Viewpoint: Diary of a Spectacle Designer
Tom Davies takes the opportunity to look back as his company approaches its 20th anniversary
Author: Tom Davies
This November I’m going to be 20 years old, or rather my brand is. In my world, they are the same thing. Sometimes the lines between being Tom Davies and running House of Tom Davies are a little too blurred for my liking. I was 27 when I decided to launch an eyewear brand in my own name. In fact, I was joking when I first mentioned it to someone. The person thought it sounded good and I decided at that moment to go for it. I’ve been going for it ever since.
For a long time, I was ‘that young designer’ then at some point, people stopped saying that. As the business begins a third decade, I’ve suddenly realised that it is not a start-up anymore. That might sound a bit ridiculous but that’s how it’s felt all these years. When you have Luxottica on the horizon, you always feel a bit like a start-up. Twenty years has gone in a blink of an eye and I still feel like I’m just getting going.
Do you remember when you realised you were a grown-up? I do. Officially it was when myself and my wife had our first baby but really, I think it actually happened 10 years earlier. I wanted to stay 19 forever and turning 20 was daunting. As my brand prepares to leave behind its teenage years, I’m starting to take stock of everything that has happened and is happening around me.
I had a director leave the company this month, who had been with me for 14 years. I went back to get some photos for a slide show at his leaving party. Who were those kids pretending to be grown-ups? Fresh-faced youngsters throwing parties and events, building factories and flying all over the world.
The air miles I’ve put in this past 20 years. I dread to think about it. I’ve got two million Avios right now and can’t use them fast enough. Even in the next three weeks, I’m flying to Munich, Montreal and Buenos Aires. In between that, I’m hosting 500 people in my factory for a 20th birthday party, providing my personal bespoke service to the Brentford FC players, making glasses for a major new Disney project, while also finding some time to design my 2023 collection, which is late. So much for calming down as I enter the next stage of life.
Yesterday, someone sent me a photo from Dubai. There is a company there that has totally ripped off everything I do. Their website has even stolen my text and some of my images. A few years ago, that would have sent me into a spin, it would have upset me greatly. The first word I used when I saw this is unprintable, but moments later, I smiled. Not because ‘imitation is the greatest form of flattery’ – balls to that – but because I know that you can easily copy the look but the heart of a brand can’t be copied.
Over the years, I’ve seen them come and go. Instead of getting upset, I tried to marvel at my global influence and calmed down, had a coffee and went back to my inbox.
I had lunch with Rob Morris a few days back. He’s just sold his company, William Morris London, and he was in mourning. I’m surprised he didn’t come all dressed in black. I’d wanted to hear all about it. How it felt, how much money he made, what are his plans now? I’ll keep that conversation confidential but, for people like us, we live and breathe our brands.
I sometimes wonder if I should have called the brand Tom Davies. Would it have made things any different? The truth is, I don’t think I could have made it this far if I’d called it something else.
In fact, after 20 years, I can honestly say that looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. Here’s to the next 20 years. I am, and remain, as excited as ever about making bespoke glasses for people all over the world. To do this job, you have live it.