Anna Laub is a former style editor with a hunger for travel. The founder and creative director of Prism talks transforming her sunglasses line into a complete holiday wardrobe and dispelling quick trends in favour of love-forever pieces
When I couldn’t find my perfect pair of glasses, I simply kept looking until I did, scouring opticians and vintage markets alike. When Anna Laub faced that problem in 2009, she decided to make her own – and Prism was born.
“There just wasn’t any cool eyewear on the market so I started a side project, which then took on a life of its own,” Laub says, as we catch up in Marylebone’s Nordic Bakery, a stone’s throw from her Chiltern Street store. “I always wanted to have my own business. I was even thinking about jewellery, but because I was looking for glasses and couldn’t find any, I thought I may as well have a go at that.”
Laub found the idea of designing a functional product appealing. If it’s something you need, you wear it more, she reasoned, but opticals were a neglected accessory. “I wanted to make glasses something that you liked buying as much as you liked buying bags or shoes; that had that same excitement.”
Fast-forward to 2017, and Prism’s glasses have been joined by a complete holiday wardrobe of swimwear, beachwear and espadrilles – mostly made in Italy – and the brand counts Elton John and Rihanna as followers. Even the catwalk has caught up, with Gucci and Balenciaga models sporting specs on the S/S17 catwalks. Laub thinks this is because designers and brands are more willing to experiment with glasses now, whereas when she started it was a “scary idea”.
The name was the last thing to slot into place. “I had the product and I’d done all my mood boards, which were all about faceted shapes and colour, but I didn’t want the brand to be about me, or have my name. I wanted it to be something that would conjure up a really cool visual image.” And so Prism was chosen, inspired by a conversation with her father, a doctor of physics.
Although there was a great-grandfather who worked for Dior, fashion doesn’t otherwise run in the family and it was Laub’s own early modelling days from the age of 13 that helped shaped her vision. “If I was a normal teenager, I wouldn’t have been looking at French Vogue, but it trains your eye. You start to understand how shoots work and it’s creative training that you don’t realise you’re getting.”
Despite a spell at trend forecasting company WGSN and editing The Observer’s O:Woman supplement, Laub has different ideas about fashion’s typical cycle when it comes to her own designs. “I don’t want my glasses to be something so over the top that you later decide they’re not cool anymore. I’m not into this idea in fashion, of buying something new every six months and throwing away what you’ve got.”
The brand has two main collections a year: resort and high summer, with some classic styles rolled over. “If people want a black bikini, they want a black bikini; in two years it’s not going to be out of fashion. I wanted to make lasting products, but ones that people are still going to get excited about,” she continues.
Collaboration is a part of building this excitement and after a number of eyewear projects, the first swimwear partnership with label Mother of Pearl has just launched. “It’s nice to do something that takes you in a different direction,” says Laub, who met MOP’s designer Amy Powney when they were both finalists for the 2017 BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund. “She won this year, and the collection came out at the same time, like a celebration of her winning.” The duo’s collection of swimwear, espadrilles and beach dresses is characterised by frills, prints and embellishments – an intentional departure from Prism’s “minimal luxury”.
“You want to work with someone that has a different aesthetic to you, so when you come together you create something that neither of you would do on your own,” Laub explains. “I think I tone down her collections and she’s amplified mine.”
Much of Laub’s inspiration also comes from her travels, and Prism pieces take their names from destinations such as Rio, Formentera, Venice and Seville. “You can tell where I like to go because there are more things named after places in Italy and Brazil than any others in the collections,” she smiles. And family life doesn’t appear to have changed her penchant for travel. “We’ve got a two-year-old now, although we worked out this last trip was his fifth to LA.
“It’s become a bit of a joke, but travelling is also a real testing opportunity for me. I’m hands-on with the business so I bring all my Prism stuff on holiday with me and try everything out myself. If I’m in LA it’s going to be easier than London to see if things work or not,” she laughs. We can’t argue with that logic.