London Fashion Umbrella: Framed! Contemporary Eyewear in Fashion

Moscot Shop at 119 Orchard, New York 1932 – photo from exhibition website

Here in London, I observe that the wearing of sunglasses is more frequently made necessary by hangovers than it is by glorious sunny days! Personally, I’ve never owned a very expensive designer pair – and tend to acquire, break, lose or scratch a succession of cheap ones every summer or holiday. So, the opportunity to see an array of alluring 20th century sunglasses as objets des art, design and desire put me in a pretty sunny mood. Also, I had just been given a pair of fabulous shades as a gift from my flatmate and his boyfriend, so was sporting some whimsy across the eyes as I zipped through Oxford Circus (swelling with London Fashion Week visitors and shoppers) to visit The Fashion Space Gallery’s current exhibition Framed! Contemporary Eyewear in Fashion.

Exhibition installation view of the display cases

The exhibition curated by Leanne Wearzba and Gemma Williams, is the first in a series of exhibitions and events to take place at the Fashion Space Gallery within London College of Fashion which will explore ‘Elements of Fashion.’ The programme series aims to ‘explore the objects and concepts which fluctuate at the edges of the fashion system,’ and to examine the ‘complex relationships between cultural tastes and values, advances in design and manufacture, fashion imagery and patterns of consumption.’

Exhibition graphics designed by Emily Forgot, Learn to Dream Ltd. and David Hardy, London College of Fashion

This sounds like a well-conceived and relevant programme to implement for both student, professional and general public visitors in the heart of London’s fashion retail district.  I look forward to the upcoming events and exhibitions in store and hope that I will enjoy and learn as much from them as I did from Framed!

View of Styling and Collaborations display.

The exhibit is simple in design and layout, yet resplendent with information and visual allure.  An illustrated timeline maps out the history of sunglasses in the 20th century and provides a wealth of information and visual contextualisations to the objects displayed.

1950s sunglasses with piano key motif

The sunglasses are displayed in neat, illuminated perspex cases on a grid of shelving.  Each pair is well-lit and has enough breathing room around it to be viewed as an individual object up close. Stepping back, the cases seem like futuristic wunderkammers that archive sunglasses by age, type and trend.

Sun Slatz circa 1950, courtest of Lawrence Jenkin

I did find myself slightly unnerved by the lack of labels accompanying the displays in the exhibition.  Every object is catalogued and attributed in the visitor leaflet, with designer, date and lender, however I did not follow or search for the information while viewing the display.

Polaroid, late 1970s, courtesy of Polaroid Eyewear

This did in some ways enrich my experience of viewing the exhibition – uninterrupted, as a visual essay –  but my urge to know the who and when for each piece created some tension.

Peter Max for Tura circa 1970, United States, courtesy of Lawrence Jenkin

(Reading the leaflet afterwards while composing this post, it was somewhat difficult to identify which pairs I photographed because some many don’t have indicative titles or attributions.)

Butterfly, Oliver Goldsmith, reproduced from 1960s style, courtesy of Oliver Goldsmith

Framed! Contemporary Eyewear in Fashion is a delightful and insightful start to what promises to be an informative and entertaining programme at the Fashion Space Gallery. So watch that space!

C.W. Dixey, early 20th century, courtesy C.W. Dixey and Son

The exhibition runs through November 3, 2012 

Fashion Space Gallery
20 John Prince’s Street
London W1G 0BJ

Monday–Friday: 10am–6pm
Saturday: 10am–4pm
Sunday & Public Holidays: Closed

Jeremy Scott for Linda Farrow 2011, courtesy of Linda Farrow


Use it Up, Wear it Out, 2012 courtesy of Jo Whelan, Karen Shand and Tamer Fernandes

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