I first discovered C. W. Dixey last October and was compelled to write about the range of frames, partially because I loved the designs and also due to the fact I'd never seen or heard of them. Being the official eyewear brand for Sir Winston Churchill is a pretty iconic accomplishment, which made me wonder what kept them off my radar. With a bit of digging, all I could find were lists and lists of incredible patrons: Napoleon, Ian Flemming, Tennessee Williams, Peter Sellers...you can't get much better than that. Nine months later with none of these questions answered, I met with Simon Palmer, Director of the company.
Simon was everything and nothing of what I'd expect from the head honcho for one of Britian's most iconic brands. Well spoken, poised and charming with a beautiful leather briefcase (expected) but also humble, friendly and incredibly relaxed (not so expected). After a few short minutes, it became clear that this is a man passionate about a family business and upholding traditions which, at one point, made the C.W. Dixey & Son name world leader.
Simon kindly showed me a record of the company archives which read like a who's who from the 18th and 19th century. It included a photograph of a custom created telescope for Chinese aristocracy in the 18th century and hand written letters from Sir Winston Churchill thanking the company for their designs. I was in awe. After 250 years at the top of their game, the company reached their peak in the 1970s but with the emergence of a recession and more importantly a desire for inexpensive mass production, something changed. A short thirty years later and it seems as though nearly three hundred have fallen out of public consciousness.
Cut to 2012 and things are on the rise. With the emergence of luxury desire in the BRIC nations, British heritage brands are back on top form. As C.W. Dixey & Son is the quintessential British eyewear brand, it seems fitting that Simon has looked back to move forward.
"I wanted to take the company back to where it was, creating a small number of beautiful things. We have a strong history of working with French artisans and also having French aristocracy as our clients, so everything is created by our expert manufacturers in France. For our newest designs, I've looked at our most beloved and icon items, and given them an update for the modern style hunter."
From the branding and packaging (cases with hand-stamped crests and fine leather pigments) to fine details of the spectacles, everything has been considered.
I asked Simon to bring along a few of his designs to try on, which he showed with pride and excitement. Each item was clearly thought out: the double dot details, the elegantly shaped legs and the varied tortoiseshell hues. I love it all. It seemed only fitting to have them photographed at Pall Mall with it's regal buildings and historic monuments - only the best, for the best.
See the current range of C.W. Dixey & Sons spectacles at CWDixeyandSon.com, and keep your eyes peeled for a new season range launching this AW12.