With a background in fashion, art direction and visual marketing, British designer Laura Nicholson knew exactly what to do when she couldn’t find glasses that gave her “that falling in love feeling”. Disenchanted with large optical stores that offered rack upon rack of generic designs, she created the kind of glasses she wanted to wear – bold, beautiful and unapologetically conspicuous. According to the Larke ethos, glasses should not be designed to disappear amongst your features but to have serious presence and be a significant part of your look.
Working from her atelier tucked away on a cobbled street in London’s Bloomsbury, Laura now produces two collections per year. Although Larke eyewear is designed to be genderless, some Larke glasses nevertheless tend towards a more chunky and masculine style, while others have a softer outline and more delicate shape. (This does not stop the hip, artsy Larke customer from experimenting, however, with both men and women occasionally opting for the unexpected.) Certain themes run through every collection, with the Larke aesthetic encompassing strong but streamlined linear shapes, generous frames and angular edges. A core colour palette of black, tortoiseshell, grey and midnight blue is updated seasonally to include complementary shades such as forest green, vampish oxblood or translucent blush.
Laura was determined that her frames would be handmade, and finding the right team to manufacture her designs was crucial. When she discovered an English family-run workshop with 50 years’ experience and a vast archive of rare, high-quality acetate, she knew she had found her dream studio. As well as the impressive level of artisanship she witnessed, she was also blown away by the choice of unusual and inspirational coloured and patterned acetate blocks that the workshop held and could make available for her use. Much of this stock is no longer produced, meaning that many of her glasses are genuinely unique and impossible to replicate.
True to Laura’s vision, Larke eyewear is entirely made by hand. The frame parts are milled and shaped by expert craftsmen before being hinged together – with hinges made in-house – and hand polished. Each arm is stamped with a hot gold foil logo, which is subtly positioned on the inside as befits Larke’s understated branding. But while the frames are made using traditional, time-honoured methods, Larke eyewear features lenses produced with cutting edge technology, such as Zeiss solar protection.
Since its launch in 2013, Larke has garnered accolades from both the eyewear and fashion industries, being shortlisted for the prestigious Hall of Frames Newcomer Award in 2014, and working on collaborations with some of the coolest names in design. Larke Optics was selected by Wallpaper* magazine to create a series of products with London based studio FRANK for the Wallpaper* Handmade exhibition at the Salone del Mobile in Milan in 2015. And Laura recently designed eyewear for renowned Danish fashion designer Stine Goya’s catwalk shows, producing gold sunglasses for her spring/summer 2014 show and frames in teal, duck egg blue and graphic geometric patterns to complement the autumn/winter 2014 collection. Meanwhile, dress designer Kate Halfpenny – whose clients include Kate Moss, Erin O’Connor and Emilia Fox – and model Daisy Lowe are also fans of Larke eyewear. Laura has even designed a bespoke pair of glasses for eyewear icon Elton John, who commissioned Larke Optics to make Battersea Power Station-inspired glasses for a private performance at the newly reopened site; the resulting frames, which featured a silhouette of the iconic building in matt black and pearlescent white, embellished with Swarovski crystals, did not disappoint.
Having already achieved so much in such a short amount of time, it’s fair to say that Larke has made a seriously big splash on the eyewear scene. As Laura explains, the idea behind the name Larke is the sense of “embarking on an adventure”. Put on a pair of Larke glasses and you’ll do just that.
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