Welcome to Anglo American Optical. We’re a trusted retro eyewear designer with a long history. We value creativity, style and sophistication, quality materials and the integrity of our family business. We sell to opticians. This is our story.
Our frames are made of lightweight acetate, which is based on cotton or tree pulp. It’s an all-natural hypoallergenic material that ensures there is very minimal chance of a reaction.
Besides the youth of today, those who have been loyal customers for 40 years or more, and everyone in between, our frames have been worn by Gregory Peck in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Christopher Reeves in “Superman”, Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall”, Barry Humphries, Dame Edna, Woody Allen and Elton John, and many others we are proud to have served.
Our roots stretch back to 1882 when Englishman Stanley Druiff travelled to the US to buy a number of items, including eyeglasses, to sell on his return to the UK.
Anglo American Optical came into our own family when it was bought by Arthur Jenkin in 1947. As the main breadwinner for his family at the age of 13, had become a businessman early, servicing and repairing binoculars for British and Canadian forces in World War II. So though he was young, he was backed by experience.
A year later, in 1948, Britain’s National Health Service was established and many people received free frames. Arthur was considered something of a visionary, importing Tura, Whitney and Gaspari “fashion” frames from the US that offered the British market something different.
Following career ambitions to make frames himself, Arthur’s son Lawrence traced his father’s company’s roots back to the US in 1967 when he moved to New York to learn the trade. While there, he worked with high-end Lugene Opticians and optical boutique Vision Unlimited. He also designed frames as a freelancer for Whitney Optical and won frame designing competitions. After three successful years overseas, Lawrence had made such an impression on the owner of Vision Unlimited that, when he responded to a question about what he wanted to do with his life, he was told, “Here’s a cheque; go and do it.” With $24,000 to establish his own factory on his father’s premises, that’s exactly what he did.
Within a decade of Lawrence’s return, Arthur took a backseat and Lawrence’s brothers Malcolm and Tony became heavily involved. Anglo American was selling frames in the UK, but the majority were sold back to customers in the US and exported abroad to many other countries. In 1986, they opened a shop on New York’s Park Avenue. From the 1970s-1990s, creative, over the top designs were synonymous with the Anglo American name. Much of their work was, and still is, hand-finished.
In 1996, Lawrence left the company to pursue personal goals, working on bespoke projects and training young people in the art of frame making as what was once a dying art is experiencing a revival. In 2000, Tony took on the position as head of the company and more recently, his son Toby joined the team, bringing in a third generation.