it’s worth it. The tumbling of the frames in the wooden barrels smoothes the surface and prepares them for the hand-polishing without removing too much of the sharpness from the frame edges.
Why not just get a machine to do all this?
It’s these raw, or slightly rough, edges that give many Cutler and Gross frames that hand-finished quality. The frames can be tumbled for longer if need be; this knocks more from the corners of the frames creating a rounded edge; a more processed look.
Is the hinge type significant?
We use pinned hinges. These are secured to the frame with exposed pins. This adds to the product’s raw, honest feel. Most other companies prefer to use heat-sunk hinges; this doesn’t require nearly as much skill.
What other processes are unique to a pair of Cutler and Gross frames?
The hand-polishing process gives the frame an enduring finish, similar to that of a fine piece of furniture—a pure, deep, shiny finish. Because of the time it takes to do this by hand, it is an expensive process. Other companies will crudely dip their frames into an acetone bath to varnish them. With constant wear, it’s more than likely to peel off. It’s a mechanised process, very quick and very cheap. And it shows.