Kirk Originals sunglasses, Simpson London, and the pop-up opening party
The two new brands at this iteration of the ‘Permanent Style presents’ pop-up shop were Kirk Originals and Simpson London.
But while readers will be relatively familiar with Simpson, given I covered their new factory back in November, I’d guess they know relatively little about Kirk.
(The pop-up, by the way, is being held on the third - menswear - floor of Fortnum & Mason in London, from now until next Sunday, the 29th)
The Kirk Originals story goes back to the 1920s, when the Kirk family ran a factory making glasses in London.
As a brand, though, it was born in the 1990s when a descendant of that family, James Kirk, discovered an old trunk of frames made by the factory - largely in the 1950s and 1960s.
Kirk initially sold them off as vintage pieces to clothing shops, but as the supply ran out he began to consider whether the designs could form the basis of a brand.
Kirk Originals launched a few years later, with styles inspired by those original frames and some modern additions; Kirk was one of the first to use coloured tints in their sunglasses, for example.
They were a bit of a cultural leitmotif: bands like Oasis and The Young Disciples wore them, as did actors Antony Hopkins and Gary Oldman.
Although the brand has existed ever since, it drifted, with the frames made in France and then in Italy. Kirk Originals re-launched last year, with the new management bringing production back to London.
In fact, there was a freaky coincidence when the team went to check out a potential factory and the staff were oddly enthusiastic to work with them. Turned out it was the exact same factory James Kirk had set up in the 1990s.
The current range is all handmade in London, and to a really high standard. If you see them in person at the pop-up, that much is immediately obvious.
The styles in this initial, handmade range are pretty chunky: wide and large, with thick frames.
Most of them are too big for my slim face, but they do look really good on others - we sold two in the shop yesterday to guys that really suited the aviator-style Reed frame and the squarer Burton.
I also like the fact that there is no external branding at all - no logos or names, not even a weird little arrangement of screws at the temples.
It’s also quite rare to find a sunglasses brand with a distinct look, given how many boutique ones have launched in recent years.
The current range costs £425, with each style available in three colours and various lens tints.
Plans for the future include a more affordable line with less handwork (£235-£295), and a full bespoke offering.
As mentioned at top, Simpson London should be fairly familiar to readers.
For anyone that missed that factory visit, Simpson has long made the hand-sewn leather goods for the likes of Cleverly, Foster’s and Tanner Krolle. They’ve also had a line under their own name in Japan for a while - but this is the first time it’s been available in the UK.
On display in the pop-up are traditional wood-framed attaché cases (the pinnacle in terms of craftsmanship), various designs of folio, a large jewellery box, and various small leather goods like wallets and passport holders.
My personal favourite is a folio in racing-green bridle leather with brass lock.
I’ve also included a few pictures here of the opening party at Fortnums, which was a really really lovely affair.
So many friends and readers were there, and some great drinks from the 3&6 Bar just next to us (a particularly nice aspect of our location in the store).
Thank you to Fortnums for making us feel so welcome, and to everyone for coming.
I look forward to seeing everyone this week.
For more details on the Permanent Style pop-up, and the brands featured, see the launch post here.
Photography: Alex Natt