5 Minutes with... Oscar Deen

by Becky Elliott

Oscar Deen started when the founders realised that they never went anywhere without their sunglasses. And it was the going anywhere that really sealed the deal.

They now travel the markets, alleys and antique stores of Europe, finding the vintage gems that inspire their collection, and meeting the people who inspire their ethic. It’s this mix of old style and new thinking, that they bring back to their workshop and put into every pair of ODs.

Every pair of OD frames start with scouring the streets of Europe to find the classic frames that form the basis of all their designs. They’ve found treasure in warehouse store cupboards, dingy front rooms and side street markets. They then spend weeks, sometimes months re-designing, modernising and putting their own touch on the frames they find. Turning a dusty old gem into their idea of a modern classic. They then make their final frames from hand finished Mazzucchelli acetate. They’re Italian, and they’ve been top of their game since 1849. Their lenses are made from lightweight CR-39 plastic and coated for proper UV protection.

We sat down with founders Oscar and Sheriff to find out more about their brand.

How did Oscar Deen begin?

O - Literally with a chat that more or less went ‘Mate, I think we should do something. I don’t know what yet, but I think we’d make a good team.’ and the answer ‘I 100% agree with you, I’m in’.

We tried our hand at a few things, but found glasses when helping a vintage eyewear collector out with a completely different project. His collection of vintage frames planted a seed and seemed to connect the dots of what we were looking for. We took him for coffee and took our notepads too. That was our intro to the eyewear industry. 

We then spent about two years in research and development. Attending trade shows in London and Paris, learning about design, materials, manufacturing, timelines etc. Completed  6 rounds of prototypes while slowly developing the brand side of Oscar Deen. 

S - We launched in the spring of 2018 with a collection of the shapes in 3 styles, we were pleased to release a collaboration collection with Folk last year and are looking forward to launching prescription eyewear later this year. 

Have you always been interested in fashion?

S - This might be splitting hairs, but we’ve always been interested in style. Fashion’s constant evolution is counterbalanced by the steadiness of style. It’s the point between them we have always found fascinating. 

What have been the highest and lowest points on your journey so far?

S - Not coming from fashion backgrounds ourselves a really high point was launching the brand. Getting recognition in our first season, being invited to collaborate with Folk. Luckily our lowest points are now good stories we laugh at. 

O - Like the time an admin oversight meant our funds were frozen on the eve of paying for our first shipment of frames or the time we got locked down then separated in Barcelona...

What are the morals you run your brand by?

O - We run Oscar Deen on the principles of collaboration and community. From the partnership the brand is built on, to working with, encouraging and helping out the community of creatives we’re part of as they have for us. As well being mindful of our responsibility to the widest community of all by ensuring our products are as sustainable as possible and always seeking to do more. 

What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?

S - As with every collection this is inspired by a pair of vintage frames and influenced by our personal experiences. This summer’s collection is inspired by a pair of frames made in the 1950’s in America and found at a marina side market in Barcelona. The Oscar Deen colour pallet borrows a lot from what’s around us especially things that play with light and translucence or are natural. Like street lights reflected in the river, honey, jasmine tea against porcelain and those dark green olives you get on the continent.  

How would you describe your customer base?

S - We’ve consciously tried to be an accessible brand, so it’s hard to lump everyone under one description, but broadly speaking we’d describe them as social explorers. Open minded and interested in creativity, even if some wouldn’t call themselves creative. People who are conscious who get as excited about an exhibition as they would about a party. 

Do you ever struggle to stay inspired?

S - Sometimes, but this is where being a partnership really comes in handy. Having someone to bounce ideas off or pick up the threads of a half formed concept means we don’t get stuck too often. 

Is there anyone you would love to see wearing your designs?

S - A stranger! We’re really looking forward to bumping into someone we don’t know enjoying the frames. 

Do you have a mentor?

O - Rather than having a single mentor, we’ve always strived to gather advice and opinions from the community we’ve built around us. When we spot someone talented that we want to work with we bring them in, tell them our story and then listen to what they have to say and to their ideas. Listening to our people and taking in their knowledge and opinions helps us grow in the same way a mentor would. 

That said we have a few people that we’ve met along the way that have such a deep depth of knowledge of eyewear that when we are looking for a particular style or history of a frame, we go and seek them out to get the full story.

If you could only wear one piece from your collection, what would it be and why?

O - I can’t believe you’re asking us to pick between our babies! One of the luxuries of building your own sunglasses brand is that every morning I get to decide from the entire collection which pair to wear! 

S- Unlike Oscar, I’m happy to choose a fav from the kids. Mine is Fraser in Mocha. It's the first style we made, I love the acetate and they make me feel cool as hell. 

Is there another designer whose work you particularly admire? 

O - American Opticals, brilliantly designed, fit for purpose, stylish and sturdy. A great representation of American industry and design at its height.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 

S - Develop your brand at the same time as developing your product. The idea of a brand is so abstract - this thing that isn’t a person, but is supposed to have the personality to adequately communicate about your products to your audience. It can take just as long to develop your brand as it does to develop your physical products.  

What drew you to Wolf & Badger?

O - I grew up in Camden in a little cul de sac off St Pancras way called Elm Village, it's mad how much it's changed since I was a kid. I used to walk my dog down the canal and try to jump up and look over the walls so I could see the old derelict railway warehouses. That space is now Coal Drops Yard and Wolf & Badger have a beautiful spot there. After checking out the space and feeling a synergy with the brand and products that were stocked we wanted to get involved.

Where do you see the brand in 5 years? 

S - Our ultimate aim is if you’re thinking of UK independent eyewear, Oscar Deen will be the first name to pop into your mind. Not just quality products, but the inclusive values we stand for too.


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