My degree was in Art and Design and my first job was designing glasses in Hong Kong. I set up my own brand in 2001, and my mantra has always been to have the best quality materials I can buy, with the best finish physically possible, using the best processes and delivering the best design I can create.
I design frames for each Tom Davies store differently, specifically for the store. A lot of my designs for the City store in the boutique at The Royal Exchange are quite understated, as I find people in the City tend to wear a lot more metal frames. However, I’m starting to notice more of my customers here ordering glasses as a fashion accessory, choosing bolder styles to add flair to their business look.
When customers choose a pair of bespoke or ready-to-wear glasses, we advise them to have an eye test done with us first, as our clinics use some of the most advanced Zeiss machinery available anywhere in the world, and the lens we put in the frame and the design of the frame are linked. Ideally we want to design the lenses and the frames at the same time, and if you want the best lenses in the frame, you need the data from our specialist machines to be able to create a bespoke lens.
Pictured above: TD 592 acetate and titanium frames, £395, Tom Davies at The Royal Exchange
To choose the frames, we start by doing a very quick prefit around the shop, where the customer tries on some different frames to look at what shapes work and don’t work. There are two main features I look at here – the shape of the customer’s hairline and the shape of the browline. These are the main structures of the face that define you and I have to pick eyewear that works with these natural frames to make you feel and look fantastic when you have your glasses on.
When we fit the frames we look at the browline and make little tweaks to the frames to bring symmetry to the face. The customer chooses the style they like, then we look at the height of an eyebrow or the slant of the nose to ensure they are as comfortable and flattering as possible.
The last thing we discuss is colour, which is very subjective, but the colour of your eyes is the most important aspect to consider here. For example, for men with blue eyes who usually hate to wear any colour in their frames, a dark navy blue frame will be a fantastic choice.
We use a range of materials to make the frames, including pure titanium and Japanese cotton acetate, and this involves a lot of experimentation particularly with bespoke commissions. Even though it’s difficult to work with, natural buffalo horn is one of our most popular materials as it’s hypoallergenic and 30% lighter than acetate. We source our horn from sustainably farmed animals in India, the UK and Africa, which also supply locals with milk and leather.
Pictured above: LE 59025 natural horn frames, £995, Tom Davies at The Royal Exchange
To make the buffalo-horn pair, for example, eight pieces of horn have to be shaved down to 0.8mm and glued back together to keep the curve. For my own frame I laminated a salmon skin I bought in Finland to give it a subtle texture. I sell quite a few of these now to my customers once they see me wearing them.
Most craftspeople working in the factory require two years of training before they qualify. I’m delighted that I’ve had all my apprentices complete their training and now we are almost finished relocating all our production to London from Asia.
Tom Davies Bespoke Opticians at The Royal Exchange offers state-of-the-art eye examinations, bespoke frame consultations and a selection of ready-to-wear frames and sunglasses. Call in to the boutique, or contact the team on +44(0)207 3711 0012, to book an appointment