Kenmark Group has gone full-force retro with Original Penguin, a line based in nostalgic styling. Penguin has been synonymous with classic Americana since 1955 when the brand introduced its now-famous penguin logo golf shirt. Worn by Bing Crosby, Arnold Palmer, Frank Sinatra, and other icons of the period, Penguin shirts became a symbol of the sophisticated Rat-Pack-era lifestyle. In the early 2000s, when preppy polos and vintage track jackets enjoyed resurgence, Penguin found itself back at fashion’s forefront. In 2003, it introduced a new collection that reworked the original look for a modern customer, the kind of man who might show off his tattoos instead of his cigar collection. Kenmark’s eye- and sunwear collection stays true to the brand.
THE INSPIRATION This well-rounded collection spans several decades of eyewear history. In the 24 ophthalmic and 12 sun looks, there are references to the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Today’s Penguin frames have a little more face form and a little more panto, and the shapes are a little more precise.
Another goal was to incorporate elements of Penguin shirts into the eyewear. The polos use a lot of piping, so Kenmark created three- and four-layer custom acetate. Viewed from the top, this creates an unexpected piping detail all around the temples. For example, a brown frame with a crystal back might have a bright yellow layer, visible only from certain angles, sandwiched in between. Another Penguin theme is bold color blocking, so some models have two-tone temples that change color sharply halfway down the shaft.
STANDOUTS Doyle is the best-selling frame in the collection. The shape is textbook Mad Men: squared-off eyewires with a keyhole bridge and exposed hinges. And while most frames of this ilk come in standard black and tortoise, the Doyle has an unexpected range of available colors. On one option, a translucent gray frame front plays off of tortoise temples. A burgundy version has a modern gradient pattern. Five of the six colors are either gradient or translucent, which lightens up the look of the chunky acetate. The multi-tasking frame also works well as a sunglass.
Luther is a semi-rimless Malcolm-X-style combination frame, but it’s far from a generic version of the famous ‘60s style. Rather than standard plastic that matches the frame front, Luther’s temples are metal and have a pressed cross-hatched pattern that add texture and keep the frame from feeling flat.
Granger and Cole take the timeline back even further, to the ’40s. Both feature Windsor rims, which are thin sheets of acetate glued around their metal eyewires. These frames are a lighter, more sophisticated alternative to the line’s chunkier acetates.
PROMOTING THE BRAND Original Penguin’s two- and three-piece displays and logo blocks are wood, orbital in shape, and reminiscent of 60s furniture. Images have a rec-room vibe, with young, hip men hanging out in a retro-looking bar. Each frame comes with a leatherette snap case lined with a flocking material in mid-century blue, which ties in with the brand’s clothing.
With its vintage men’s frames available at a moderate price, Original Penguin fills an important gap for Kenmark Group and eyecare professionals.
Kate Jacobs is an optician at the optical shop at Scheie Eye Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.