Liberty London

Blink Interviews: Design Director of Cutler and Gross, Marie Wilkinson

A little while back, I had the good fortune to spend some time working for Cutler and Gross. It was a small diversion out of womenswear into the wonderful world of  glasses, and it was an experience that I treasure. Not only was it wonderful to work for such a well respected, design and quality oriented brand, the team there are a really special group of people. The atmosphere and ethos set by Tony Gross and Graham Cutler is core to this brands success. If you have never spent time in their Knightsbridge stores I urge you to do so.

Each pair of Cutler and Gross frames is entirely hand-made and follows in excess of 30 processes that have been set in place since the first pair was handcrafted in 1969. Until very recently, this took place above the Knightsbridge shop, but in 1982 manufacturing moved to the traditional sunglass manufacturing region of Cadore, Italy. The manufacturing process that Cutler and Gross specialize in is truly a labour of love, with each individual frame being treated as a bespoke creation that takes four weeks to handcraft.

Before the manufacturing process begins, enormous amounts of care and thought goes into the design. When Cutler and Gross started making frames in the 1960s inspiration came from a piece of furniture, a rare slice of film noir or an imaginary concept. Today, design is the responsibility of Design Director Marie Wilkinson, who joined the company in 1982 as an apprentice under Mr Cutler and Mr Gross. Marie expertly marries the heritage and history of Cutler and Gross with future trends. She works closely with Creative Director Monica Chong, and each season they work on themes and concepts for the new collections.

We recently caught up with Marie and we are extremely grateful that she agreed to answer some of our questions.

Tell us about your current design crush
Vidal Sassoon haircuts.

Which comes first for you, the brand’s own handwriting or trends?
The brand’s own handwriting comes first as I know from past experience, Cutler and Gross styles often set the trends.

Do you think commerciality or creativity is the most important?
I think commercial should mean that the glasses should appeal to a broad group of people and this in turn should feed  the creativity.

Does the idea of sustainability impact on your collection at all?
Yes , in that we have used  Vintage sheet acetate in our collections and we have even up-cycled unused stock acetate to create new sheets in a fabulous new tortoiseshell effect.

What are you currently working on and how is it shaping up?
I am working on Fall Winter 2012 ideas for our own collections and for Victoria Beckham’s collection.

What or who are your longest standing design influences?
Mr Cutler and Mr Gross

What’s currently inspiring you?
1950’s furniture with brass legs.

Has your role at Cutler and Gross developed in the way that you anticipated?
Beyond my wildest dreams!

How would you describe your personal design aesthetic?
Louise Brooks in a frock!

What was your first fashion memory?
The short A line mini dresses my impossibly glamorous Godmother wore when she came to our house for afternoon tea in the 1960’s.

Any advise on choosing the perfect frame?

Above all else the shape and the colour has to suit your face , your haircut and personality. Be honest with yourself and don’t just buy the latest ‘trend’. If your face suits ‘cat’s eyes’ only; embrace the cat!

What is currently tempting you into making a purchase?
Maison Martin Margiela with their fabulous furniture.

Sunglasses indoors… Fashion fabulous or fashion faux pas?
Fashion fabulous.

What’s the best thing about your job?
The opportunity to work with such huge creative talents.

Any future projects that you’d like to tell us about?
Designing exclusive glasses for the new Cutler and Gross showrooms in London, Toronto and New York that will be open by the end of this year.

What 3 words best describe what Cutler and Gross stand for?
Stylish, handmade, hand-polished.

Pencil and paper or computer and mouse?
Pencil and paper.

Tell us about your most fabulous fashion moment

The time when I went to Elton John’s home to show him the collection and he loved the glasses and personally made me tea, served in Versace tea cups. He is the most charming host.

Who would you love to work with, past or present?
Ann Demeulemeester.

I feel most creative when…
the sun is shining

Any final word of advice?
I think it is important to have a mentor.
I had the most wonderful mentors in Mr Cutler and Mr Gross, for which I am very grateful.

Marie Wilkinson, Design Director at Cutler and Gross

from the Spring Summer '11 collection, 'The Mermaid and the Officer'

from the Spring Summer '11 collection, 'The Mermaid and the Officer'

Tony Gross and Graham Cutler

Thanks again to Marie for the fabulous interview. If you’d like to read more inspirational interviews, just click here. Enjoy!

Enjoy! Lucy

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