13 Luxury Sunglasses Brands Producing The Finest Frames You Can Buy
A great pair of sunglasses can both transform and define a look, so we’ve put together a list of our favourite luxury houses producing the very best.
Sunglasses are one of those small style details that can have an oversized impact on your overall look. As Jack Nicholson once said, “With my sunglasses on, I’m Jack Nicholson. Without them, I’m fat and 60”. The sunglasses market in the US alone amounts to over $4 billion, which is why every single designer brand has its own line of shades.
But just because a fashion label is deemed ‘luxury’, that doesn’t mean its sunglasses are fully deserving of that moniker. In fact, many luxury brands’ shades are made by one of the two big manufacturers: Luxottica and Safilo.
Therefore, to find true luxury in the eyewear market, you need to source the companies which have made eyewear their niche and their passion – the ones who pride themselves on handcrafted techniques and superior materials. From Germany to the States via Japan, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite sunglasses makers that throw shade better than anyone else.
Jacques Marie Mage
A relatively new kid on the sunglasses block, Los Angeles brand Jacques Marie Mage has made a big splash thanks to its limited production batches that tend to sell out in double-quick time.
Founded by Jerome Jacques Marie Mage in 2014, the brand takes chunky square and rectangular frames and creates masculine shapes that reference the iconic frames of the 1950s and 60s.
The construction of the high-quality cured cellulose acetate frames is meticulous, with over 300 processes involved in the making of each one, and all handcrafted in Japan. Featuring the label’s customary nine- and seven-barrel hinges, its models are bold but not extravagant, with a distinct retro coolness you won’t find anywhere else.
When Linda Farrow founded her eponymous brand in 1970, the former fashion designer was quick to recognise the cachet sunglasses could afford a look. Farrow was instrumental in making sunglasses ‘fashion’, pioneering so many avant-garde styles and working with a slew of houses from Dior to Saint Laurent.
Now under the helm of her son Simon, the brand is once again at the forefront of sunglasses design thanks to a contemporary reworking of a vast archive. One of our favourite styles is the Matisse aviator, constructed from delicately curved titanium plated with 22-carat gold that reveals exposed lens edges. It is the perfect amalgamation of classic style and contemporary finesse.
Many sunglasses aficionados might question what Ray-Ban are doing on a ‘luxury’ list, but it would be sacrilegious not to include the most important sunglasses brand in history. Yes, economies of scale might mean that the company is no longer the artisanal specialist it once was (it was founded in 1936 by Bausch & Lomb but is now controlled by Luxottica) but that peerless heritage will always make it a special player in the industry.
Having popularised such iconic styles as the Aviator and Wayfarer, the brand still offers tremendous value and cachet (original Bausch & Lomb versions sell on reseller sites for up to 10x today’s prices).
Established in London in 1926 by Phillip Oliver Goldsmith, this British heritage brand has been responsible for some of the coolest sunglasses in history, not least the pair worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). Goldsmith was perhaps the first to understand that sunglasses could be a fashion accessory rather than mere devices for optical correction.
Still under family ownership, the brand ceased sunglasses production in 1985, only to restart it 20 years later – and we’re glad they did. Dipping into a significant archive of vintage designs from the 50s right the way through to the 70s, today’s Oliver Goldsmith frames are remarkable for their quality.
The brand mostly uses artisanal ateliers from Japan and Italy to preserve the very best handmade frame-shaping techniques, whether metal or acetate. Styles such as the Lord – designed in 1961 and worn by Michael Caine – epitomise the brand’s depth in heritage, and modernity in style.
Founded by Larry Leight and his brother Dennis Leight in 1986, Oliver Peoples is now under the Luxottica umbrella, which shouldn’t take away from the fact that this Los Angeles eyewear brand is still one of the most stylish in the business.
Oliver Peoples specialises in softer frame shapes than some of the other names on this list, preferring a slender acetate frame with subtle retro styling. Two noteworthy collections revolve around iconic actors Gregory Peck and Cary Grant and the sunglasses they wore in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and North by Northwest (1959) respectively. Effortlessly stylish, both pairs tap into the timeless aesthetics of 50s and 60s sunglasses design, a golden era that has never been surpassed.
Boston Club is not – as the name might suggest – actually from Boston, but it is a delicious rendition of Americana by way of sunglasses Mecca, Japan. Established in 1984, Boston Club is as minimalist as a sunglasses brand gets, focusing on build quality and superior materials.
Specialising in lo-fi unisex styles with a preppy aesthetic, they’re only sold in a handful of boutiques around the world so you may need to travel to find a good stockist. But it will be worth the airmiles.
Founded in 2011 by a South Korean, Hankook Kim, Gentlemonster’s primary raison d’etre was to produce glasses that better suited Asian face structures, since most modern eyewear brands were designed for a western audience. The result was an oversized aesthetic with low bridge noses – features which caught on globally.
With a vast array of sunglasses constructed in both acetate and metal, the brand pairs strong retro styling with a bold and modern twist. Gentlemonster also do some pretty hot collaborations from time to time, previously working with the likes of Moncler, Heron Preston, Ambush and Marine Serre to name but a few.
If you need any clue as to the aesthetic of Retrosuperfuture, you need only look at the name. Founded in Italy in 2007 by Daniel Beckerman, the brand utilises iconic retro shapes of the 50s and 60s and reimagines them in a very futuristic vision, creating frames that are designed to turn heads.
The Serio is one of our favourites from the current collection, evoking the vintage frames worn by Italian movie stars in the 60s, refreshed and updated for a contemporary aesthetic.
When you think about German eyewear, the brand that instantly comes to mind is Mykita. Founded in 2003, Mykita’s frames are handcrafted in its Berlin workshop using superior materials and superb craftsmanship.
Preferring to use strong yet lightweight stainless steel, the brand are unique in using Mylon, a super-high-tech combination of steel and fine polyamide powder that’s fused together using a 3D-printing technology called selective laser sintering.
The result is a completely unique matte-finish frame which it has used to create modern icons such as the Bond, Boom, Dew and Hydra styles.
Japanese eyewear brand Matsuda is widely regarded by those in the know as one of the true pioneers in frame design. Handcrafted in Fukui – the eyewear-making hub of Japan – Matsuda applies an unprecedented level of craftsmanship to its predominantly titanium frames, using old-school engraving techniques and hand-lacquer processes to create one-of-a-kind sunglasses.
They are as much to be marvelled at as they are to be worn. We can’t get enough of the aviator-inspired M3122 model, with its slick double bridge and titanium side shield, but if you like to stand even further out of the crowd, then the circular M3097 model with its iconic titanium mesh should be at the top of your list.
Since it was founded in 1995, DITA has developed something of a cult following for its retro-inspired, avant-garde frames. Hand-finished in Japan to an incredible level of precision, using unique materials such as the super-strong and seriously lightweight beta-titanium, DITA takes inspiration from the high-tech worlds of aviation, nautical racing and automotive design.
Its Mach and Flight collections of double-bridged aviator-inspired frames are second to none in terms of both composition and design and make for a very sophisticated departure from the traditional.
Japanese eyewear maker Eyevan has been quietly producing some of the world’s most exquisite metal (and to a lesser extent, acetate) frames for just over a quarter of a century.
Founded in 1972, it was a Japanese best-kept-secret until 1985 when it was stocked in a single boutique in Los Angeles. Since then, Eyevan frames – which are made in the Fukui Prefecture, aka the ‘City of Glasses’ – have become renowned for their elegant mid-century aesthetic, best encapsulated by the beta-titanium Caldwell model.
Exclusivity combined with peerless design doesn’t come cheap, but Eyevan shades are a smart investment.
Widely regarded as Tokyo’s finest eyewear maker, it used to be that you would need to travel to Shibuya to pick up a pair. Mercifully, the internet has democratised access to this artisanal brand – but they’re still pretty hard to come by.
Founded by Tetsuya Okada as the in-house label for his luxury optical boutique in Tokyo, Okada has used his decades-long experience in the optical industry to ensure he works with only the very best in handmade Japanese eyewear design.
From modern titanium pilot’s glasses to avant-garde oversized acetate wraparounds, Globe Specs is a must-visit the next time you’re in Tokyo.