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William Morris Meets William Morris!

Celebrating the one-year anniversary of the creative collaboration of the British eyewear company, William Morris London, with the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow.

 A world-famous designer, craftsman, poet and political activist, the older William Morris was a founding member of the British Arts and Crafts Movement in 1834. His exquisitely designed patterns for textiles and wallpapers are still immensely popular today and William Morris designs feature on literally hundreds of homewear products: from light fittings and bedding to curtains, wallpapers and fabrics as well as clothing and accessories.

The partnership between Robert Morris, founder and designer of today’s William Morris eyewear company (William is his middle name) and the iconic textile designer was brought about by Lauretta Dives, product development specialist and co-owner of Retropeepers, a vintage eyewear company. 

Retropeepers works with a number of different licensors around the world, developing unique frames and associated eyewear accessories for organisations such as the Frida Kahlo Corporation in the US and for art museums and galleries in the UK.

Lauretta Dives of Retropeepers and Robert Morris of William Morris, London

“I simply asked Robert, ‘why aren’t you doing William Morris by William Morris?’ Dives asked Robert at their first meeting at an eyewear trade show in London.

Dives then approached the William Morris Gallery in East London, one of the older William Morris’ former homes and caretaker of his arts and artefacts collection. The Gallery was delighted as they said they kept getting calls for William Morris eyewear, Dives said. “They are delightful and dedicated people and it’s a great alliance. They’ve been so supportive because they love the opportunity to work with Robert who runs the leading British eyewear firm, in creating something new and unique which lives up to the ideals of the great designer - being both useful and beautiful.”

The William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow, London

It is the most obvious of collaborations, said Robert Morris, “For over 20 years I have been asked if we are connected with William Morris the designer and I am delighted that through this collection we can now claim our place in the great British heritage design tradition.”

The challenge however, was to come up with something different, he said. “I needed to create designs that suited the association but which didn’t look like a William Morris London or William Morris Black design. So we had to develop a completely new look”. 

Robert was also attracted by the opportunity to support the William Morris Gallery’s art education programmes both for adults and children, which it runs on behalf of Waltham Forest Council. A percentage of the royalties William Morris returns on each sale is given to the gallery’s charitable arm.

The 18 contemporary optical frames (each in three colours) designed for both men and women are crafted from metal and high quality acetate and feature 12 of the most popular William Morris prints from 1880 – 1905. Each print has been intricately placed on the inside (and sometimes on the outside) of the arms through to the temple tips as an integral part of the styling. Each frame is sold with a matching print magnetic flat-folding case and coordinated polishing cloth.

(article taken from New Zealand Optics Magazine first published in November 2019 by Leslie Springall)

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