Iggy Pop is outstretched on the hood of his 2009 Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead, golden snakeskin boots, leather vest (in the middle of a Miami summer, no less) and a pair of The Great Frog‘s new eyewear collaboration with Cutler and Gross worn at all times. “A good pair of sunglasses should be perfectly suited at the beach or blocking the paparazzi’s lens stumbling out of a dive bar at 3am,” Reino Lehtonen-Riley, owner of the legendary London jewellers, tells us below, “That’s Iggy.”
Iggy’s been shopping at The Great Frog for years, decorating his fingers with their signature skull rings – as have most of rock ‘n’ roll’s truest players – and has been wearing Cutler and Gross shades since the 70s. “These shades say something,” Pop says in his signature drawl.
Joining aesthetic and craft, the collaboration comprises five unisex styles – three sunglasses and two opticals – embellishing Cutler and Gross’ renowned frame construction with Great Frog hallmarks: The Reaper, Crossbones and Dagger. Boasting over 100 years of combined history, this team-up fuses both brands’ heritage association with outsider style and subcultural tribes, realising an eyewear range with total authenticity: Iggy certified.
“Iggy was the perfect fit, I mean he literally sings about skull rings and sunglasses.”
Alex James Taylor: Talk us through how the collaboration came together and how you saw the two brands merging?
Reino Lehtonen-Riley: The objective of this collaboration was simple, to merge both our stylistic codes. Cutler and Gross and The Great Frog have over 100 years of combined history; perfecting their game, offering the best of British, gender-bending, anti-establishment, irreverent, iconic style. Any collaboration only works if the outcome is greater than the sum of its parts, which we have accomplished in style.
AJT: What were the core design principles behind the collection?
RLR: I’ve been working very closely with the Alessandro, creative director at Cutler and Gross, since we started this journey in 2020. We wanted to take the DNA of The Great Frog and Cutler and Gross, so we trawled back through the TGF archive of masters and moulds to find pieces from the very early days when we started out in Soho, and to mirror that I visited the Cutler and Gross archive, looking back through the treasure trove of the past 50 years.
Somehow we combined both of these historical references to make something distinct and modern, reinventing and tweaking the classic Cutler and Gross style using unexpected colour variations to create something that is exciting and fresh.
AJT: What’re the details you’re particularly proud of – and what influenced those choices?
RLR: Referencing our historic designs, new technology has allowed us to embellish and experiment with new product technology and details that couldn’t be achieved in the past. We wanted to solidify both of our brand identities; Cutler and Gross being known for their monolithic – architectural, almost – chunky acetates, and The Great Frog for its irreverent symbolism. So we carried that language through, stamping our combined identities into the core wires using TGF’s now iconic lockdown link reimagined as a graphical motif and embellishing our frames and arms with our sterling silver designs.
It’s been really exciting for me learning about this new world of sunglasses manufacturing, not knowing the rules, and collaborating on new ways of working. Working closely with Cutler and Gross, who have such vast knowledge and incredible design skills, they were able to translate some of my wilder ideas into cohesive wearable sunglasses. We’re extremely proud of them.
AJT: This is your first time making sunglasses, how did you feel when you first saw them and tried them on?
RLR: I’ve been designing sunglasses in my head for ten plus years and they’ve only ever amounted to design sketches on paper, to finally see them in a physical form, to feel the quality of the product and craftmanship and to understand the process of how we got here has actually been quite emotional. It’s the outcome of lots of hard work many different elements; from the craftspeople, designers and the processes and technology – both traditional and modern.
“It’s been really exciting for me learning about this new world of sunglasses manufacturing, not knowing the rules, and collaborating on new ways of working.”
AJT: The campaign is so good. Stupid question, but why Iggy?
RLR: I’ve always had an obsession with the incongruous, things that seem out of place; teenage goths on family holidays at the beach, things taken out of context. Iggy is iconic and he has a universal appeal, he is equally at home in the Lower East Side NYC or his now home in Miami, a dive bar or on stage at an opera house, he transcends genres.
AJT: And Iggy has long history with both brands.
RLR: He’s has been wearing Cutler and Gross since the late 70s and has been a customer of The Great Frog for many years. Iggy is ferocious, he comes on stage and transforms himself. I saw him at the Royal Albert Hall about six years ago and it stuck with me, this visceral terror, I knew we had to work with him one day! He was the perfect fit, I mean he literally sings about skull rings and sunglasses. Iggy embodies the punk rock spirit and is a legend, but he doesn’t rest on his heritage (as he would be well within his right to), but is excited and enquiring. That’s why he is so current and resonates with people today as much as he did in the early days.
AJT: Lastly, can you give us a track to play when wearing the collection?
RLR: It’s got to be Shades by Iggy Pop.
The Great Frog x Cutler and Gross collection is available in Cutler and Gross standalone stores and online.