Today has been a busy day, in the morning I was office based trying to sort out various accounting bits (the joy of self-employment, it’s never ending). Then in the afternoon I dashed off to London and headed down to The Royal College of Art to check out an eyewear design competition set by 100% Optical. If you work within the optical industry then 100% Optical should be the eyewear show you need to watch out for because the people behind it are the ones who do shows such as Grand Designs Live, The Ideal Home Show and 100% Design. These people know what makes a good show and it is about time someone brings an eyewear show to London!
As for consumers why should you be aware of this show (even though it is mainly a trade show)? Well your local optician could be doing their buying at this show which will of course have an impact on what you can expect to see in their practices. 100% Optical does have many exciting designers attending with some of the best from the industry so it will only benefit us as consumers!
So why was I at the Royal College of Art? Well I wasn’t one of the judges- thank god, as there was so much eyewear design talent there, it really was a tough job. I was just there as press to watch and observe what was going on and to also report back to you lovely people of course!
The judging panel is as follows from left to right … Jesses Stevens from Finest Sevens, Marie Wilkinson from Cutler & Gross, Roger Pope an Optician & Royal Warrant Holder, & last but not least Jason Kirk, founder of Kirk Originals.
The competition is quite simple and it very much reminded me of my uni days. Students were asked to design either sunglasses or fashion optical frames for either couture high-end OR ready to wear so the brief is pretty simple and easy to understand. Then it is split into different categories depending on the students specialist areas such as womenswear, menswear, textiles, jewellery/metal and product design.
Looking through at all the 32 designs in front of me I felt sorry for the judges because they had to pick the top 8. Now the final 8 are selected their designs will be produced into prototypes and will be displayed at the 100% Optical show in February where finally, a winner will be announced.
3 of the judges of course have a very strong background for designing eyewear against 1 who’s background is very much based in an optician environment. However it sure made for a very interesting debate amongst them. The debate deciding which designs should go through literally went on for hours because each judge had their own opinion as to what they think eyewear should be and what it stands for. Of course there were also a few which were easy to pick as they all agreed.
There was one piece in particular which caused quite a heated debate between the judges, all because the design was based on a brick! Don’t get me wrong I am not saying we can wear a brick on our face, or that we should, but maybe it is a piece of eyewear just for show like a piece of jewellery. It may not serve a purpose but it has that decorative factor and that design in particular was for the couture high-end market. Even in the fashion world we do see a lot of clothing that is not suitable for normal wear, I think the same can be applied to eyewear and today that is exactly what we experienced. Some of us may see eyewear as a medical necessity, some may see it as a piece of art or some may see it as a fashion accessory (I am of course all for eyewear being fashion accessory!). I do think the judges have picked well and have got a good balance across all the things I have mentioned above.
Finally I just wanted to say a massive GOOD LUCK to all the 8 finalists who could be the next UK top eyewear designers Anna Alexander, Melanie Lewiston, Olivia Hanson, Ji Lim, Shivani Chavda, Sofie Van Aelbroeck, Federica Tedeschi and Parsha Gerayesh-Nejad. I look forward to seeing the prototypes during the 100% optical show in Feb.