Your eyewear isn’t something you should take lightly, and now that it’s scorching hot and the sun is blazing, it’s time to get your summer sunglasses sorted. This is where Taylor Morris comes in. Founded by friends Charlie Morris and Hugo Taylor, the brand stems from an idea that came about after an Ibiza lunch (what we’re currently dreaming of at our desks), and is now comprised of eyewear that combines British sartorial elegance with Hollywood glamour. From the elegantly chic styles to the bold, fashion-forward frames, Taylor Morris have got both your Sunday brunch eyewear and your Ibiza rave sunglasses ready (just don’t be that guy wearing them in the club). With their shared obsession with everything eyewear, Taylor Morris create sunglasses with enduring chic, timeless style and a hint of the British eccentricity that their home of London is famous for.
Their inspirations range from masonry stonework to their worldwide travels, as well as the silver screen and classic Hollywood starlets, such as James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Steve McQueen. With their new frames, The Explorer and The George Arthur, as well as the reimagined Ivory Rollright frame with a 18-carat layer (#baller) over the lens, Taylor Morris prove themselves as one of the most irresistible eyewear brands, with their attention to detail and chic but striking designs making them London’s go-to for dynamic eyewear.
We chatted to founders Charlie Morris and Hugo Taylor about how they started, their love for silver screen starlets and how London inspires their fun and fabulous eyewear designs.
You were friends before you started Taylor Morris – what made you want to start a brand together?
C: Hugo and I used to work together and have been close friends now for over 8 years. We both re-launched the Chinawhite nightclub, running their PR & marketing. Long nights meant shades being permanently attached to our faces and when we eventually got to the office, we both were always wearing different sunglasses which we both admired. Then after a long boozy lunch in Ibiza with all our best friends and loved ones, we came up with the idea. First came the name, and then everything else followed, now we are here three years on! It’s been a rollercoaster ride, we have learnt so much it’s crazy.
H: Charlie and I had always shared a similar aesthetic taste. We loved the same brands like Ralph Lauren, enjoyed the same restaurants and destinations as well as also developing crippling crushes on the same super models! It was however a complete shared obsession with eyewear which led to Taylor Morris.
What’s the design process like for creating sunglasses and where do your ideas usually come from?
C: The whole process from starting to finishing a collection is incredibly long. Hugo and I get a lot of inspiration from our travels, we usually come up with the theme and tone of a collection and then we start doing a variety of mood-boards. Once they are done we start sketching out the shape and ideas of the frames. Then it’s put in to CAD drawing, which then gets put in to a technical drawing. Which then finally gets sent off to make a first prototype. It’s a very long process.
H: Our design process is slow. We hate to rush as we tinker so much from CAD to technical to 1st sample and then final sample. All in all its about a year to develop a frame. It’s very challenging but immensely satisfying when you get it right. Our inspiration comes from all around us. I love looking through old books of my favourite movie stars like James Dean and Jack Nicholson as they are always wearing the coolest and most individualistic frames. When selecting colours it can be anything from the masonry stonework on a classic building or the feathers of a British game bird. We try to keep our eyes open all the time!
How does it work in terms of cooperation: will one of you come to the other with an idea or do they always arise together?
C: Sometimes it’s together, other times we find things alone and show with each other. We have a very similar taste, so usually we like each other’s choices… but of course from time to time, we might butt heads on something, which is healthy I think. The luxury of having a third business partner is you can just put it to a vote and he has to pick. I always win!
H: By no means do we always agree but we have learnt to trust one and other when somebody insists. Charlie has an amazing eye for detail and quality craft. If you were to hugely abbreviate it you could say Charlie is about the feel and I am about the look. One idea we have been wanting to develop for ever is a collection inspired by Native American Jewellery.
Some of your main design references include Hollywood stars like James Dean, J. F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Steve McQueen – what is it about old Hollywood glamour that inspires your designs?
C: Hugo and I both love the silver screen era, we actually designed our first collection on that, but some of the pieces have stayed in the collection, that’s probably why people still hear about it here and there. The tag line for that collection was “British sartorial elegance with timeless Hollywood glamour”.
H: They made sunglasses go beyond been a functional object to one of form. They put their personality into a frame. I am always thinking about who would wear our frames when designing. Also all the people you mention above have an enduring chic, a timeless style which I hope resonates with Taylor Morris.
Do you have a design you’re most proud of?
C: I will have to say the George Arthur, which is one of our latest frames out. Hugo and I usually work together on all of the frames, but with the last collection we only launched two frames. So we both kind of worked on one frame each, I’ve made the arms a lot thinner than what we have done previously, the whole frames feels more slender and petite. It’s quite a classic shape, but with a modern twist.
H: We have a gold lens and tortoiseshell frame “ZERO” from our latest Explorer Collection. It’s 100% pure Taylor Morris in that it amalgamates both classic and modern, with its own slight eccentricity.
You’ve been going a little while now – how have your designs progressed since the beginning? Do you still have designs you’ve been selling since day one?
C: Yes we do have a few left from day one, it’s hard sometime to retire something you have worked so hard on, but you have to learn how to let go, as you must keep things feeling fresh. We are thinning down our collection at the moment, bringing it back to the roots of Taylor Morris and why we started it up.
H: Well first off we knew nothing when we first started apart from how to buy sunglasses. So I hope we have improved! However, two frames from our first collection virtually built the business and still sell very well today. It’s hard not to be nostalgic. We have however learnt who we are and who our customer is. Our frames now have a clear confidence and style which is uniquely Taylor Morris. I think that’s why we have so many people coming to us saying they now never wear anything else but us! Such a cool compliment!
You’re a properly British brand – does London style inspire your design process?
C: Of course London is huge player for my inspiration, mainly the people I would say. I get so much from my friends and family that live here. We are a London born and bred brand after all, London is our hub for creativity.
H: We are both born and raised in London. We have seen it change and develop so much in the last couple of years. London style is unique and purposeful but elegantly subtle. London pays great respect to its heritage and also its legacy. You only have to stand next to The Tower of London and see The Shard behind to appreciate the dynamism of our capital.
What’s the idea behind the RollRight sunglasses design and why do you think it’s so popular?
C: The name Rollright comes from The Rollright Stones which are a complex of three Neolithic and Bronze Age megalithic monuments near Oxfordshire in the English Midlands. Our brand mark is three gold plated circles on the arm of the frame, representing honesty, loyalty and generosity. The three cardinal virtues of friendship at the centre of Taylor Morris brand ethos, as there are three founders, three best friends that started this up.
H: It all started really when Charlie and I wanted to create something which paid respect to British sartorial elegance but also had a big hit of rock and roll chic. Think Great Gatsby meets Keith Richards. From this was born the RollRight (named after the stones in Oxford). I probably see 2 or 3 people per day wearing this frame in London in the Summer. It suits 99% of face shapes and is iconically Taylor Morris.
Where did the very glam idea to use 18 carat gold for your limited edition RollRight sunglasses come from?
C: It’s on the Ivory white Rollright, which is our fastest seller to date, we sold out of that pair within months last summer. So we brought it back this summer with an 18 carat gold lens and did an exclusivity with Harvey Nichols on it. Made sense really.
H: It’s a simple case of sometimes more is more.
You’ve also introduced two new styles – The Explorer and The George Arthur – where did the idea for these come from?
C: Hugo found this amazing photo of Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy of him wearing a dope pair of aviators. We got some initial inspiration from that, then incorporated some of our hexagon logo in to the design and made the frame feel more sturdy and robust for a true Explorer. The George Arthur was created to introduce a more affordable unisex frame, which suits practically all face shapes. It has a very classic shape and adds a touch of style to any outfit.
H: Charlie really pioneered the George Arthur as a smart and preppy frame suitable for all ages and personalities. Sometimes a smart pair of shades is the only one you need no matter the occasion or outfit! The Explorer is for those who want to get out there and see the world. My uncle is a biologist and during his 20s spent months in the Columbian rainforest collecting butterflies. He still wears the frame he took there in the ’80s. It’s this idea of a traveller’s essential piece of kit which inspired this frame.
What tips do you have for someone who isn’t sure what sunglass shapes suit them?
C: Hugo and I made a little face shape guide recently, for example… if you have quite a round face pick something more rectangular, try and refrain from choosing an overly thick frame as this can add weight to the face. For a more square shaped face, pick a smaller round pair. It will create a great contrast between the natural lines of the face and crafted curves of the frame.
H: I always say to trust your first instinct when selecting. There are certain rules, as Charlie stated above, but always remember you wear the frame and not the other way around.
What can we expect next from you guys?
C: Hugo and I have few exciting plans up our sleeves, we are doing our first collaboration with a British racing car company, Morgan Motors. Morgan cars have long become famous for their unique blend of charisma, quality materials, craftsmanship and performance. So there is no question our team-up will be next level.
H: We launch our first collaboration in December. I am immensely excited as it’s the perfect marriage of heritage and legacy with another uniquely British brand.
Favourite foreign (or British!) location to wear Taylor Morris?
C: On a hot air balloon, looking over the Sossusvlei desert in Namibia Africa. Google it, it’s mind-blowing. I even have savage vertigo, and loved it.
H: At home nowhere beats The Scottish highlands (on a sunny day). Abroad I would have to say Namibia. We shot a campaign there about a year ago and it totally rocked my world.