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This company makes celebs into cool four-eyed nerds

Elton John, an influential client of Cutler and Gross in the seventies.

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When Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Bono take a look in the mirror, they often see the same thing staring back at them: a pair of custom-designed frames from Cutler and Gross.

The iconic British brand, which opened its first standalone store in North America in Toronto this fall (a second is planned for New York in the spring), has been designing eyewear since 1969. And while their frames have been worn by everyone from Ava Gardner to Pulp front man Jarvis Cocker, it was the imprimatur of Elton John, who commissioned a series of outlandish frames in the seventies, that helped seal Cutler and Gross's reputation among the celebrity set as the ne plus ultra in handcrafted statement goggles.

At the back of the new 2,000-square-foot store in Toronto, there is a display, designed by Graham Cutler himself, of reproductions of every frame ever produced by the company, including Sir Elton's maximalist navy-blue frames and Bono's leather wraparounds.

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Besides its value as a design archive, the display is meant to inspire current customers interested in commissioning custom frames for themselves.

It's a return to the brand's roots, explains Cutler and Gross managing director Golta Mohammadi. "The company started out like this, doing bespoke in 1969, but stopped when fashion changed in favour of ready-to-wear. It's now gone back to making frames the artisanal way."

While ready-to-wear models start in the $500 ballpark, customers pay upward of $5,600 for a pair of glasses designed from scratch.

In addition to bespoke and ready-to-wear frames, Cutler and his partner, Tony Gross, who met in optometry school at London's Northampton College in the sixties, have expanded their brand through ongoing collaborations with designers like Giles Deacon, Erdem and Toronto-born, London-based Thomas Tait.

Cutler and Gross also work with brands to create lines under their own monikers, including Commes des Garçons, Martin Margiela and Victoria Beckham.

As for the pair's perspective on their long-time resonance as style makers, "we've always looked at glasses as more than just function,"

Cutler says. "They're about how you see yourself."

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About the Author

Deirdre Kelly is a features writer for The Globe and Mail. She is the author of the best-selling Paris Times Eight and Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection (Greystone Books). More

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