Who’s Behind Those Foster Grants in the New ‘Elvis’ Biopic?

The Smithfield-based brand, that’s who.
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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Though it’s been around since 1929 (when founder Sam Foster sold his first pair of sunnies on the Atlantic City Boardwalk for just ten cents), America’s oldest sunglasses brand, Foster Grant, really hit its stride during the gilded age of Hollywood when it came up with the iconic advertising campaign “Who’s Behind Those Foster Grants?” The campaign debuted in 1965 and featured several Hollywood stars (think the likes of Mia Farrow and Peter Sellers), later earning it a spot in AdAge’s “Top 100 Campaigns of the Twentieth Century.” But perhaps an even more impressive feat? The stylish eyewear managed to catch the eye of the King of Rock n’ Roll himself, becoming one of Elvis Presley’s staple accessories in the ‘70s.

And so, it’s only natural that Catherine Martin, the Oscar-winning film designer known for her historically accurate styling, would turn to the brand, which is now based in Smithfield, Rhode Island, while working on the new Elvis biopic (in theaters now). During their collaboration, the Foster Grant designers created about twenty different styles to be used for filming; many of which, as worn by lead Houndog actor Austin Butler, are featured prominently throughout the second half of the film. We chatted with Matthew Coon, Senior Vice President of Product Design and Development for Foster Grant’s parent company, FGX International, to learn more about the collaboration.

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Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

How did the collaboration for the film originally come about? Did Catherine Martin’s team reach out first? 

Catherine Martin’s production team reached out to Foster Grant to discuss creating eyewear that would have the authenticity she needed for the Elvis film. The “King of Rock and Roll” once wore Foster Grant sunglasses, so it was an honor to design styles for the film with such a strong nod to Foster Grant’s storied past.

Are the glasses featured in the film exact replicas of the type Elvis wore, or more of an homage?  

The Iconic styles were custom tooled and designed to be exact replicas per Catherine’s request in the authentic style Elvis wore.

Tell us about the process of designing/creating the sunglasses — how long did it take to complete the designs?

We started the process working with Catherine and her team in November 2019.  A broad collection of eyewear styles was sent to her in Australia tailored for the different eras she requested for the film.  In particular, she was interested in an exact match for the iconic TCB EP styles in gold and silver tones that represented the ‘Taking Care of Business’ theme featured in the movie. We worked with the Elvis design team over a period of four to five months, including when the production was halted due to the COVID outbreak

 Were some of the styles “easier” to design/recreate than others? If so, why? 

Yes. There were several very specific custom features required on a few of the designs. The classic EP and TCB insignias representing Elvis Presley were an intricate part of the design process which you can see clearly in closeup shots onscreen.

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Courtesy of Foster Grant

Where are the glasses that were used in the film now? (i.e. Did Austin get to keep them or are they back with Foster Grant?)  

The eyeglasses Foster Grant produced for the film are with Catherine Martin and her design team. We sent multiple sets of the iconic styles so it’s possible some of those may have been kept by the actors.

Will Foster Grant be creating more vintage styles now for people who might be inspired by what they see in the film? 

It could definitely be an influence going forward. There are classic styles featured in the film we have available in our collections.  These will most likely serve as inspiration on Foster Grant’s continuous journey providing the ultimate in eyewear styling to our customers.

You can see the sunglasses for yourself now in theaters or when the film hits HBO Max’s streaming service in early August.