We talked to Robert Roope, the founding genius of Black Eyewear to discover the inspiration behind the eye-opening, optical shop in Goodge Street and asked him why he loves Fitzrovia so much.
38 Goodge Street,
So what’s the story of Black Eyewear?
I came to London from Hull in September 1963. After graduating as an optician from City University, I worked at Dolland & Aitchison, Selfridges, and Moorfields Hospital, and then travelled to Denmark and the Far East to install optical laboratories. When I returned to the UK, I set the up online shop roopevintage.com to sell the vintage glasses I love, and sunglasses from all around Europe.
I started creating my Black Eyewear collection 10 years ago and was inspired by styles of the 1950s.
Why did you end up in Fitzrovia?
After selling online for over 15 years, I wanted to open a pop-up shop so we started looking for premises around 21/2 years ago. I chose Fitzrovia as it was close to where my son lived and worked, and had a buzz that suited the brand perfectly. There used to be a jeweller’s here. I was talking to the owner and asked him if he knew of any available spaces. He was looking to move out, so we moved in. The rest is history. The timing was perfect and so was the space. We hadn’t even finished decorating when people started walking in! Now, we are a permanent fixture.
Tell us about your collection
Many of my designs are inspired by the bold styles worn by 50s and 60s jazz greats like Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Billie Holliday, as well as stars such as Michael Caine, Woody Allen and Audrey Hepburn.
We bring out 10 new designs a year, all classic in inspiration with 95% based on 1950s styles, and manufactured in Italy, because of the quality craftsmanship. We now have over 100 models, which can be ordered in up to 15 colours: from black and tortoiseshell to sherry, petrol blue, matt pink and pastel shades. We have also introduced matt finishes.
Frames start at around £157, with almost 95% at that price, and there really is something for everyone.
You’re not just about selling frames are you?
Sales is not number one, guidance is the spirit. We offer help in choosing frames with an emphasis on the fit which is as much a priority as style. We don’t test eyes, but we do dispense all prescriptions, and provide aftercare and personal service.
Who are your customers?
A wide range and all ages. They’re often creative, fashion conscious, and music loving. Some recent clients include Courtney Pine, Lady Gaga and Will.I.Am.
Anything exciting on the horizon?
As one of the 14 Selfridges Bright Old Things 2015, we got to showcase the Black Eyewear collection in Oxford Street. We’re also collaborating with designer Nicomeda Talevera for London Collections: Men 2015, and celebrated photographer Todd Selby.
What are your favourite eating and drinking places?
I often go next door to Trattoria Mondello for the excellent Italian food. Busabai Eathai is a favourite and the restaurant in Heal’s for fantastic food in relaxing surroundings.
Describe Fitzrovia in three words.
Friendly, community, bubble.