Model to editor to designer - Anna Laub has been bringing eternal sunshine to fashion's skies for a long time. The founder of accessories brand Prism, has just opened her first London store on Chiltern Street and is setting us up for summer.
Anna Laub sees eye to eye with all things fashion. She was a model, signed to Storm at 16 before becoming a journalist before setting up her own business, Prism. Starting off as an eyewear brand in 2009, Prism has since expanded to include swimwear, espadrilles and fans including Rihanna, Kate Moss and David Beckham who can be spotted in many a gossip mag lounging upon beaches and yachts wearing the tropical designs. Each style of sunglasses or bikini is named after a city in the world which has inspired it and the jet-set designer has no shortage of ideas. Her shiny new store, influenced by her penchant for sunnier climes has tropical minimalism down to a T and her perfect combination of function and aesthetic is sure to get the rest of London decked out in Prism by the time the sun comes out. We talk business tips and summer getaways with the lovely Londoner...
Congratulations on the store opening! How did it go?
Thank you! It was just kind of a soft opening. It's exciting, it's our first store.
Why Chiltern Street?
It's kind of a long story. I actually, in passing, found a place in New York that I liked and it was a bit of a delusional idea because I don't live there, but I ended up looking at a place on Chiltern Street that was exactly the same layout. I think what had prevented me at first opening a place in London was that I didn't really want to open it in East or West specifically. I liked the idea of Central London but obviously it's very expensive, I'm not going to open on Bond Street for example. I wanted somewhere that isn't a defined neighborhood yet. Would you ever open a store in New York? I like to think of Prism as being quite international but it made sense to open here because I'm from London and the brand is based here, but I was looking all over the place and this space came up and it was just perfect so I decided to do it.
How did you come up with the concept of the store?
I had quite a clear idea in my head - it's all very clean, very minimal, really specific materials like metal, mirror, stone and marble, just really clean lines with tropical plants to mix up with that. I would say tropical minimalism is the theme. And then I met Rich Bennett and Rob Storey and we ended up doing it all together. Rich is an interior architect and Rob is a set designer/interior designer.
"If you over-think things you'll never get anywhere, you just have to get off your ass and do it."
Your story's pretty incredible, coming up from model to editor to designer, when did you decide you wanted to make sunglasses?
I think I always wanted to to my own bit, have my own business. I've always been quite specific with products. I often would buy things and change them myself to make them exactly how I wanted them to be. I started Prism a couple of years before I left WGSN, I was looking to buy optical glasses that weren't just functional, that were something I really liked and I just couldn't find any. When I saw someone wearing glasses I really liked, they were always vintage, which is not something you can buy in a consistent way so I just thought I would do it myself and that was it. The idea was just to combine something that was functional with aesthetic.
Do you have any advice for someone starting up their own business from scratch?
I think you just have to trust your instincts a lot, that's what I've learnt to do.
Did you plan on starting up a whole business when you made your first pair of glasses?
Yeah, I mean it was more like starting an idea - I wasn't trying to start an eyewear brand, it was a vision of combining functional and aesthetic to make a product. Then I went from optical glasses straight to swimwear and sunglasses. I definitely didn't think it all through, I never thought how much work it would be and what would come after. I also think that to a certain extent, that's some advice to give too - if you over-think things you'll never get anywhere, you just have to get off your ass and do it. A lot of people have good ideas and they just don't follow through with them. Most of the time that's the difference. You just have to take a chance and do it, sometimes it's not going to work and sometimes it is but you've got to try, if you don't you'll never know.
You interviewed Azzedine Alaia for i-D last year and have a huge Alaia collection, have you ever thought of working with him?
I would love to collaborate with him, he's probably my ideal person to do sunglasses with and swimwear maybe. I haven't done any interviewing for a long time and Holly asked me to do that.
Was it all in French?
Yes! Which was pretty difficult I must say but he's someone in the industry that I massively respect, I look up to him and his aesthetic is amazing. He does everyhting his own way and really stayed true to what he wanted to do and what he believes in and he has such an amazing talent. The way I make my products, is I try to produce products that aren't so seasonal that in six months you're like "oh, that's really boring I want to throw it away." I really try to make stuff that's going to be timeless and classic but also that you're going to be excited about wearing now and I think he does that and it's a really hard thing to achieve. It was really cool to meet and spend an afternoon with someone you really respect in the industry, and have a conversation with someone who thinks in the same way you do about things.
Have you been to all the places that you've named your sunglasses and swimwear after?
Yeah, pretty much.
Do you design them after you've been to that place?
A lot of the time I do, yeah. There are a few places that I haven't been to that I want to go to. I think every name I give, whether it's a bag or a bikini or a pair of glasses, it's like the image of what that place conjures up, that's how I attribute those names.
What does London look like?
London was one of the first pairs of glasses I did in the classic collection. It's a bit edgier, a bit cooler, whereas the New York glasses are very kind of classic cool. The Paris glasses are a bit coquettish and Rio are a bit sexier.
What are you up to this summer?
I think I'm going to go to Bali and maybe New Orleans as well.
Where's the most beautiful place you've ever been to?
I went to the Galapagos, that was pretty amazing. I haven't named anything after that yet, maybe that's next season!
I know you've just opened this one, but are you planning on opening stores anywhere else?
Yes, I hope so. New York, LA, Sydney are going to be next.
Would you ever move to any of those places?
I think I spend my whole life thinking about where I want to live and I think London's a really amazing place. It's the centre of Europe, you can get everywhere easily and there's so much culture and so much going on here. The weather's not great but if you can go away enough it's an awesome place to base yourself. You're so in touch , culturally, with everything.
You have some amazing celeb's wearing your products now, when did Rihanna get in touch?
I can't even really remember how it happened but she definitely wears our sunglasses and swimwear a lot which is really awesome. Beyoncé as well wears our swimwear and Kate Moss. We've had some awesome guys too, from David Beckham to Michael Fassbender, they all wear the sunglasses and glasses and espadrilles. Michael Fassbaender wore the espadrilles everyday for a week when he got them! Zac Efron... A lot of these people just bought them and then we found pictures of them, it wasn't like we were sending them to everyone. Ashley Greene, Michelle Williams and Bar Rafaeli, can't think of anyone else. We're about to do a collaboration with Tinie Tempa as well, that's coming out later in the year.