As part of our series dedicated to understanding Luxury Made in England, CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed, exclusively, Mr Graham Cutler, Founder and CEO of British luxury eyewear maker CUTLER AND GROSS.
In a luxury sector dominated by huge companies which have been amassing licensing agreements of fashion, jewellery and even shoes brands, how is your company positioned?
Since we only produce eyewear we allow ourselves to stay focused on the product which means that every single detail becomes very important. We fuss about the production and the quality to an almost ridiculous level, but that is what true luxury is. It should be a focused approach and in this case bigger is not always better. Being a small company allows you creative freedom and control over the quality.
You have had multiple collaboration with fashion brands. Have you pursued any collaboration into licensing on a long term basis?
Collaborations have never been part of our core business. It is something we like to do with brands/designers we feel fit our design ethos. It is a way for us to reinvent eyewear from another person’s/brands style perspective. It keeps our design team pushing boundaries and developing. We are not Luxottica so big licensing deals do not interest us because then we would have to move to mass production. But we are interested in working with brands who have the same understanding about quality and design, long term or on a project basis.
How important are your mono-brand boutiques in retailing your products? What is your view on online sales.
Different customers have different shopping needs and as a business you need to figure out how to reach out to your customers, and how you meet their needs and expectations. The best shopping experience will always come from our own boutiques because that is where we set the standard of service. But if you already know our product then there is nothing wrong with getting a quick fix online or going into one of our stockist, we provide staff training for our wholesale accounts so the service should always be of a high standard.
You are based in the UK, however you manufacture your products in Italy. Tell us more.
Our factory is based in Cadore, northern Italy because that is where the home of the eyewear industry in Europe has been based for over 100 years. When we first started making eyewear it was all done one by one in our workshop above our store in Knightsbridge. But as production grew we had to find manufacturers who could make glasses to the same high standard and those family run factories were based in France and Italy.
We started off by using 4 different manufacturers but as the eyewear industry changed, and the big brands moved to China, a lot of the smaller factories started shutting down. So to save our production we took over a family run factory in 2009 that was struggling to compete with cheaper mass produced techniques. So instead of cutting corners we added more stages to the production process to improve on the quality even more. Everyone thought we were mad to go against the trend that was being set by the big brands.
Which brands do you consider your direct competitive set?
We don’t feel we have direct competitors in eyewear. The big licensed brands sell logos not quality but there are still a few good eyewear brands who like us who focuses on quality, but unfortunately they sometimes miss the design and fashion mark.
Has quality of finishing, hence durability become of more importance for a luxury consumer? What do you think motivates consumers nowadays to buy a luxury pair of sunglasses?
The trend we are seeing in this current economy is that people are still spending money but they do it more wisely. Key accessories of high quality seems to be an investment purchase. And in the end of the day you wear glasses on your face, it is wise to choose them carefully.
Have you been approach by large corporation? Would you consider selling a majority stake in your company?
There seems to be a lot of investment groups interested in getting their hands on luxury heritage brands, but at this stage we are growing at a steady pace and do not have a need to get outside investment.
Which are the key luxury lifestyle elements which the Cutler and Gross brand embodies?
I believe that our customers get very attached to their glasses and since the design is timeless we like the idea that a customer can come in to our store with a really old pair of our frames and we provide an after service which can make them look almost brand new. You will never look out of fashion with our glasses because we sell design, not fast fashion. It is about creating your look around your glasses, make them a feature that makes you look better or more interesting.
What are your near future plans? New collections, retail expansion, etc.
We are very currently planning on opening a few more stores in key locations. We have a new managing team in place for our wholesale and retail so next year you will see us getting more strategic and focused. We have a strong design team that are constantly researching new ideas and they are currently working with some of the best designers in this word on some exciting projects. All in all it is a very exciting time for the company.
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