New Zealand-born designer Karen Walker has evolved into an internationally recognised fashion powerhouse.
Establishing a stellar following across her idiosyncratic lines of apparel, eyewear, handbags and jewellery, Che Eyewear are excited to feature Karen Walker as the next creative in our designer series. In this up-close-and-personal interview, Karen reveals what lead her towards eyewear, and how her affections are split between New Zealand, New York and humble Fitzroy.
Che Eyewear: Why glasses? How did you develop such an affinity with this necessary, stylish accessory?
Karen Walker: When we started designing eyewear, I found that the product that was already available was very generic – it looked like it had been designed in a board room. I wanted to make something that was considered and interesting, with strong ideas and shapes.
Che Eyewear: Did you always sense you wanted to be a fashion designer? What career or destiny did little Karen imagine for herself in New Zealand?
Karen Walker: I fell in love with fashion when I was six and my grandmother taught me how to make a circular skirt for my Barbie. However, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-teens that I realised that fashion was what I wanted to channel all my energy into.
Che Eyewear: What jobs or roles did you have prior to the launch of your own label? What did these experiences teach you to avoid, or to pursue professionally?
Karen Walker: I started my brand when I was 18 with seed capital of $100! I barely had any experience but I had energy and enthusiasm. That got me through.
Che Eyewear: When did you know that you were ‘onto a good thing’ with your aesthetic, that you were connected with a distinct audience?
Karen Walker: With our eyewear it was when I started seeing our product on real people in the street and I realised that you could recognise it from far away.
Che Eyewear: What is the defining creative moment you’re most proud of?
Karen Walker: There’s no one defining moment in my career. Building a career and a brand is like growing coral. It’s made of millions of small things combined together to create something great.
Che Eyewear: When you conceive a new collection, is there a ‘jumping-off’ point? Is it the runway, nature, a book? Can you offer an example of an inspiring notion you’ve built into a fully-fledged thematic collection?
Karen Walker: We’re inspired by interesting stories and juxtaposition. We’ve had inspiration from many different places but we often set a scene using characters, always outsiders, and putting them in interesting situations or just celebrating their outsider-ness. Some of our past jumping-off points include: WW2 land girls, suffragettes and suffragists, Dali’s pet ocelot, Berenice Abbott, aristocratic gardeners and William Eggleston’s colours.
Che Eyewear: Can you reflect on the contemporary Australian aesthetic? Are we becoming more or less homogeneous in our style?
Karen Walker: The whole world’s becoming more and more homogeneous. We’re dealing more with nuances rather than styles now I think. The references and products are global – a unique style is becoming less and less noticeable.
Che Eyewear: What is the inspiration for your current Shadow Play collection?
Karen Walker: I’m interested in how colour and frames can be used on the face as a beauty product, so for this collection I was thinking a lot about how the shapes and the colour interact with your face.
Che Eyewear: A tricky one: New Zealand, New York or Fitzroy?
Karen Walker: Well I choose to live in New Zealand so that’s a bit of a giveaway! But, as with all my work, it’s all about dualities – I love being where I am but am always excited about going to new places.
Stories lie at the heart of every pair of frames we fit to every individual. Tales of transition and change. Of high adventure, achievement and performance. A pair of glasses have the power to not only change your perspective, but to change the narrative of your life.
With this in mind, Che Eyewear begin the first in our 20:20 Interview series, featuring Australia’s foremost designers. We begin our series featuring a hero of Australian design, Jono Hennessy, whose idiosyncratic glasses enjoy cult status. A vibrant character with a joyous approach to life – and glasses! – we hope you enjoy this intimate conversation.
Che Eyewear: Jono – why did you choose to make glasses your life’s work? How did you develop such an affinity with this accessory?
Jono Hennessy: I think it was where I lived growing up, and the school I went to. I attended art school after becoming disenchanted working with numbers – accountancy and stocks, that sort of thing. My father was an optometrist and when he sold his practice he had a lot of glasses from the 1950’s and 60’s in boxes. I decided I’d sell those glasses at markets and everybody loved them! That sort of started it.
C: And were you attracted to your father’s profession before you found the boxes?
J: Yeah, a little bit. I did graphic design and marketing and then I got into eyewear. I got a job selling frames, and that’s how I got to know the industry. But then I got fired! So I went out on my own.
C: What did you do wrong?!
J: It was when I had just got divorced and I was out partying the whole time, out every night. I’d got home from staying up all night, got changed and went straight to a client appointment in Liverpool. Cut a long story short, I fell asleep in the chair. He called my boss and that was it, really!
C: That’s a good story! I guess if that hadn’t happened, your brand wouldn’t have been born.
J: Yeah, it had to happen. In my selling days, I met an Austrian guy who had worked with one of the biggest glasses factories in Europe. He taught me all the technology, and how to design. To this day, I still hand draw.
C: And so all the designs start out as a concept hand drawn by yourself?
J: Yes, hand drawn. They’re actually technical drawings so they’re hand drawn to the exact sizes. And I do all of the measurements on the lens depths and everything.
C: And is that practise of the technical drawing, is that unique? Has it been superseded by computer programmes now?
J: It’s being superseded by computer programmes – but because I have been doing it (hand drawing) so long, I know the bridge sizes and the fits and angles. Designing is sort of a balance.
C: When did you know that you were on to a good thing with Jono Hennessy?
J: In the 80s when I started, there were no rules and there was a whole group of us making clothing and doing interior design. In all honesty I did exactly the opposite from everything I was taught during my studies! Also, there was no competition from Europe – we didn’t have all the big brands like Dior and Chanel. All that that came in during the 90s. So a big part of it was the joy of making great things. I think in the 80s we sold close to 1.5 million frames, I would think.
C: What was it about your unique aesthetic that made people connect with your brand?
J: It was the colour. During that time, if someone had the same glasses as you, you’d get upset. Everyone wanted to have a different look. Then RayBan came in, and that was popular style. This whole ‘one look’ thing came in at the end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s. I started ordering one frame in 20 or 30 colours, so it was the same style but in different colours.
C: What is your biggest joy working in eyewear?
J: Seeing someone looking really great. Like when you walk down the road and you see someone in your glasses and they look fantastic. And seeing a photo of somebody in your glasses when the fit is right, and I know the optometrist has really understood the face. It’s a skill you learn over some time and it’s not a technical thing, it’s sort of semi-technical.
My other joy is being in the factory, in the tool room, with a file and sitting with the tool-maker getting hands-on.
C: Where is your factory?
J: China. They’re friends of mine. I’ve been using them for 20 years and their quality is fantastic. We use beautiful acetate and German hinges. They all actually care about what they’re doing. For me it’s nothing to do with price – it’s actually the relationship you have with the factory and the people in the factory.
C: And they’re clearly specialists – that’s why you have a relationship with them.
J: Yes, we also get really involved when we’re there. So it’s a hands on thing. That’s the other big joy.
C: Has there ever been one particular inspiring notion that you’ve built into a thematic collection?
J: For me fashion is action, reaction and then people. If something is unusual, it gets accepted by the early adopters, before it then becomes ‘normal’. My biggest thing was going from fashion that was 1940s in style, to space-age fashion. From a 1940’s frame with the key-hole bridge to wrap around, one piece lenses – that was very successful. Then clothing started to follow the space-age style, and it was wonderful to know I was at the beginning of it.
C: Can I have some commentary from you on the contemporary Australian aesthetic? Are we becoming more or less homogenous in our style?
J: I think there’s a real return to the individuality of things. People really value genuine items, pieces with a story. At Jono Hennessy, there’s a great joy in what we make. We pass that onto people, and hope they understand the feeling we create. And I really do think that people can feel it.
C: I can truly see the relationship people have with your glasses. Whether they’ve been buying Jono Hennessy for decades or they’re new customers, there’s a strong narrative between them and the brand.
J: It’s that joy thing again. People feel it, and the best thing you can actually do in life is to give people joy.
C: Who is the most famous person you’ve made glasses for?
J: Probably Malcolm Turnbull!
C: Final question: Melbourne or Sydney?
J: Melbourne is a hugely creative, wonderful city, whereas Sydney is becoming more of an international, Shanghai, sort of New York-y place. Melbourne has my heart.
Experience the latest beautiful Jono Hennessy collections at Che Eyewear.
In Che Eyewear’s July blog, we’re throwing it all the way back to ‘The Wonder Years’. That’s right, the era that gave us spaghetti straps, crop tops and Saved by the Bell – the late 80s and early 90s. Just late enough to avoid neon leg warmers and sweatbands, this slice of sartorial history was all about bold shapes and slim cuts – slinky dresses, wire-rimmed glasses and the mini-est of mini skirts.
Earlier this month, Che Eyewear’s Director Rose Crulli went on a reconnaissance mission to the ODMA Fair 2017 (Optical Distributors & Manufacturers Association of Australia), observing optical trends emerging in the second half of 2017. As you may have guessed, Rose noticed a head-nod to the early 90s, influencing accessories across the board. As geek-chic continues to dominate in Australia’s style stakes, round, wire-rimmed collegiate frames are en vogue – and it’s these shapes that are reemerging amongst fashionistas and influencers. Reminiscent of the ‘Clueless’ era, these ‘barely there’ frames contemporise any look, giving it a studious, seriously on-trend twist.
Want in on the throwback trend? Rose suggests two unique pieces from the Che Eyewear Vintage Collection: the Rolling Image Optics Varsity frames, and the Outlaws 485. “These ‘ivy league’ inspired frames are real favourites of mine – and our customers love their modern take on nostalgia, too” remarks Rose, reflecting on how popular the wire-rim look has been of late. “I always get clients in asking for something special and unique, and these 80s frames are certainly that,” she says.
And it’s not just the eyewear arena bringing it all back in the 80s/90s stakes. While we’re not too sad to wave a permanent goodbye to some old favourites (hello, Hypercolor!), there’s plenty of subtle throwbacks dominating Fitzroy’s boutiques at the moment. From chokers to lingerie-inspired formal wear, Melbourne designers are taking inspo from those bum-bag-clad glory days. For more ways to incorporate a nostalgia for the recent past into your wardrobe, find out what’s making a comeback here.
Held at an intimate private venue, Micky In The Van’s brand new collection ‘Apricots for Eden’ celebrated softly feminine fabrics in bold colours and prints, each rich with layers, texture,ruffles, bows and a vintage eclectic feel that’s at the heart of Estelle’s creations. Che Eyewear are honoured to have collaborated with Micky In The Van for their exclusive campaign shoot and salon show.
Highly anticipated by Melbourne’s fashion community, the ‘Apricots for Eden’ salon show was as much a performance as a ‘must-attend’ chic event, with designer Michaelides ‘live styling’ of each piece in real time before her captivated audience. Che Eyewear’s vintage frames were an essential element of each look, beautifully complemented by bespoke millinery from Serena Lindeman. It was truly inspiring to see glasses from our vintage collection morphed into high fashion by Estelle. In May’s Che Eyewer blog, we’re excited to present an array of campaign images from the ‘Apricots for Eden’ collection, captured by renowned Melbourne fashion photographer Meagan Harding and modelled by Marianne of Esme and the Laneway.
Enjoy browsing the latest pieces from Micky In The Van – and don’t forget to read our exclusive interview with designer Estelle Michaelides in Che’s 20/20 client interview series. Would you like to have a pair of the vintage glasses featured in ‘Apricots for Eden’ in your own style wardrobe? Be sure to visit Che Eyewear and select your perfect pair.
In April’s 20/20 blog, we sat down with designer Margaret Morris to discuss all things fashion, Collingwood, old school Dolly Magazine, John Hughes films and glasses – of course!
Let’s get cracking, Margaret: what do you do, and how did you end up doing it?
Margaret: I work in the fashion industry. I’m a designer!
What’s your brand?
Margaret: I don’t have a brand, I’m actually a freelancer. I did a course when I left school – I actually ended up in fashion because I didn’t think I could get into anything else back then.
What did you think you would do?
Margaret: All through high school, I probably thought I’d be a teacher. And then – like most students in their final year – you think you’re going to do so badly that you look for other career options. By the time I got my results, I’d gone off in a completely different direction.
What do you actually do in fashion? Do you work for other businesses?
Margaret: In my twenties I worked for other companies, and then I started freelancing. I’ve always worked predominantly in the kidswear space, but I’m moving into ladieswear now.
Do you remember your first pair of glasses?
Margaret: My first pair of prescription glasses wasn’t all that long ago, so yes. But I started wearing the most fabulous sunglasses back in my twenties. I remember those very well – I got them overseas. I think I’ve still got them, actually! I remember the case they came in and everything; they were called Australis, or something like that.
I think you could get those Australis sunnies with Dolly Magazine sometimes!
Margaret: Yeah, that’s probably right.
What colour were they? Were they fancy?
Margaret: They were a bit fancy. They had a frame that was mottled blue and lilac. I must find them!
Do you remember how that first pair of glasses made you feel?
Margaret: Back then, your first pair of sunglasses was a big thing; it felt very grown up, quite adult. Nowadays children wear them much earlier in life, for sun protection I suppose.
So what made you choose the fabulous Che Eyewear frames you’re wearing now?
Margaret: This is my second pair of prescription glasses, and I was looking for a bigger frame.
I was very happy when I saw them and I’ve ordered another pair that could be due in any day!
So, are glasses accessories that make up part of your outfit?
Margaret: Yes, definitely. I was always a bit jealous of my friends who were wearing cool glasses. I always used to think, “oh they look of nice”. So yeah, they are fashion accessories. They can make a big difference to your complete outfit – I’m working on building up a collection of styles.
Have you ever bought a pair of funny, eccentric or silly pair of glasses?
Margaret: Probably, although I likely didn’t think they were at the time! Particularly some of the ones I bought earlier in life! I’ve bought ones that you buy because you just love them. You spend an outrageous amount of money on them and think, “why have I done that”? Sometimes I’d only wear them once!
Are there any cultural influences that have really struck a chord with you, that have been an influential part of your life?
Margaret: As far as something that struck a chord, way back when, would probably be John Hughes movies. Good old ’80s teenage movies, some of those were lovely. Even things like the sunglasses they wore, I remember those details from such movies.
Do you live around near Che Eyewear?
Margaret: Yeah, just down the street! Well, in Collingwood technically.
What do you consider iconic of Fitzroy and the community here?
Margaret: I’m really home. It sounds silly, but I love walking around here; anywhere in Melbourne, really. I like Spring here, when the jasmine comes out. It always makes me emotional. It’s beautiful. It’s changed a lot, of course. There’s a lot of buildings that you watch, just wondering what will happen to them, and then there’s the shops that have been around for so long, up on Gertrude Street.
Are there any people that you know who wear glasses with great panache, who are famous for their glasses?
Margaret: Rose! I’m actually very jealous of people that wear their glasses so well. I have some friends who update their frames regularly – they always look so great!
In this month’s 20/20 blog, Che Eyewear had coffee with our beloved customer Maureen, discussing the universal themes of love, loss, work and family.
Getting married at the young age of twenty and taking on the role of loving mother to four children, Maureen experienced her biggest challenge in life when she lost her husband to an unexpected illness. And while moving on from a marriage of over three decades is never easy, Maureen’s resilience and ability to focus on the future is nothing short of inspiring.
What’s your great passion and why do you do it?
Maureen: My great passion, let’s see. I don’t know if I have one! I was working up until last year. My great passion … Well, I suppose living life to the max!
That’s really more than a lot of people do. What did you retire from?
Maureen: I was a nurse. I worked for Health Network in the east. I’ve lived in the area for nearly ten years – I moved here after my husband died. We were going to move anyway when our last child left school and it just came a little bit sooner. I just kept the momentum going after he died, I just kept moving.
Where did you move?
Maureen: Blackburn North to Fitzroy. There’s a lifestyle change! I needed to be close to transport, close to shops. I didn’t want to have to rely on a car down the track.
When you were a little, what did you think you’d do or be?
Maureen: I wanted to go into the Air Force and perhaps do nursing. My mother said, “I don’t think so.” I said, “Okay.” I actually had a scholarship to go to the Repat. We lived in the country in the Western district, and I got this scholarship. I thought, “Okay. I’ll do that. I can live in.” Then my family moved to Ballarat and my father said to me, “Oh, you don’t have to go to Melbourne anymore. You can do that in Ballarat. I was never really passionate about nursing, I only really went because of the scholarship. Then I started my nursing in Ballarat and I resigned in my second year. I met my then-to-be husband who was a student at the Forestry School in Creswick. We got engaged after six weeks!
Oh wow. That’s pretty quick.
Maureen: My parents complained because I was still just under nineteen. He came to Melbourne to finish his degree and we got married twelve months later. He died ten years ago, we had four children, and I’ve been nursing ever since.
Did you grow to love nursing?
Maureen: Well, they wouldn’t take my resignation. They said, “You can have six months leave.” I had to have my mother with me for the discussion, which I thought was bizarre. But that was back in the 60s. Then I re-trained at ACU and did the whole thing again at tertiary level.
Was that some time later or is that just after?
Maureen: When I was my late thirties, I had four children – one of which was two. My husband was a research scientist and he was travelling oversees at the time. I got in and I thought “oh my god. What am I doing?” I did my degree – or my Diploma of Applied Science in Nursing – as it was then. Then I worked full time. Until I had a stroke two years ago during a medical procedure. I recovered well from that, went back to work and I thought, “You know what. I’m not doing this anymore.”
Wow. How did you feel after you resigned?
Maureen: A bit lost… I haven’t given up my registration. I may go back a few days a week yet, I’m not sure. I spent a lot of effort getting that qualification so I’m not quite ready to give it up.
That sounds like you’ve packed a lot in.
Maureen: I did, actually! There was always a baby in the house and my husband was always working. I suppose the biggest change came for me when my husband got sick and died very unexpectedly. Life changed very quickly… I think I spent a lot of my time wandering round the world, around Melbourne just feeling a gap that was there without my husband to enjoy anything with. I did lots of stuff and I enjoyed what I did, but it was still very lonely. I have a man in my life now, which was very unexpected.
How did you meet him?
Maureen: I was introduced to him. He’s someone probably that I would never have thought I would be involved with but he’s a very lovely man. He still works, he’s a little bit younger than I am. Totally different to my husband… but I feel like I’ve know him for a long time.
That’s really wonderful.
Maureen: It’s a big thing to take up a relationship with someone in your sixties as opposed to before you turn twenty. In fact, my husband was older than I was but we kind of grew up together, if you know what I mean. He was my best friend – and that’s what we have to keep remembering. That this other person is not a replacement for my husband, it’s another phase of my life.
Speaking of phases, do you remember your very first pair of glasses? What they were like or do you remember how having to wear them made you feel?
Maureen: When I was quite young I learned that I had astigmatism in my eye and I was getting headaches. So I got glasses for eye strain and fatigue – at that stage I didn’t really need them for my sight. As I got older I found out that I had astigmatism in my other eye! I thought, “well, I’m going to really have really nice glasses,” so I did. I got the most expensive ones.
Do you remember an eccentric, silly or funny pair of glasses that you once bought?
Maureen: One of my most theatrical friends decided we’d get some dark green, cat-eyed sunglasses. If we went out, we would always wear these glasses and all put them on at the same time. I still have those glasses. They’re actually quite special when you put them on…. I like them. They’re somewhere in the house.
Lastly, how do you choose a pair of glasses?
Maureen: I just like something a little bit striking. I don’t like blank glasses. I can see why people do that but I feel, no. Perhaps it’s parts of me that it’s making a statement, I have no idea.
In this month’s 20/20 blog, Che Eyewear chat with our stylish and surprising customer, Balan. Working 9-5 in a high-powered corporate job, Balan likes to express himself with his wardrobe of glasses – proving that business attire can be personal after all! He’s also a connoisseur of stage productions and the symphony – in addition to the AFL – making him as quintessentially ‘Melbourne’ as Che Eyewear!
What is it that you do Balan, and how did you come to do it?
Balan: I work in the Management Consulting group at Price Waterhouse Coopers. I did a commerce law degree at University, and I decided to go down a commerce path, starting out as a graduate at PWC. I’ve been at PWC for eight years now.
When you were a littler person, what did you imagine that you might do?
Balan: When I was growing up I wanted to be a pilot, actually. I was just fascinated by planes. Even when I go to the airport today I just love staring out the window, watching planes take off. I always get a window seat when I’m flying.
You love it.
Balan: Yeah, I don’t know why. My cousin he ended up becoming a pilot and I’m still very jealous.
Do you remember your first pair of glasses? How did they make you feel, this first pair?
Balan: I worked out that I needed to wear glasses when I was at a finance lecture at University, and I couldn’t see what the lecturer was writing on the board. I was talking to the guy next to me at the time and he said, “try these”, so I put on his glasses and I could see clearly. That’s when I knew that I needed to get glasses, so I did an eye test and I think my first pair were Ray Bans. They were basically very square, small, black across the top. At the time I thought they were cool.
Do you think wearing different kinds of glasses changes the way you feel about yourself?
Balan: I think glasses change the image that you portray to the world. It’s funny – the first pair I bought from Che was the result of having been at a football game with my friends, my now-fiancee, and a couple of her friends. I said “Soph, I like your glasses. Where did you buy them?” And she said, “Oh, from a great lady on Smith Street at Che Eyewear.” So I actually came in the next day, and I think I bought a pair that day. Can show them to you?
Yes, please do! It’s been so interesting to reflect on our client’s collections of glasses!
Balan: (Presents glasses.) So this was the first pair I bought from Che.
They’re lovely and matte, a very modern tortoise-shell.
Balan: When I first bought them, they felt so different to anything I’d worn before. I was saying to my fiancee, “I don’t think I can wear these to work,” and she was like, “no, you’ll be fine”. I wore them to work and everyone loved them. From then on, it almost felt like I could get away with anything.
Do your glasses make you stand out in the workplace?
Balan: Yeah, I get a lot of comments about my glasses. I’m probably a bit of glasses snob these days! For me, glasses should do more than just making it easier to see. They should also allow you to make an impression. Sometimes I wonder – “Do I want 20/20 vision, or do I actually want to wear stylish glasses?” *laughs*
Do you recall buying a pair of glasses that were really silly or eccentric?
Balan: Yeah – I bought a sports pair back in the late ’90s that were cool.
Were they Oakleys?
Balan: Yeah! Yeah, exactly right. They had lenses which were an orange color. At the time I thought “These are great!” – but they live in permanently in my drawer at home and I wouldn’t wear them out.
What are two artistic expressions that you really connect with?
Balan: Over the last year and a half, we’ve been heading to hear my brother-in-law play bassoon for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Going to see the symphony is probably not something I’d have done off my own bat. Initially, we got free tickets to a concert, and we’ve probably been half a dozen times since. I love classical music. I used to sing a bit when I was younger, too. Music always calms me down. In terms of stage shows, I’ve seen The Lion King twice, and I’ve also seen Les Miserables.
Was it good?
Balan: It was amazing. At work, if I need to get away from everyone, I put my headphones in and listen to the Les Miserables musical score with the symphonic recording.
How do you feel before and after you listen to classical music?
Balan: I often turn it on because I’m stressed. It’s just a release, which allows me to get away from all the pressures of work. It gets you into that zone of focusing on what you need to get done. I grew up with music, playing piano and guitar. So I try and keep my mind open to different genres of music.
Do you have any glasses icons?
Balan: My brother has actually been blind since he was a kid, and he used to wear an eye patch when he was young. He’s one guy that has certainly started to push the boat out in terms of glasses, and he’s probably the one I always look to – it’s like he gives me licence to branch out a bit in my own style.
Che Eyewear are lucky to count amongst our clients individuals with talents in all arenas of life, from nurses to Olympic swimmers, spiritualists to gallerists.
In today’s 20/20 blog, Che Eyewear sat down with iconic Melbourne fashion designer and illustrator, Estelle Michaelides of The Bespoke Illustrator. Loved by the fashion crowd for her unique Micky In The Van independent label, Estelle’s inimitable style pairs dramatic volume with sharp tailoring – an explosion of color and character made into a garment. Estelle is also a discerning collector of Che Eyewear glasses, and a Melbourne creator who embraces the energy of Fitzroy.
Estelle, what do you do and how did you end up doing it?
Estelle: Ooh, many things. I consider myself a creative. I know I don’t like to put labels what I do. I explore different avenues of being a creative whether that be in fashion or the arts. I just keep my eyes open and whenever I get that little tingle – that sense that I want to explore and discover, I’ll go there.
When you were a little person, what did you imagine that you would be or do?
Estelle: I guess I was influenced by my family, because I was raised in the fashion industry. I vividly recall being six or seven and someone asking me “What do you want to be when you grow up”? And I remember saying quite sternly: “I’m going to a famous fashion designer.” Mum tells me that I was sewing clothes for my Barbies on her industrial sewing machine at age four – so fashion design was always innate to me.
Do you think it’s unusual for there to be such a connection between the little you and the big you?
Estelle: I think because I’ve always been surrounded by creatives, it’s not that unusual for me. It’s not even just my immediate family who are in fashion – it’s my extended family too. We’re all in fashion industry. Pursuing a creative career is certainly a choice but when it’s in front of you for your entire existence, it will linger and stay with you.
Do you remember your first pair of glasses? What did they look like and how did wearing glasses make you feel?
Estelle: Oh my goodness me. They were reading glasses. It was a very long time ago. I needed reading glasses from about 15. I’m short-sighted. I think it was a novelty more than anything else but I don’t remember what they looked like.
They weren’t fashion?
Estelle: I’m sure they were. It’s not even a question! I think they made me feel studious.
And the glasses you’re wearing today?
Estelle: These are my reading glasses.
Why did you choose these frames? What rings true to you about these glasses?
Estelle: I think I’m really embracing the fact that I need to wear glasses regularly, so I’m keeping it quite simple and understated. I thought I’d go for something really bold and it’s like, well, you know what, I have to wear reading glasses so let’s just make it a statement piece.
Do you wear glasses like accessories, choosing different styles based on your overall look?
Estelle: Yes, I do. I have different styles. I’ve not considered glasses as a fashion accessory, but when I’m going to an event where I do need to wear reading glasses I will consider which ones match the occasion.
Have you ever bought a pair of really silly, eccentric glasses?
Estelle: A pair? Let’s say there’s been quite a few! I have a love for sunglasses. Just like any other accessory, particularly head-wear or jewellery, glasses can really change the look of an entire outfit. They can give you a different air as well.
The craziest pair of glasses I own would have to be a pair of House of Harlow 1960 that are pink and round – they actually have writing around the rim. Karen Walker makes some quirky pairs – I’ve purchased a few pieces from her limited edition collection at Che Eyewear. They’re gold all over – the lens and the frame – and they’re gorgeous!
Could you share two creative inspirations who have struck a chord with you, influencing and deepening your own practice?
Estelle: On a personal level, I really believe that my creativity comes from a special, unique part of my soul. Quite often when I am designing or painting, I allow my designs to speak to me. It’s a real beautiful, spiritual moment informed by my love of craft, design and history. On a design level, I’ve been influenced by all the great designers, the legends – particularly Christian Lacroix. He uses so much colour and pattern that his designs become wearable art. They come to life and they speak. It makes my heart sing.
Is Lacroix your favourite designer?
Estelle: Absolutely. And Stella Jean who’s more recent. But of the fashion gods, I love Christian Lacroix.
Estelle, your boutique retail business was once located on Smith Street. What do you love most about Fitzroy?
Estelle: It’s one of the very few suburbs in Melbourne that hasn’t been affected by gentrification. It’s still raw and pure. Of course, change is slowing coming to Fitzroy, but it remains authentic in spirit. When I had The Estelle Store here, there wasn’t a day that went by when I didn’t see a beautiful character walking past the shop, a person true to themselves, wearing exactly what they wanted to wear, totally unaffected.
Who is someone you associate with glasses and style?
Estelle: My Mum. She rocks glasses. She’s just not herself without her glasses – and she looks quite peculiar without them.
Do you want to see some glasses?
Clem, what do you do and how did you end up doing it?
Clem: I’m a tarot card reader. I also do complimentary therapies like reiki and hypnotherapy. It took me years to make the step. Two and a half years ago a friend of mine opened their own healing centre and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
When you were little did you always feel a connection to the otherworldly?
C: I’ve always had a sixth sense. When I was a little girl, I wanted to do nursing or have a caring role. Which I’m actually doing now, come to think of it! To me, readings are like counselling. When I was little, I always wanted to wear glasses too – but I had to wait ’til I was 40 to do so! *laughs* I kept on telling the Universe that I needed glasses, I wanted them so badly.
Do you remember your first pair of glasses?
Rose Crulli (Che Business owner, and Clem’s cousin pictured below): Clem was wearing really boring glasses! I said to her – Clem, you’re not a boring person!
C: Those daggy pairs! Do you remember the square, rimless ones I used to wear? And one day I came into your store, and I was like a little girl in a lolly shop. So many frames! The first ones that I got from Che were little sixties ones, and then a pair of ‘Harry Potter’ round reading glasses.
That first pair of Che glasses – why were you attracted to them and how did they make you feel?
C: They were cat’s eyes, which made me feel like Dame Edna. Just beautiful! And interesting, too. I want to look different, to look unique. That’s why I love this place.
The glasses you’re wearing now – have you had them for a long time?
C: I got these last year. Jono Hennessy is my favourite designer.
Rose: There’s a story about the glasses Clem is wearing, actually. Last year the designer Jono Hennessy had an offer – if you bought a pair of his frames, you would also receive a pair of his sunglasses for free. Clem came in during this period and wanted to buy a pair of Jono Hennessy glasses – but she didn’t want the free frames to be sunglasses. She wanted them as a prescription transition lens, which is what we delivered.
What’s the most amusing pair of glasses that you’ve ever bought? That make you feel cheeky and mischievous?
C: It would have to be the Dame Edna’s. You can’t get much cheekier than cat’s eyes with diamantes!
Che serves a community of people interested in culture – in art, music, books and performance. What cultural experience has been important to your life?
C: I’m always posting lyrics and music online. Adam Lambert has been speaking to me a lot lately! I’m 57 years old and loving Adam Lambert! *laughs* I’ve also just discovered Byron Katie and I’m reading one of her books called ‘Loving What Is.’ It’s all about our thoughts and turning them around. Katie puts you through a process which makes you look at life from a different perspective.
What do you love most about Fitzroy?
C: Brunswick Street – I love the shops, just walking around. And people watching, too – sitting at cafes and watching people walk by. I can make up stories about them as they go by, it’s very imaginative!
Do you have any spectacle-wearing style icons?
Clem with her glamorous Zia Assunta
Glasses. Specs. Sunnies. Call them what you will: glasses are the essential human accessory which help us to – quite literally – see clearly. They help us to focus on what matters, whether it’s the work at hand, the art before us, the squalling child in our arms or the bright produce ready for your favorite meal.
So comes Che Eyewear’s new 20/20 blog – a series of beautiful editorial-style reflections on what matters most to the individuals who are our focus. They’re our customers; a merry, motley crew of artists, corporates, healers, designers, sportspeople, doctors and musicians. Over the coming moths, 20/20 will present you with Che Eyewear customers – casting a spotlight and allowing us to focus on what matters to them. It’s our investigation and contribution – a reflection of the community which support us.
In our first instalment, we feature Rose Crulli – the heart and soul of Che Eyewear.
Rose, what do you do, and how did you end up doing it?
R: The how isn’t nearly as exciting as I’d like! My husband and his business partner decided to come up with a new venture. I was at home with the children, and my husband decided that I was getting quite boring. Being boring was a reflection of being bored, I think! So he came home and said ‘I think I bought you a job today.’ That job was the beginning of Che Eyewear – and I absolutely love it! As with all fashion accessories, glasses are a reflection of personality and style – and glasses always have a place in your wardrobe.
When you were small, what did you think you would do?
R: I actually always wanted to be a journalist. But then I fell in love very young, and it all took over. I got married and dropped out of university to get some money together to buy our first home. I actually ended up in finance. I started working for the State Bank – I was in lending. I quite enjoyed that too. I climbed the ranks a little. I didn’t go back to work until after we’d had our children – and I’ve been running Che for eight years now.
Do you remember your first pair of glasses?
R: I was eight years old. I think they were fine-rimmed gold pair of glasses. Nothing too interesting. As a child and teenager, I didn’t want to be noticed as a person who wears glasses because it wasn’t cool. And through my teenage years, I used to go out blind because I didn’t want to wear glasses at all. Contact lenses back then were also very uncomfortable – and really, not even available for my prescription – or they were very hard. My friends were like ‘don’t let Rose cross the road by herself – just in case!’ *laughs* Then I realised that glasses were really me – and not to bother wearing something that doesn’t suit. I made a decision to only wear glasses that made me feel good, that made me feel like myself.
Do you remember the first pair of glasses that made you feel really good – like you’d come into yourself?
R: *Thinks* I will have to say that for many years I didn’t even choose my own glasses – because my husband chose my glasses (he also works in optometry). When he saw something he thought might suit me, he would make up my prescription. It was really when I started doing the buying at Che that I really began to style myself. It was when we were going from fine-rimmed rectangular glasses to the beginning of seeing those thicker acetate frames and bolder glasses come through as a trend. There was a pair in here when we first started – it was a pair of Sass and Bide glasses . I loved them, they were really round and thick acetate. I thought ‘I just love these! I’m going to wear them!’ I went to a barbecue that weekend when I first got them, feeling a million dollars. It was at my cousin’s place – and my cousins never spare my feelings. I walked in and my cousin said ‘Who have we got here? Nana Mouskouri?” I said to him ‘You just don’t understand fashion!’ *Laughs* It took three years for people to say that they loved this more dramatic style of glasses. Maybe I’m fashion forward?!
The glasses you are being photographed in – why did you choose them, and do they remind you of anything?
R: They remind me of my late teenage years – I had a tortoiseshell pair with a little gold and this lovely round shape. I guess as we get older, we want to go back to the things of our youth!
What are two films or books which have influenced or touched you during your life?
R: Gosh. I love thrillers. I don’t read that often, but my favorites are John Grisham, and Stephen King. I also love thrillers in cinema – The Godfather would have to be my favorite. I like all of the trilogy for different reasons. There are aspects of all three I love, but the third is my favorite. I think it’s when I really came to understand the trilogy, it brought the whole thing together.
What do you love most about Fitzroy?
R: Its diversity! The people here are so interesting. The customers that come in here – there’s an element of themselves they want to see in their glasses, and I love that. Most of the people who come in here have a creative background. The shop reflects our customers, with stories everywhere. The gloves on Zia Assunta’s dresser display are actually from my wedding! Everything has a story at Che.