Young Andrew Oliver Goldsmith Failed as an Architect

Unfortunately, his life didn’t get much sexier for some time.

After seeing his son’s aspirations of architecture come up short, Andrew’s father, Charles Oliver offered the talented boy an opportunity to work for him. In 1959, Andrew started working for Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear as an 18 year-old.

Thinking he’d rise right to the top of the company as a 3rd generation frame designer, Andrew was in for quite a surprise. His apprenticeship for the next five years was anything but glamorous. However, those hard beginnings helped to build the foundation for a man that eventually created over 600 frames in production.

5 Years of Humility and Emerging Respect

Andrew was giddy and ready to dive into designing eyewear, but (Charles) Oliver Goldsmith had other plans for his son: cleaning toilets, picking up and throwing away cigarettes, sweeping floors and making tea for others. He was never allowed to pull the “I’m the boss’s son, and I get to run things around here” attitude.

Andrew was sent to the workshop to be taught how to make a handmade spectacle frame. This would ensure he would have a full understanding of the mechanics that go into a handmade frame.

In his Father’s eyes he was still building a foundation, not quite ready to take the role of eyewear designer. He soon graduated to shipping and packaging frames. Andrew was taught over a four-week period how to pack and ship frames that included prescription lenses (in those days the lenses were only available in GLASS). They had to arrive at the Optician without any chips in the glass. If an Optician returned a job stating arrived chipped, we knew the Optician has cracked the lens adjusting the frame! But as they say: Customer is King and we duly replaced the "faulty" lens.

Now, he was ready to become a “Runner.” Runners were old age pensioners employed to collect and deliver the work to the London area Opticians. The reason they were called Runners, came about because although they were given the bus fare, they preferred to run and save the money for cigarettes and beer! As a runner, Andrew was expected to deliver eyewear all over central London with the Pensioners. He got quite a workout!

Learning from the ground up proved to be invaluable towards his success. He understood the company he was working for. He was able to relate to all of his eventual team members and how he earned their respect as “one of them.”

Things were progressing quite well, but there was a glaring problem with Andrew: he was quite the introvert.

A New Man

Andrew was known as a quiet, reserved and conservative introvert. His father, understanding that Andrew needed more of an outgoing personality to design and sell eyewear, sent him to NYC.

In just 3 weeks, he was taught by Bernard Kayman how to let loose in the city that never sleeps.

He was exposed to all the lights and excitement of the big city. Coming back from his exposure to the Big Apple, Andrew was a new man. An extrovert!!

With newfound charm and enthusiasm, his outgoing personality was formed as the life of the party. Andrew was ready to create and sell his designs! In 1964, Andrew became OLIVER III (Oliver The Third) and his father became "the old man".

This very first design was chosen by Lord Snowdon, who at the time was married to H R H Princess Margaret (the Queen's sister).

Sales 101

Learning how to communicate his passion for eyewear, Oliver figured out how to “sell” his designs. When he sells, he doesn’t “sell.” He educates clients with this acronym and follows the formula today:

  • History (share his journey)
  • Heritage (the importance of his family business)
  • Story (what he’s all about)
  • Quality (how his eyewear is tops in design and manufacturing)
  • Elegance (his eyewear is face jewelry for women, face furniture for men)
  • Comfort (this sells itself…try one on)

He encourages his clients to buy what they like, NOT what others like. Life is short, wear what you want and love. Wear it with confidence.

Royalty and The Princess of Monaco

Royalty and celebrities started to crave Oliver Goldsmith eyewear designs. Fans of this innovative eyewear: Lord Snowdon, Duke of Windsor, Princess Margaret, Princess Diana of Wales, The Princess of Monaco (Grace Kelly), Michael Cain, Colin Firth, Peter Sellers, John Lennon, Audrey Hepburn and Nancy Sinatra (among others). Not a bad way to get the word out as one of the industry leaders.

Innovative Materials

The Goldsmith eyewear family has always been ahead of the game with innovative frame materials. They actually used real tortoise shell (when it was legal) for their designs. They would use every part of the turtle, making sure not to waste any part of it. With every frame sold, they gave the consumer a tin of turtle soup to go with their new eyewear.

Oliver's father, Oliver Senior, was known for creating handmade fashion eyewear. They came up with a material that allowed designs to come in 200 different colors. This was extremely innovative at the time. Their compelling designs were catching the eye of the industry and celebrities alike. And, in the 1960’s, Oliver Goldsmith Sr. was invited to show Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear at The House of Vision in Chicago.

The Tradition Continues

“I don’t look at or follow any other designers. I lead. I don’t follow.”
— Oliver Goldsmith III

Known for Quality, Elegance and Comfort, Oliver does his best design work in the middle of the night, on a notepad on top of his nightstand. Known for their amazing work with retro eyewear, many Oliver Goldsmith designs were inspired by these late-night drawings. In fact, Oliver states that designers under the age of 60, probably don’t understand all of the fine details that truly make up a retro frame.

A pro of designing the “retro” frame, Oliver is now excited for the release of his OGX series, a frame line plump with modern designs and a retro feel.

For more information on the history of Oliver Goldsmith eyewear, please take time to check out If you’re ever in London make sure to visit the 70 archived designs from 1926 to 1989 at The Victoria & Albert Museum

Architecture 101

If you’ve ever failed at something, take note of Andrew Oliver Goldsmith’s story. Work hard from the bottom up, gain respect and create beautiful and compelling eyewear.


Written by Tim Slapnicher.
Images by LocalPigeon.
Special thanks to Oliver Goldsmith.