A start up launched in 2012, unisex eyewear brand FINLAY London’s stylish frames have taken the UK by storm. Worn by a host of celebrities, including Meghan Markle, the brand continues to go from strength to strength thanks to its attractive price point and high-quality products, which are crafted using long-established techniques of eyewear artisans located in the foothills of the Italian Alps.
I was keen to learn more about the brand and its early success, so organised to meet the founder, David Lochhead, for lunch at FINLAY’s London flagship store (61 Broadwick Street, Soho), where we spent half an hour discussing his creation.
Ape: What were you doing before FINLAY?
David Lochhead: I’m from Aberdeen and moved to London to pursue a career as a management consultant. I learned a lot but felt the need for something more creative, and my own thing.
What inspired you to start the brand?
I was on holiday with a friend, sitting by the pool – and we noticed that everyone was wearing identical sunglasses. Ray-ban mainly. Everyone looked the same. This inspired us to create frames that were classical in style but with an edge. Glasses and sunglasses available in unique designs, colourways to match your outfit, and something a little different.
What’s the FINLAY differential?
There are a few other direct-to-consumer brands in the eyewear space but our preference for Made-in-Italy manufacturing and Carl Zeiss lenses are a step ahead of the rest. Of course, our designs are unique to us too, and you can have each frame customised with your chosen initials.
Biggest high, and low?
There’s been a few highs – I’d be lying if I said Meghan Markle wearing our Percy Light Tortoise Sunglasses (with grey lenses) in her first “official” photograph with Prince Harry wasn’t a high. It was taken a couple of weeks before the couple announced their engagement, and was the only image available to use by the press of the two together to feature their engagement news. This was before the official photographs arrived.
Collaborating with Glenmorangie was another high; crafting sunglasses out of their whisky casks. The sunglasses were so unique, and quite the feat of engineering.
A low would have to have been our first order. We had so much energy for our first delivery and were thoroughly disappointed to learn two-thirds of the stock was damaged. It was neither our manufacturer’s fault nor ours. However, we just pulled our socks up and got on with it. We sold the good third, and moved on.
What does the future hold?
We’ve had great success with our optometry service in store: customers can have their eyes tested and prescription eyewear (glasses or sunglasses) ordered. Our turnaround is 2-3 days. This has been extremely popular with our customers, and we intend to roll out more stores.
I’m also excited about the FINLAY AW18 collection, there are some fantastic designs and we can’t wait to share them with you all.
One piece of advice?
When we started FINLAY I was overwhelmed by the help friends and families offered. Not directly, but they’d suggest ideas, spread our message via word of mouth, and offer to chip in where possible. I guess they just wanted to be part of the journey, and they felt our passion for creating fine eyewear. So my one piece of advice would be don’t be afraid to ask for help, and welcome it with open arms.
David is a thoroughly pleasant and energetic chap who has a real passion for creating well-made, stylish frames at an affordable price point. I was gifted a pair of Archer in Olive (£120) and have to say the design and quality is superb. But the best part is they are rare and unique – uncommon in the current market – and a magnet for compliments, “what brand are those sunglasses?”
The Archer in Olive was probably a slightly left-field choice, but I felt it was the right colour to complement my skin tone. Also, when it comes to colour matching, olive (or green) works particularly well with black. Which leads me onto another positive about FINLAY London: with prices from just £120 a frame, you can afford to own multiples pairs to match your outfit or mood.