Tom Davies: Bespoke British Eyewear for the Modern Man
I recently found out the cause for the colour of my eyes. I’m not talking about my hazel irises, but rather the easily and oft occurring pink to red which I thought was due solely to being a workaholic and light sleeper. Well, that is a part of it, but Sachin at Tom Davies eyewear in the Royal Exchange, London, informed me that I have nearly twice the blood vessels in my eyes as most human beings. Wow, I never knew! Certainly the photographs of my inner eye on screen did show a crowded river delta of crimson, unchartered blood vessels. This was one of numerous procedures I undertook as part of my journey into the world of British bespoke eyewear designer Tom Davies, and which would result in a beautifully crafted pair of glasses made just for yours truly.
After the thorough medical eye exams, store manager Qiraat and colleague Sofie chose about 30 different frames for me. They continued to put these on me and shook their heads yes or no, all the time a mystery to me as there was no mirror provided for me during this part of the process. The idea behind this was for them to see what was suitable for my face, what looked good on ME, devoid of any preconceptions or socio-cultural influences which I might have had about what I thought would look good on me. So as much as I loved ‘Grace Jones’ as a child, perhaps cyber mask-style glasses weren’t such a good look for yours truly.
Qiraat and Sofie narrowed it down to three, and the one I liked best, well, it WAS the one I liked most from the beginning, so I guess my taste wasn’t so bad after all! Although I loved the idea of hand carved horn, I could not resist the gorgeously random pattern of a brown tortoise shell cotton-acetate, with flecks of sapphire blue here and there. They were simply beautiful.
With the frames chosen, they used all sorts of tools and apparatus to measure my bridge, my temples, my brow-line. With all the information gathered, they placed the order, which would take about three weeks, due to the bespoke process. The last individual touch was very cute: on the inside temple one could choose a name or phrase up to 25 characters to personalise the frames even more. Tom Davies for… the obvious choice would be ‘John-Paul Pietrus’, but it just seemed TOO obvious. So I chose that gorgeous phrase from Yves Saint Laurent I love: Love Me Forever or Never. I believe my bespoke Tom Davies and I will mutually live out that motto.
JPP: Have you always been an eyewear designer? What inspired you to embark on this career?
TD: I graduated with an Art and Design degree and didn't really know what I wanted to do. I went to Hong Kong for the adventure, to see if I could get an exciting job. I did. The idea of designing glasses for a living had never occurred to me but it didn't take long to realise that this is, in fact, the most important personal design in fashion. Something which helps you see and which defines the wearer. Amazing!
What separates Tom Davies (brand) from ’the rest’, so to speak?
Bespoke! People don't like their glasses. This is because there are far too many compromises involved in shopping for frames. First of all, my glasses will fit beautifully. We take detailed measurements around the head, specifically around the ears and nose and then design the frame of your choice to balance on your head. We also take photos of you and discreetly tweak the shape to work off your natural features, such as your brow line.
What inspires your design?
People do. When I design a frame, I think about who is going to wear it. Why. How old they are. What will this frame do to enhance them. I draw on the bespoke work I still do for hundreds of people personally each year, as well as the 60,000 my designers and workshop make each year.
Do you have a muse, male and/or female?
I suppose I should but... nope.
Do you think there is a big difference between men’s and women’s eyewear? What are your considerations when designing men’s pieces?
I could fill a whole article on this subject. The bespoke rules I follow work for both men and women, from that perspective, they are the same. But the results are totally different. More and more these days frames are becoming more individual. Designing for men and women is totally different. Women are far more adventurous in general. Men often want to be, but don't have the confidence to step slightly out of their comfort zone. I like to work to their natural features and personality and then when it is bespoke, you can generally get away with something a little more stylish, because it is so well cut to their features and personality.
Are there any celebrities who sport Tom Davies eyewear (men and women)?
Ed Sheeran, Heston Blumenthal, Clark Kent (in the last Superman V's batman film) Brad Pitt, in the recent Allied film and the late Carrie Fisher was my best customer at Sloane Square.
What has been your biggest career challenge?
Starting my London factory... it’s still challenging me!
What is your trademark, or tying theme in your design?
It’s hard to say. I've signatures in all my frames but they are very subtle. I'd say my overreaching trademark really is Bespoke. Many people try to imitate what I do but no one is really close!
What has been your breakthrough moment?
There are many, but I can share two key moments. First, there was the realisation that I was 100% going to start my bespoke brand. I worked out a way to weld titanium without tooling. I spent my early career in Hong Kong working both on the factory floor (designing machines for our prototype room and production flow) and I was frustrated that the brands I was designing for basically didn't fit people. The next big moment was when I opened my Sloane Square store. It was a real game changing moment for me and the brand.
Have you ever had any design collaborations?
Yes, lots. I love working with other creative people. It’s a real pleasure. Right now I'm working with ZEISS on some advanced lenses which project AR content on to the lens. Kind of like Google glass but on a normal looking frame.
Where are you based and where/what do you call home?
I live in Richmond, London.
What do you love about London?
I love the history of London and the international mix of people. It’s a fantastic city and I couldn't live anywhere else.
What are your plans for this summer?
I've a lovely holiday planned to Naxos in Greece with my family. We've been going there for 10 years now and it’s a place I can really relax. Then, I'm off to China with my Dad for a mixture of work and pleasure. In July through till September I'm working on my new London factory as well. I got the keys last week and I'm now busy recruiting and training the next generation of British frame makers.
What inspires you daily?
I have to say it’s the people I design for. There is nothing better in life than standing in front of my nose bars in one of my stores knowing that at that moment, you can create someone a frame, which can literally change their life. That might sound too dramatic but how people see them and perceive them will change when you create some amazing frames. I also know that they will be the most comfortable they have ever worn and the fit will be so good that they won't be slipping down their nose and that the lenses so sharp I will be giving them clearer and less distorted vision. It’s a real joy.
What are your current projects?
London factory, new store in Covent Garden (number 5 in 3 years!!! yes, people like Bespoke glasses) Expanding my wholesale team in America and starting my New York office and ... I'm moving house!
What does the future have in store for Tom Davies?
World eyewear domination!