London’s style set descended on Oxford Street last Friday night for the launch party of eyewear brand Kirk Originals most recent collection. The blazing evening sun set the scene perfectly: as the golden rays turned the London skyline into a patchwork of gilded silhouettes, the blazers came off and the shades went on, and a host of smartly attired men and women made their way through the doors of Private White’s stylish Mayfair boutique.
Private White – with its focus on quality materials and classic British elegance – was a fitting venue for Kirk Originals to show off its new range of luxury sunglasses, its second collection since the relaunch of the brand last year. Having spent the walk from Bond Street Station basking in glorious UV radiation, the event felt like a very timely reminder of the importance of keeping one’s eyes protected from the sun without sacrificing style to safety. We pushed our way past perfectly-fitted shirts and summer dresses to be greeted by an outcrop of glass podia, which lent a measured air of grandeur to the stunning selection of sunglasses encased within.
Kirk Originals are the choice for anyone who isn’t afraid to be bold below the brows. Their frames tend to be big and boxy, taking their cue from classic retro styles from the 1950’s and 1960’s, the era when Kirk Originals (then called just ‘Kirks’) made a name for themselves. They’re the sort of sunglasses that radiate confidence and cool – even if you knew nothing about sunnies, you can somehow feel their iconic status just by looking at them (admittedly, the glass plinths probably helped create this impression).
Although Kirk Originals have been around for just shy of a century, it was during the 1990’s that the brand’s chunky silhouettes came to be synonymous with the spirit of British creativity and innovation, when the shades were donned by Britpop legends Oasis and renowned thespians Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman. These endorsements are neatly evocative of the brand’s DNA, which appeals to young disciples of cool as much as older, more refined and self-assured gentlemen. Both of these demographics were in evidence at the bar of the launch party, where a dedicated team of stylishly attired waiters were plying guests (among whom was that most sartorially distinguished of TV presenters, Mr. Dermot O’Leary) with beer and wine.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given this heritage, the strongest moments in the collection were those that harked back to the glory days of cool Britannia; such moments were plentiful. With chunky round frames galore and finishes ingreen alongside traditional tortoise shell, scarcely any of the items in the collection would have looked out of place covering the eyes of a rock star.
Also on display at the launch was the Made in England range, a core collection which forms the backbone of the brand and embodies the company’s core values of quality British craftsmanship and architectural precision in manufacturing. Lurking further into the showing area were a selection of smaller collaborations with some of the coolest names in fashion. Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green was perhaps a too obvious choice of partner, but anyone who has seen the collection will agree that it lives up to the prestigious reputations of both brands. The collection with Band of Outsiders, which has also recently enjoyed a successful relaunch, proved that Kirk Originals can apply an optical know-how to the LA-born brand’s take on preppy chic, and the collaboration felt very fresh and contemporary.
Judging the reaction of the crowd, many of whom looked like they could well have been trendsetters in the heyday of both Kirk Originals and British style generally in the 1990’s, I think it’s fair to say this is the start of a new chapter for the brand, which may well see it go on to reclaim its former crown as king of the British eyewear industry. Priced around the £400 mark, it’s not unreasonable to predict that the shades will soon be spotted in both the edgy heart of East London and on the streets of the ancestral home of British menswear, Savile Row. Anyone with an eye for stylish accessories, an appreciation of brand history, and an aversion to being blinded by the sun (all of Off The Cuff’s readers, we would hope) needs a pair of Kirk Originals in their wardrobe (or dressing cabinet, or wherever you keep your sunglasses!).
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