Are you glasses, contact lenses or sunglasses made in Great Britain?
I was at the opticians in June (in 2013) and I realised that it was not clear where most of the spectacle frames and lenses on offer were made. Most High Street opticians need to be more knowledgeable and more open about the origin of the products they sell. I thought I would do a bit of research so we can all buy British made glasses and British made sunglasses. This is what I have found so far. Are there any more glasses or contact lenses that are made in the UK?
Algha Group Ltd. (Savile Row Eyewear) – Wiseman’s – made in London – http://www.algha.com – metal frames – fabulous round (as in John Lennon’s glasses), panto, half-eye, oval, clip-on, rimless, aviator, etc. frames – available (with lenses) from stockists listed on their website – Frame prices from around £300. On their website they say “All of our frames are handmade in London”. Savile Row were founded in 1898 and are now part of the Inspecs group.
See this BBC article about Algha – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22766785 – the other manufactures I list here might dispute the claim in this video that they are the only frame maker in the UK!
Roger Pope and Partners – Independent Optician in London – Holders of a Royal Warrant By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen – Perhaps surprisingly Savile Row frames are the only UK made frames they stock. At Roger Pope you can though have bespoke spectacles made for you by two individual frame designers based in the UK. I know nothing more about their bespoke made frames than that. One UK lens manufacturer, Norville, is included in the lenses they use; the rest being foreign. The majority of their spectacle accessories are made in Germany or Italy. Eye tests. Possibly they do not do contact lenses. Open Monday to Friday 09.00 – 17.30.
https://www.coronationfestival.com/the-event/exhibitor-news/119-new-bespoke-eyewear-launch-from-roger-pope-partners – Diamond encrusted specs by Roger Pope!
According to the internet (and I know nothing more about it) pq Eyewear are launching a range of 3D printed spectacles and sunglasses called “Springs” and they are described as being made in the UK – http://www.dezeen.com/2013/04/10/springs-3d-printed-glasses-by-ron-arad-for-pq/ – http://pq-eyewear.com. Their first ‘D’ frame collection was launched in March 2015 and is both sunglasses and optical glasses. No mention is made of country of origin on their website, but some of the pictures appear to show the words “Made in England” written on one arm of the spectacles, so if you are interested it would be worth asking where these glasses are made. No mention on their website of how to buy these glasses or how much they cost – http://pqeyewear.com
Haycyon manufacture British made motorcycle goggles in Hertfordshire, England – http://halcyonclassic.store.buegle.com/index.php/2/ – Haycyon also make motorcycle mirrors and classic car mirrors. Manufactured in the UK and based on the original RAF flying goggle of the 1940’s Halcyon Goggles are a popular choice for use with all styles of open face helmets. Leather or PVC. Wholesale or via their website. Prescription lenses can be accommodated with the Halcyon lens frame by your optician (+6 to -6 lenses) or Halcyon goggles can worn over prescription glasses. Possibly you could wear Haycyon goggles for skiing / snowboarding over your prescription glasses? Or I wonder if the likes of Premier Optical or Opera Opera could make you glasses / sunglasses suitable for skiing or other sports?
I found Haycycon goggles on the Davida Helmets website. Davida helmets – stylish handmade open face helmets made in England. Davida are now the sole UK manufacturers of open face motorcycle helmets – http://www.davida.co.uk
Despite their protestations about being a British brand, I note that William Morris spectacles are in fact made abroad. Likewise, Cutler and Gross glasses are made in Italy.
There are many other ‘English’ brands also being sold using PR and hype to unsuspecting Brits, Europeans, Japanese and the Americans giving the impression that the product has been made in England. Frames now tend to be produced in China mostly and possibly in Europe.
Specsavers – frames and lenses supplied from Italy, France, China and Korea.
Dollond & Aitchison / Boots – lenses are possibly supplied by BBGR and possibly still made in the UK at a former D&A manufacturing operation or perhaps they are made in France. BBGR are a French company who bought the Dolland and Aitchison manufacturing operations in 2001. Dolland and Aitchison were subsumed into Boots Opticians in 2009. Boots Opticians is controlled by Alliance Boots, which holds a 58% share, while Italian company De Rigo holds a 42% share. Boots UK Limited (Boots the Chemist) is now American owned and part of what is now know as Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. Boots frames are generally made abroad but some frames Boots claim are made in the UK – you should ask them for British made frames but I think they will be hard if not impossible to find.
Optical Express – didn’t respond to my enquiry about where their products were made but I understand their frames and lenses are made abroad.
Vision Express – frames and lenses are made abroad.
So basically the big High Street opticians only sell 100% imported frames (and possibly lenses too). There might be some very English names marked on inside of the temples but you will not find made in England glasses at these big retailers.
I asked some online opticians about where the frames and lenses they sell are made. GlassesUK.com suspect their fames are made abroad (and I suggest they are correct about this), although their lenses are apparently made by a firm in the Midlands; glassesdirect.co.uk (French optical group Essilor) believe some of their frames are made in the UK (I am not convinced this is the case and I have been told they are all made in Asia) but most are made abroad and again their lenses are apparently made in the UK; lensWay.co.uk (Vision Direct) appeared not to understand the question and we can assume all their frames and lenses are made abroad. Cubitts have all their frames made abroad, although they do use British made lenses. Well Dressed Dad explains what he considers the advantages of buying spectacles online (principally cheapness and avoiding the dominance of the Italian companies Luxottica and SafIilo who make most of the world’s “designer” frames).
The big eyewear manufacturing and retail companies, who make and sell the big designer name brands, the Italian companies Luxottica, SafIilo and Marcolin do not manufacture in the UK. There is some information about their brands (Armani, Oakley, Rayban, Paul Smith, Chanal, Gucci, etc.) here and here.
Opera Opera are a British company (established in 1978). They manufacture off-the-peg and bespoke custom handmade prescription glasses, spectacle frames and sunglasses in-house at their own English eye glasses frame making factory – using the brand name of Harpers. They make plastic frames only. They are able to make a one off copy of any vintage plastic frame. Supplier to theatre, television and film production companies. Made in England. As well as their own manufactured eyewear Opera Opera also stock European made spectacle frames and sunglasses, so check what you are buying is made in the UK. Opera Opera also stock Saville Row Eyewear. At 98 Long Acre, London, WC2E 9NR. Telephone 020 7836 9246. No internet sales. Eye tests. Not contact lenses. Near Covent Garden tube, open Monday to Saturday 10.00-18.00. Frame prices start at around £180 (sunglasses start at £205) and the average price of frames is £275 (plus lenses). Custom frames start at £425 (plus lenses). I note their retail business is up for sale which is a shame and asking for problems as they will potentially lose their only guaranteed outlet in the future. They moved at the start of 2016. After 33 years in Covent Garden, Opera Opera are now at 20 Percy Street, London, W1T 1DZ (on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Percy Street; near Russell Square Tube station and Goodge Street Tube station) and operate a by appointment only system – http://www.operaopera.net
TEYES (pronounced “Ties”) magnetically connected eyewear “have been designed in London and Made in England” by a company called Magneteyes UK Ltd. Lenses can be replaced, they have extendable arms for a comfortable fit, they weigh 11g (without lenses), a headband to keep the glasses around the neck when not in use, they are screwless and magnetically fasten across the bridge of the nose. They come as off-the-shelf reading glasses with lenses included or frame only or with single vision prescription lenses for reading or distance lenses (with anti-scratch and anti-reflective coatings for extra). Prices seem very reasonable (as of 3/6/16) with reading glasses for £35 and prescription glasses for £50-£65. Colours are black, red, blue, white and clear. They also do sunglasses at £40 and replacement lenses for £18 for readers and £25 for prescription lenses. Free UK shipping. One size. Available from their website – http://www.magneteyesuk.co.uk
Walter and Herbert are a company that is new to me. They are one of my twitter followers. Their twitter tagline is “Beautiful eyewear designed, manufactured and tested in England.” It appears the company was founded in 1946 as the Optoplast Manufacturing Company Limited and was once “the largest producer of spectacle frame sides in England”. Of production today they say on their website that their frames are “Skilfully crafted in our factory in England”. This implies they still have their own factory, but no information is given about a current UK factory although they do mention new machines arriving at a factory in Liverpool during 2014 on their timeline. They sell mostly acetate frames made from foreign sourced acetate, suitable for prescription glasses and sunglasses. I can find no indication on their website that they can provide lenses and their is no indication of price on their website. They have a shop in London near Covent Garden and their frames may be available elsewhere. At some point I will try to visit their London shop to find out more about this company – http://www.walterandherbert.com
Edward Gucewicz – http://www.gucewicz.com/about/ – glasses frames made from horn and bone in the UK. Sunglasses or they can fit prescription lenses. Prices range from £600 to £1200.
Banton Frames (Banton Frame Works) eyewear is made in Britain, in Scotland. Their frames are made from wood, aluminium, and acetate This expanding companies website was launched sometime around 2014/15 and they are currently running a kickstarter campaign. Sunglasses and I assume frames into which you could get an optician to add lenses. They don’t seem to have prescription lenses fitting service – http://www.bantonframeworks.co.uk
Moat House Eyewear frames are made in England, made from wood. Stockists are listed on their website or you can purchase online via their website. All processes, including glazing, are done in-house – http://www.moat-house.com
Premiere Optical – Make handmade spectacles, and sunglasses, and do spectacle repairs, and they are able to make a one off copy of any vintage plastic frame – made in the UK – retail or trade – basically at Premiere Optical you can have any style, any frame, any size, any colour & any lens that you want, including metal and rimless frames, but they very much specialise in plastic frames – available at selected opticians and online at the Premier Optical website – http://www.premiere-optical.co.uk – frames and lenses – Custom made or choose from one of their existing designs – Premiere Optical also make classic and / or modern glasses for the theatre, TV & film industry. Hand-made, bespoke glasses made in the UK in any style, frame, design, colour, size & lens. Their brand name is JB Handmades. Their range is split into “maids” (for women), “blades” (for men), “shades” (sunglasses) and “tailor mades” (custom made), as well as Michael Cain, Johnny Depp and Retro styles. Prices for frames starting from around £100. I would highly recommend Premiere Optical for excellent service and quality glasses – http://www.premiere-optical.co.uk
http://www.specrepairs.com – for spectacle repairs. Also spectacle re-glazing.
Mills & Meyer bespoke have been producing bespoke, handmade glasses since 2015. They have a large collection of their own designs that customers can buy ‘off the peg’ or they can customise them to fit perfectly and even design totally bespoke frames for customers on a one to one basis. They are unique in that they 3D scan their bespoke eyewear customers building a virtual model of their head on a computer on which they design a pair of glasses to fit perfectly. Once happy with the design, they 3D print a full size prototype so that the customer can try them and they can check for fit and style. Finally they hand make the frame. They specialise in handmade buffalo horn glasses but they can use any material from acetate to wood or even something more unusual. They are shortly going to be launching their e-commerce site so people will be able to purchase online. These are exclusive products, handmade in England. They use Italian acetates and naturally sourced Buffalo horn. Their website mentions visiting their shop which I assume is in Westerham in Kent. They do not mention fitting prescription lenses on their website – https://www.millsmeyer.com
LARKE Optics glasses frames are made in England (from Italian acetate). They will provide lenses but they do not say where they are made. Stockists are listed on their website or you can visit their London showroom. Off-the-shelf or bespoke – http://larkeoptics.com
Tender Sunglasses are a new line from Tender and are hand made in England. Available online only from The Trestle Shop, but they may become available in stores. Non-precsription dark lenses, but an optician could probably insert prescription lenses. I am not sure who makes these for Tender. Priced £445. I discovered these on The Tweed Pig. I think Tender produce low volumes and and therefore have limited availability.
Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses are made in Italy, Japan, Germany and England. Stockists are listed on their website. I’m not sure how you tell which ones are made in England, except perhaps by asking, and I think it is just their bespoke and custom sized frames that are made in England. I am not sure who makes their UK made bespoke frames for them. Presumably one could have prescription lenses fitted in their sunglasses if required.
Fan Optics – I came across this company on the internet and don’t know much about them, but they appear to manufacture plastic glasses frames and sunglasses for men and women in the UK (using Italian acetate). They do not offer a pescription lens fitting service for their frames, but stockists are listed on their website. Interestingly they say they are “designed in Amsterdam and handmade in England” – http://fanoptics.bigcartel.com
The only UK stockist of Fan Optics is Mcclintock Eyewear, an opticians who have a shop in Covent Garden in London. Fan Optics is not mentioned on the Mcclintok website though and this opticians do not stock any other British made brands. C.W. Dixey & Son frames, which they do stock, are made in France, as are YMC v Mc Ginn frames and Kirk Originals are made in France or Italy (in 2018 Kirk Originals have launched a small collection of made in England sunglasses too). Paul Smith frames are made in Italy or Japan. It has been suggested to me that Brian (Bonafide) McGinn glasses are made in the UK, but actually they seem to be made in France according to McClintock Eyewear – http://www.mcclintock-eyewear.co.uk
Kirk Originals prescription glasses and sunglasses are mostly made in France or Italy but in 2018 Kirk Originals have launched a small collection of made in England sunglasses too – https://kirkoriginals.com
Established in 1777, C.W. Dixey & Son of London claim to be the oldest independent eyewear company in the world and distinguished clients have included various Royalty, Sir Winston Churchill and James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, but sadly their frames (and lenses?) are made in France according to their website. However, their Facebook page claims their glasses are made in England and France, so it might be worth asking them for made in England glasses. I did ask them; all their frames are made in France, although they can offer bespoke glasses that would be made in England. I note C.W. Dixey no longer have physical premises, but retail online and though other opticians. http://www.cwdixeyandson.com
E B Meyrowitz in the Royal Arcade, Old Bond Street, London show a pair of made in England glasses on the front page of their website (picture below). Off the shelf or bespoke, most frames are acetate although water buffalo horn and shell are also available. The three E B Meyrowitz practices in London, Paris and New York are independent of each other. There is an interesting article about E B Meyrowitz dated April 2011 on the Gentleman’s Gazette site. Frames are made in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Morocco, India and possibly even England. Try asking for English made frames and lenses; as they show English made frames on their website’s homepage they might have some – http://ebmeyrowitz.co.uk
The Eye Company in Soho, London only stock foreign made off-the-shelf fames, mostly from Japan, Italy and France. However, they also offer a bespoke service and it says on their website that they have their own “master frame-maker’ and can make frames to a customer’s chosen design or replica frames. Having checked with them, their bespoke acetate frames are made for them by a frame maker in Norfolk, England – http://www.eye-company.co.uk
Anglo American Eyewear apparently closed their UK factory down years ago and now make their frames in China. However, according to their website they do still have a facility in London that can hand make a copy of an existing frame for customers (although strangely this service is only advertised on the Anglo American US (.com) site and is not advertised on the Anglo American UK (co.uk) site). Anglo American Eyewear spectacle frames do have the word “England” on the arm, but that does not mean they are made in England! They did not repond to my enquiry about country of origin. Anglo American Optical Company LTD was founded in London in 1882.
David Cox Bespoke Eyewear offers an exclusive bespoke frame making service to opticians. All frames are produced by hand and made to order. David Cox can make frames to a customer’s chosen size or replica frames. He has worked for many of the London opticians mentioned in this article. If you are an optician I can put you in touch with David Cox.
British spectacles manufacturers Cambridge Optical and Paul Green Eyewear have long ceased as manufacturing enterprises and appear to have closed down now.
Sunwise sports sunglasses list some of their sunglasses as being ‘made in Great Britain’ on their website. My understanding (from comments on a British Family article) is that they are assembled in Great Britain, but the parts made overseas. As James at British Family says “it is a fine line between assembly and manufacture” but it seems in this case that these sunglasses are not actually ‘made’ in Great Britain, so I feel the Sunwise website is a bit misleading – http://shop.sunwise.co.uk
You could also consider vintage eyewear. I got a couple of old English made frames at the Sunday UpMarket in London at a very reasonable price. Except perhaps with sunglasses, you will of course have to pay to have them re-glazed, and if you are buying online you might not actually like them when you wear them for real. You might try http://lunetteslondon.com (they have a stall at Brick Lane vintage market and some other stockists, so you can try them on or you can buy online; country of origin is not given online so you would need to ask) for example or online only http://www.deadmensspex.com (re-conditioned frames; country of origin is not given so you would need to ask; they also sell on eBay) or Roope Vintage (who sell some unused vintage glasses & sunglasses, as well as modern foreign made reproductions; they can also arrange to fit frames with prescription lenses; unfortunately they don’t give country of origin information so you would have to ask). Retro Spectacle specialise in the sale of vintage spectacles – if known they will specify the country of origin. Many of the frames they have were made in Britain. As they are also opticians we can provide any prescription lenses. Online only as far as I can tell. Retro Spectacle also attend vintage fairs and events giving people the opportunity to try on frames and allowing them to dispense more complex prescriptions .
Occles make blackout sunglasses in the UK. Blackout sunglasses basically block the sun completely while sunbathing while allowing you to tan without the usual white lines traditional sunnies might make. Additionally they can aid relaxation by allowing you to effectively block out light and get some much-needed rest, for example if you are travelling or after working a nightshift. At £22 a pair (+£3 postage) they are a bargain. Occles went into production at the start of 2015 and are available in white, carbon or aqua – http://www.occles.co
Polaroid Eyewear is now part of the Italian Safilo Group. They have manufacturing plants in Italy (x 3), Slovenia, Scotland, the United States and China, and production is also outsourced to third-party manufacturers in Asia, Italy, and the U.S. ‘PLR Ecommerce, LLC’ own what is now a separate company who appear to be making Polaroid cameras again. My understanding is that Polaroid was an American company previously. Polaroid cameras used to be made in Scotland but not any more. Some Polaroid lenses are still made in Scotland, whereas their frames are all foreign made. Presumably Polaroid lenses are available in opticians, but no mention is made of this on the Polaroid website; it just sells various sunglasses and no country of origin information is given. I guess some of the sunglasses on the site might be fitted with lenses made in Scotland, but there is no way to tell from their website. There’s an interesting history of the Vale of Leven Industrial Estate in Dumbarton and Polaroid here.
Norville spectacle lenses are (all?) made in the UK. They have manufacturing facilities in Gloucester, Bolton , Edinburgh, Harrogate, and Seaham. They also sell foreign made frames and so on – http://www.norville.co.uk
Scotlens contact lenses are made in the UK. Manufacturers of ‘Nocturnal’ lenses, ‘K-Contour’ contact lenses and ‘One-8’ lenses. Presumably available at some opticians.
Daysoft contact lenses are made in the UK and are very reasonably priced. Available online – http://www.daysoftcontactlenses.com. They also sell glasses on their website but these are foreign made. However, the lenses for their glasses are glazed to the required prescription at a UK laboratory, which is located just a few miles from the Daysoft contact lens laboratory in Blantyre. The glasses frame and lenses are then assembled in the same lab before being despatched. http://www.ronhamilton.co.uk – the blog of the Chairman of Daysoft.
Does anyone know of any other glasses, glasses lenses, or contact lenses that are made in the UK?
For glasses cleaning cloths why not use SELVYT cloths which are made in England. For well over 100 years SELVYT has been the world’s leading brand in quality polishing cloths for the jewellery, watchmaking and silversmiths trade. Also cloths for glasses cleaning, plasma screen cleaning, cleaning guns, cleaning cars, cleaning brass or wooden instruments, household cleaning, etc. Manufactured in the U.K. SELVYT is a division of Edmund Bell Ltd a British textile company established in the 19th century, who supply curtain lining and blackouts.
There is also Town Talk Polishing Co. Ltd. – 98% of their products are produced at their factory in Bolton, Lancashire. They source the sonic unit machine and the microfibre cloth from overseas although these are finished and packed in the UK which is something. All the Town Talk polishes, silver and gold polishing cloths, jewellery cleaners and household cleaning products are 100% made in England. Check the packing when thinking about buying for the words made in England.
TouchscreenKleen by Screen-Kleen Ltd is made in the UK and is a solution and cloth for cleaning touch screens. I am not sure if the whole product, including the microfibre cloth, is made in the UK – http://www.screen-kleen.com
Ally Capellino sell a small selection of British made small leather goods (glasses cases, glasses chain, key fobs, wallets and suchlike) and British made umbrellas. They do not say where the leather for these items are sourced and their other items are foreign made. To find these items I searched the word “British” on their website. They also use British waxed cotton in some products, although the products themselves are foreign made – http://www.allycapellino.co.uk
Notonthehighstreet have a number of British made soft spectacle cases (note not all their glasses cases are British made).
Small Castle make some leather glasses cases. Made in England.
Raw Leather make some leather glasses cases. Made in England.
Does anyone know of any other UK made spectacle accessories – glasses cases, eyewear holders, etc? I wonder where the free case you get with a new pair of glasses is made? – they don’t label this on the cases you get and I suspect the answer is China.
Here is a blog all about specs. – http://www.spectaclesblog.com
Looking after your glasses. I saw a variation of the following care and cleaning tips for glasses on a leaflet from Specsavers Opticians:
- Clean the lenses with an appropriate cleaning spray and micro-fibre cloth
- Avoid putting your glasses face down on any surface
- Use both hands to remove your glasses to prevent undue stress on the side of the frame
- Keep your glasses in the case provided whenever you are not wearing them. This will further reduce the possibility of scratching, protect against breakage and will help maintain a comfortable fit
- Avoid leaving your glasses in extreme temperatures.
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