By Jillian Urcelay

JU: Your brand is synonymous with bespoke eyewear. How do you believe custom frames change people’s relationship with their eyewear?
TD: For those who say, “I don’t suit glasses” or “I hate my glasses,” then I love making them something bespoke. A great frame can change someone’s life, and a great frame is designed around their natural features, their prescription and their personality all at the same time. There should be no compromise on eyewear if you can afford it. Your face is what identifies you and how the world sees you. If you have a challenging prescription, a large or small nose, a big or small head, basically anything outside the 20 percent of mainstream frames, you are going to struggle to get something you love. Bespoke is at its best when you don’t notice everything which has gone into it, and the result is just effortless.

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the launch of your eyewear line. In what significant ways have your collections grown and changed over the years?
My first ever collection was all titanium and consisted of 18 frames. Twelve of them were rimless because I could only afford the tooling for a few styles. Having rimless enabled me to offer the first affordable bespoke service. If a customer wanted a full rim titanium or acetate, I charged 5,000 pounds for each frame at this point. I thought rimless bespoke would be the thing which made me. The funny thing is, I sold more 5,000 pound bespoke frames than 800 pound rimless bespoke frames in the first few years and abandoned rimless a few years later. I later made software which allowed opticians around the world to create bespoke frames. This was in 2007, and that’s when things really took off.

Why was opening the Tom Davies London factory so important to you?
It’s all about creativity and control of creativity. The small incremental gains to put you ahead of your competitors are what we are all chasing. Having my own factory, where I can experiment, innovate and create real individual difference isn’t possible when you are farming out your creativity through the filter of someone else’s production. You can’t control quality let alone offer something different to the majority of brands. Each production technique of a factory finds its way into every collection, and everything ends up looking the same. When frames arrive from another factory, and you have to sell it, if something is not right, you face a commercial choice and money often wins. It’s really hard to refuse something which is not quite right when you have bills to pay. It’s much better to control the process from start to finish. For example, if I want to hand polish my frames for 45 minutes to add years to the appearance of a frame, then I can make sure that happens, not find out months later that the product is not up to my exact standards.

The 20/20 team was able to experience the Catch London Acetate Kitchen at Vision Expo West. Can you explain the process behind it and your hopes for its future?
I invented this process for myself to design new materials. With most of the world’s acetate coming from a few suppliers, I didn’t want my frames looking like everything else in the market. I wanted to create a new process which would give my frames a unique identity and allow me to maximize my creativity. But once I realized how much fun it was, I started letting opticians play with it. The reaction was incredible. There is so much creativity in our industry, and this was just too much joy not to share. So I brought the kitchen with me to the trade shows. Following this, I created mini acetate kitchens for my reps to carry around to opticians. So now, when you see my reps, you can create your own masterpiece in your store. I guarantee it’s the most fun you can have in eyewear. Hopes for the future? Acetate Kitchens located in my best opticians’ stores. Customers love creating their own frames as well.

You have designed custom eyewear pieces for many films including most recently “Cruella” and “The Matrix Resurrections.” What do you enjoy most about this creative process?
This is all part of my bespoke process. When I create a bespoke Tom Davies frame for a customer, I am creating for their character. You have the control to enhance their appearance and what they should and can be projecting, without compromise. This is the ultimate aim for a bespoke frame. In the movies, eyewear is incredibly tricky because there are so many people involved. So the brief is quite specific. I think the people I’m working with notice how much I enjoy it and want to work with positive people. I never let them down because I love it so much. Being on a film set with some of the most famous people in the world and talking about their nose or eyes, it’s quite surreal. I’d do it for free to be honest but luckily I actually get paid for it!

Finally, are there any exciting projects in the works you can share with fans?
Ha…. I have so many new films coming soon. I can’t tell you about them but at least one of them is going to be the most famous frame in a film ever. Unfortunately, I’ve got to wait about two years to be able to talk about it.■