Anna introduces us to the delights of this modern spectable maker, who has just opened his eighth store in London's Seven Dials.

After breaking countless pairs of sunglasses recently, and about to go on holiday, I was on the search for a new pair that were not only different, but well made and in a classic style that I would enjoy wearing in five years time. During a flash downpour in Soho recently, I found myself taking shelter in Cubitts, a fortuitous and incredibly enjoyable discovery.

The founder Tom Broughton has an eye for business, and this modern spectacle maker opened his eighth store in July on Monmouth Street in London’s Seven Dials.

Joining Britain’s bustling specs and sunglasses market, the first Cubitts shop opened in King’s Cross in 2012. Bringing experience back to eyewear, Tom always loved wearing his spectacles, all the way through his teenage years and twenties. He has rightly observed that for many people buying glasses is the equivalent of going to a dentist rather than shopping or doing something you love. Something he set out to change.

Eyewear has had a rebirth in recent years, after years of stagnation, and people are beginning to express themselves through their glasses again. Explaining the three reasons he launched Cubitts: Tom states that 69% of all people wear glasses (which is more than watches). They are something people need (they have a repurchase cycle) And it is a market where the existing experience is poor…

While working in consultancy specialising in children’s television, Tom always had a dream to design, make, produce and sell spectacles. He met a master spectacle maker called Lawrence Jenkin, who took him on as an apprentice and allowed him to understand materials, design and the relationship between someone’s face and optical measurements.

The Cubitts brand sells both eyewear and sunglasses and the appeal is broad, with the median age of their customer being thirty-eight. The youngest is sixteen and the oldest is 92. Seeing value in creating a brand people care about, they don’t do 2-4-1 offers, or discounts which depreciates the core product. One Black Friday, rather than doing 10% off they did ‘Black Death Friday’, giving away glasses cloths with illustrations that depict the death and destruction of capitalism.

My rainy day encounter and first visit to the shop was the perfect way to try on a large number of frame shapes and styles though purely due to my own incisiveness I plan to return to make the final choice!

For anyone not located near a shop, all glasses are available on the handy home trial service.

And the name? When Tom first moved to Kings Cross London he was twenty years old, and has lived in the same flat there on a road called Cubitt Street for nearly fifteen years. It used to be the building yard of three Cubitt brothers, Victorian engineers who set up the first ever ‘modern’ building and construction company. Tom applied their principle to spectacles, taking a very traditional industry and making it relevant, efficient and modern without compromising on the craft.

So what’s next? Unfortunately, spectacle making is not sustainable. Most high quality frames are made from cellulose acetate, a semi-synthetic material which comes from a plant base (mostly tree pulp and cotton). While it’s non-petroleum based it’s still a plastic and draws on some of the earth’s natural resources. Lenses, too, typically come from a plastic called CR39.

To launch their ongoing REDUX initiative, Cubitts have made ten one-off concept frames from ten different waste materials - potatoes, sheep’s wool, corn husks, chopping boards, plastic packaging, human hair, mushrooms, yoghurt pots, CDs, and cornstarch - all crafted by hand in the King’s Cross workshop. Each will be tested for its suitability, and the most suitable material turned into a commercial range.

With a commitment to producing frames that are high quality and that will last a long time, Cubitts always encourage repairs over replacement - wanting customers to care for their frames, and to extend their lifespan through spectacle care products and complimentary frame services.

Due an eye check and excuse for a frame upgrade? They offer full eye examinations at all the shops. £25 with frame purchase or £40 without.

September 2019

By Anna Bance