Christopher Wicks, author and designer of the English Laundry brand, started his design career while a teen in Manchester, England during the ‘60s. Influenced by the music culture, Wicks drew designs of shirts and shoes as well as guitars, which then led to home interiors. His passion for all things musical continues to this day and plays an important role in his design credo. Here, Beth Schlau speaks to Wicks about his artistic direction and how it has influenced the English Laundry eyewear collection from Zimco Optics.

BETH SCHLAU: How did you become a designer?

CHRISTOPHER WICKS: I was brought up by a coal miner father and a biscuit-packing mother and fashion and design was not part of our household. However, I had a desire and a passion to overcome my working class roots and I did so by allowing fashion into my life. Designing is a profession that chose me at a very early age. The process starts with a good taste level which then evolves into becoming a lifestylist, i.e., a designer. I’ve always loved the practice of artistic creation, and the design element, whether it be fashion, furniture, or interiors, or in this instance, eyewear, gives me an artistic release which is always looking for an escape.

BS: How did you start English Laundry? How did you come up with its name?

CW: The brand name and concept was conceived many years ago. The initial idea was to have a luxury product in sportswear apparel that was laundered for comfort and because it was designed by myself, an Englishman—hence the name English Laundry. The brand has evolved into a global collection that encompasses outerwear, suits, formal shirts, casual shirts, neckwear, shoes, belts, wallets, headwear, home products, and our latest addition, eyewear. English Laundry is now in most major countries in the world and we hope to progress to selling the eyewear line on a global level in the coming seasons.

BS: Rock ‘n’ roll plays a big part in your designs. Why and how?

CW: Music has always been an important factor in my life and I find that music and fashion go hand in hand. I have always written poetry and songs and last year I recorded my first album, “Stories from a Fractured Youth,” with my band, The Glorious, on which I wrote and sang on all tracks.

There has always been a music movement since before I was born and in most cases a trend follows from that association. Rock ‘n’ roll gave us Elvis and his look, then the music movements that followed—Mods, hippies, punk, grunge, hip-hop, etc.—gave us a fashion look. And eyewear has always played a role in the music world, from the cool glasses worn by Buddy Holly in the ‘50s to Roy Orbisson, John Lennon, Elton John, Elvis Costello, to Bono who makes a statement with his glasses.

BS: Why did you decide to introduce eyewear as one of your licensed brands?

CW: Since I was in my 40s, I have been an avid wearer of glasses, both as a fashion statement and also as a medical need. I believe eyewear frames the face and allows us the opportunity to make a bold or a subtle statement, based on which frames we choose. It was a logical extension of my brand portfolio and something that remains a great passion of mine. Eyewear is also an image builder and brings an air of confidence and a quiet whisper of intellect and mystery. Like what eyewear did for Clark Kent.

BS: What role does eyewear play in your product mix?

CW: It complements today’s fashion as eyewear has become a staple, ranging from the currently very chic “nerd look” to the metrosexual look where the total presentation is key. The eyewear in many cases finishes this look. The amazing frames that are in the English Laundry eyewear line allow us to reach out to a wide audience.

BS: In what ways are you involved in the design of the eyewear?

CW: I have the best partners with many years of experience in this very specialized market. Zimco makes my job very easy as a designer as its development team uses cutting-edge techniques and works with me to create some truly retro-looking, fashion-forward designs for the frames in the line. In the first collection, the designs are based around styles that I personally wear and have accumulated from my many travels around the world. The next collections that are currently in development are some of the most on-trend and fashionable eye candy. And we’ll be introducing sunwear early next year which will follow this philosophy.

BS: Are your apparel elements carried over into the eyewear?

CW: Yes, most definitively. Color and design content is a must when it comes to an eyewear line that accents a clothing line the same as any accessory. The hues of browns, olives, and navy/black combos are very strong looks. And we have stepped out with such things as leather-covered temples and two-tone frames. Many of our signature details from the apparel are carried over. We are working with fine stripes and mini-checks that are used in the clothing collection on the insides of the frames. This makes the eyewear line more in keeping with the details of the fashion apparel.



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