(From the article Mademoiselle Robot loves Robert Roope
When I was introduced to Black Eyewear, I was very curious
about their creator, Robert Roope and his passion for Jazz.
So I wanted to ask him a few questions about eyewear icons
and the relationship between his designs and jazz...
MR: Tell me about your career.
Robert: At 14 trained as a Navigation Officer in the
Merchant Navy. At 16, in 1959, I sailed from Liverpool on my
first voyage to the West Indies and South America. We traded
with countries along the Pacific coast, Ecuador, Columbia,
Peru and Chile. It was awakening and fun.
My first job as an optician was in a Dollond & Aitchison
practice on the Seven Sisters Road, Holloway in 1962. Here I
dispensed hundreds of NHS glasses including those round gold
frames that were later to be made famous by John Lennon,
Ozzy Osbourne and many others. I was stunned to
discover the variety of beautifully made spectacles that
were arriving at the shop.
The attitudes towards spectacles in the 60s were changing.
Specs were becoming fashion accessories instead of badges of
In 1967 I went to work in an optical company in Copenhagen,
Denmark to distribute eyewear from Germany, Italy, Spain and
the USA. The best brands were from manufacturers like Carl
Zeiss, Metzler, Marwitz, Rodenstock, Indo, American Optical
In the early seventies I was sent by the American Optical
Company to South East Asia to install optical factories and
teach local people how to make spectacle lenses and fit them
to frames and sunglasses in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur,
Bangkok, Hong Kong and Jakarta.
I returned to UK in 1975 and decided to set up my own
opticians practice in St Albans in 1979, 31 years ago.
In 1998 I started selling my collection of vintage eyewear
through the shop website. My large vintage collection of
frames and sunglasses had been gathered from my travels
abroad, particularly in Europe and Scandinavia.
MR: How did you get into eyewear design?
Robert: My passion for eyewear design came out of a wish to
rescue the bold simple iconic eyewear styles of the 50s.
They had been replaced in the 80s by wall to wall unisex
metal oblong frames in gunmetal and bronze. It was clone
Britain, sameness, monotonous, characterless. I launched the
Black Eyewear range in 2005 to put 50s designs back on the
MR: Tell me about your relationship with jazz.
Robert: I've been a jazz fan since I was 14. I got hooked on
the first Jazz LP I could afford called 'Gone with the Wind'
by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
I loved the bebop era of jazz in the late 50s with Jazz
greats like Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker,
Charlie Mingus, Theolonius Monk, Sonny Rollins, Max Roach
and many many more. I went to see them whenever I could in
London, particularly at Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club. The music
was so exciting, liberating and empowering. The spirit of
improvisation was key to this, a great feeling of freedom
welling from the music.
In Copenhagen 1969, I was a member of the Monmartre Jazz
Club and one late evening after a few Carlsbergs I played a
very short duet with Count Basie on the piano. This was
probably the height of my musical career. Dexter Gordon was
a regular at the club and I also met Ben Webster, Coleman
Hawkins and Phil Woods.
Jazz has kept me together during difficult times in my life.
Miles Davis' 'Porgy and Bess' and 'Kind of Blue' were often
godsends during these times.
Favourite Jazz musicians: Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Bud
Powell, Dave Brubeck, Cannonball Derley, Chet Baker, Paul
Desmond, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz, Art Blakey.
makes an iconic pair of sunglasses?
are iconic if they transform the face and add character and
mystery to it.
year in spring an elderly lady customer comes to my
Opticians shop and says "Mr. Roope, I want you to make
me look like a movie star". "Which one this
year?" I ask her. We choose one and by the time she
leaves the shop she has almost become the Movie star she
wants to be.
your creation process?
I visualize a face from the past. A look, a style, a
character then emerges in my mind and I begin framing the
face with a shape to suit him or her. I search around for
the style shape for this face and begin to create something
new if a suitable shape does not exist already in my
I'm constantly scanning passers-by and observing the glasses
they are wearing, I visualize more suitable eyewear for
them. I am very conscious of the geometry of the face and
aware that face shape and character can be seriously altered
by the shapes and colours you add to the face.
MR: When were you the happiest?
Robert: Walking in the woods.
MR: What were you like as a little boy?
Robert: Hyperactive playful troublemaker.
MR: What was your dream job growing up?
Robert: Zeppelin pilot.
Many thanks to Laetitia Wajnapel for the use of this
MademoiselleRobot.com is a Fashion and Lifestyle blog with a
Modern Vintage twist. © Laetitia Wajnapel
also caught up with Robert on 21st July 2010 and here is the
Q/A they did together:
Digger: What gives you the most pleasure from running the
Robert: I like to help our customers find what they want.
Itís always a pleasure to find a unique frame or sunglass
for a customer that looks fabulous and fits comfortable and
fits the image that the customer has been searching for. We
know this will be a one-off look, not one of the masses.
There is only one like that.
Digger: What sorts of people come to Robert Roope Vintage and what
kind of feedback do you get?
Robert: People who come to us have been trying everywhere to
find something different to wear. Often, they have been
looking for a very long time in vain. Most of our Robert
Roope Vintage customers are interested in fashion of the 40s, 50s and 60s.
They are usually very stylish in appearance and have a
strong sense of what they want to fit the outfits of the era
they are wearing.
Digger: Why do you think people are so interested in retro
Robert: People are interested in retro and vintage because
in our rapidly changing world, stability, security and a
sense of belonging are essential to feeling okay. I believe
wearing established fashions of the past gives us a better
understanding of how we have got to where we are in the
present. It also serves to help us link up to our parents
and grandparents. By wearing their fashion we are embracing
the good tastes of our ancestors and, by wearing their
eyewear, you could say that there might be a wish to view
the world as their ancestors did. It was a simpler place
Digger: What are the biggest sellers?
Robert: Our biggest seller is a style from the 1950s.
It is the Retro 1 D in colours two tone grey and solid
black. Second biggest seller is also from the Retro 50s
range called the Memphis in colour Light tortoishell.
What does The Internet mean to your business?
Robert: The internet is crucial to our business where we are
able to show 5,000 frames and sunglasses quickly and offer
the enormous choice that modern customers require. It helps
us to spot trends in design very early on so we can arrange
our stocks to meet those needs when they arise. WE love to
be able to meet customers from around the world.
Digger: What would you still like to achieve and in what
direction are your planning to take Robert Roope Vintage in the
Robert: We want to integrate Robert Roope Vintage with our more focused on vintage eyewear site www.RobertRoopeVintage.com
We intend to continue designing eyewear that embraces the
best of eyewear designs of the 40s, 50s and 60s. We would
also like to offer a network of Ďtry oní locations in
key cities of the world to help our customers make better
decisions about what glasses suit them.
| Robert Roope Vintage - Online vintage eyewear
optical store selling vintage eyewear designed in the
1950's, 1960's, 1970's and 1980's.
started out as an online outlet for the sale of a
large private collection of vintage eyewear. This
collection has been gathered from all over Europe over
the last 30 years. The idea was not only to sell these
glasses online but to help search for new vintage
Please visit our Youtube
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
or phone us on 01727 761048.
Robert Roope Vintage
Robert Roope Opticians Ltd
20 George St
AL3 4ES /UK