3 Questions With Marie Wilkinson, A Boss Lady In Eyewear Fashion
A Lady With A Vision
Marie Wilkinson: A Vision Like No One Else
Marie Wilkinson is coming to Montreal during the Festival De Mode & Designe celebrations and we HAD to know more about this woman who shaped the eyewear industry since the 80’s.
Indeed, Antoine Laoun Opticien is celebrating their 10th anniversary at FMD and you know it’s official when they made they had the icon coming over for a special meet and greet.
Marie Wilkinson is more a designer, a business woman, pioneer and everything that could come to your mind.
Her success story isn’t one of those who started with a viral post or a moment.
She made to understand the ins and outs of the eyewear industry.
Paying attention to details was her focus. She got a position at now the legendary brand Cutler and Gross and even clients were not trying to give her a shot. She persisted.
Over time, her eye, flair and a deep desire to satisfy customers helped her shape her career.
From managing design and being in key positions in the company. Marie Wilkinson made a name for herself for her bold approach in eyewear and her non-arguable tastemaker skills when it comes to frames.
Today, we had the chance to talk to the designer about her career and figure out see the whys and hows of the pioneer.
MGS: When you first got started at Cutler and Gross, you took your time to really understand the ins and outs of the eyewear industry before you could climb the ladder. What would be your advice for upcoming designers that are making their debut at prestigious brands.
When I first started at Cutler and Gross I was fortunate enough to be meeting with the customers in the original shop in Knightsbridge every day, and I learnt from every encounter with them, whether it was choosing frames, working with a bespoke request or adjusting their frames for the perfect fit. It’s possible to glean a lot of information about what customers want from their glasses.
Cutler and Gross customers are extremely loyal to the point of possessive about the brand and are always eager to share their own stories and passions.
It’s important to understand the brand and the market you are designing for, as well as understanding the expectations of your boss and the extent of the skills of the factories you are working with. Take any opportunity you can to visit factories and talk to the technicians.
MGS: Known for the infamous names of your frames, what was the craziest name that either you or your team came up with and how did it happen?
Mr Gross in fact chose not to name the Cutler and Gross frames – he felt the names would date before the designs! However, we were allowed full artistic license with naming the colours; Humble potato is a legendary name for a soft semi opaque griege colour with a touch of pink – it came about when we were thinking about things we take for granted and to celebrate the overlooked things that are the fabric of life.
MGS: With technology becoming more and more advanced. What do you think will be lost from the traditional craftsmanship of making frames and is it important to keep it alive?
Craftmanship is a series of design decisions made by incredibly skilled and informed people.
I can only speak for the Cutler and Gross factory when I say that the new technologies that are being invested in improve the quality of our glasses without impeding the integrity and spirit of the frames.
Technology has enabled us to make more sophisticated designs and more ambitious glasses whilst still being good value.
MGS: The Cutler and Gross brand is really amazing at collaborating with different brands to create products with a twist. Is it hard on a creative standpoint to make those collabs happen?
The collaborations with independent designers always start with conversations. This way points of view and stories can be exchanged and then the synergy between us becomes apparent.
Once there is a meeting of minds, then the project flows joyfully. Giles Deacon has worn glasses for many years and had very firm ideas and specific taste in glasses.
The collaboration with Martin Margiela was different in that we were encouraged to think in an MMM way; we wore the famous the white lab coats to conceal our ‘Cutler and Grossishness‘
MGS: Since the 80’s, have you seen a change when it comes to women holding decision-making jobs at major corporations? If so, what do you like about it?
I was initially drawn to optics because it seemed to more egalitarian than other professions and indeed at college, my course was 50/50 men and women.
My first experience working with smaller Italian factories, Dolina, amongst others, was owned and run by sisters. The Cutler and Gross CEO is a woman. And like all the women I have worked with, as they are hard and demanding on themselves, fairness and diligence prevails.
Come see Marie Wilkinson live as she opens up about her career at Festival Mode & Designe by grabbing a passport ticket for the festival.
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