Our eyewear world is full of inspirational and passionate women. Designer Birgitte Falvin from Denmark is relatively new to, starting her career in jewellery. “Jewellery has been my playground from the early days, I have worked with many different aspects of the creative process in jewellery. In the beginning, while I was still studying surface design, I was creating handmade pieces that were sold in independent fashion boutiques in Florence and Copenhagen. The collection had a couture feel, and the statement pieces were eco-friendly. I used a mix of materials, such as vintage pearls, gold wire and couture yarn. I was very interested in surface design and fashion jewellery, and was happy to discover that the department for surface design at the Designskolen Kolding (where I was studying) had a similar approach to the design process as the Institut for Ædelmetal – the design department for jewellery design in Copenhagen.”
Birgitte launched her first eyewear collection in September 2015, and today she is working exclusively on luxurious titanium designs. “Titanium is a lightweight material making it the perfect choice for fashionable, oversized frames. Falvin´s frames often get compliments for their comfortable fit. I find the clean look of titanium interesting, and I like to soften the design with matte and shiny precious lines of rose gold, palladium and 24 carat gold.”
Today, the collection makes a feature of luxury diamonds, beautiful hand cut lens details and unexpected colour mixes. The frames combine an aesthetic attitude with the edginess of Nordic architecture, optimizing the genius of Danish and Japanese craftsmanship. “As a designer, I always look forward to the development of new collections. There are so many possibilities and materials to explore. It is exciting to watch the the brand grow and expand.”
Architecture remains a source of design inspiration for every detail, as it did when the brand first launched. Birgitte explains: “At the beginning, my husband and I walked around Copenhagen, seeking a strong source of inspiration for an elegant eyewear concept. The Royal Danish Library, the iconic modern library building was the perfect inspiration for a collection that represented a blend of contemporary elegance and a cool aesthetic attitude, strongly infused with Nordic references.”
Copenhagen’s iconic Black Diamond houses the Royal Danish Library. “Its irregular angles fascinated me. When the light reflects off the building’s granite-clad surfaces, magic happens. The Falvin team visited the building many times at different hours to see the changing light and colours and to study the building inside and out. We took a lot of photographs, enjoying the asymmetrical design and the beautiful colour palette.”
Today, all Falvin´s frames are based on this concept, and the graphic references are paired with matte and shiny yellow gold, rose gold and palladium details. Frames can be customised with sparkling Wesselton diamonds that recall the glittering surface of the water that surrounds the Black Diamond. Falvin Eyewear will exhibit at Copenhagen Specs this weekend. More details:www.falvineyewear.comCN
Silvana Stefanovic-Riley @embellish_or_perish talks to Eyestylist about glasses, Advanced Style, and a lifelong passion for fashion…
“I started wearing eyeglasses to correct short-sightedness in high school,” says Silvana when we start to look into her first experiences of eyewear. “In those days I saw this as an impediment and I only wore glasses when I absolutely had to.” It’s a common reaction, yet, after a while, like many, she found a new direction in her glasses.
“Over time I relaxed into wearing my prescription sunglasses and started to appreciate them as an accessory that can enhance the look rather than detract from it. As for sunglasses, having lived in Australia for over 40 years, this harsh sunlight requires good sun protection for eyes.”
Photo credit (above): Lauren Farley of @doculifephotography
Explaining her favourite styles, Silvana is inspired by design and individuality: “I love colour and accessories. This makes it easy to find glasses to suit each outfit, mood and occasion. Each year, I buy two pairs of prescription glasses or sunglasses to add to my collection. I have recently purchased this year’s glasses. I have sent one of these frames to Brazil to be hand painted by the talented Erida Schaefer of La Frida Eyewear.”
Sunglasses in particular provide an opportunity for some fun and self-expression. With a sizable collection Silvana says she is always on the lookout for new and different sunglasses to add to the stash. “On occasion. sunnies also provide a much needed confidence boost by covering up the effects of the odd sleepless night. I often take selfies in the same outfit but change the sunglasses and the difference that sunglasses make to the overall aesthetic is incredible, she says.
“I had followed Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style Blog and IG for a number of years as a ‘passive’ observer,” explains Silvana when we ask about her pictures in Advanced Style. “I do not recall how I initially came across Advanced Style in the first place, however there was a recurring theme of older women using personal style as a form of self-expression. These women radiate vitality, zest for life and creativity that defies the societal expectations of older people. Older people in general, and especially older women with grey hair, are not seen as being at the forefront of social change. Yet the Advanced Style movement initiated by Ari Seth Cohen is now a worldwide phenomenon.”
Through Ari’s Blog and Instagram, Silvana got to ‘know’ many other Advanced Stylistas, and learnt what gives them the life’s energy to continue to be active, creative and self-expressive older women. “I always thought that I would eventually become somehow involved with the spirit of this sentiment”, she explained. “However full-time work and other family commitments alway took precedent. Despite this, my interest in the Advanced style phenomenon continued. I admired the first Advanced Style Book, then the Documentary movie and eventually the second book – Advanced Style Older and Wiser.” Continue reading “Silvana Stefanovic-Riley @embellish_or_perish”→
Numerous and varied inspirations influence designers, and for Tim Van Steenbergen (above) his muses include music, opera and ballet. He has created costumes for Richard Wagner’s The Ring; La Scala in Milan; and the Staatsoper in Berlin, and now the Ballet Viaanderen. His latest foray is a personal interpretation of Limited Edition sunglasses based on the ballet masterpiece of Maurice Ravel –Pictures at an Exhibition. The composition is by Modest Mussorgsky, in an orchestration by Ravel, and is part of a triple bill performed by Ballet Viaanderen in Belgium.
Van Steenbergen shared with Eyestylist some of the background events for the Limited Edition glasses. “The idea was one big creative process,” said Van Steenbergen,”as when I started this project with Ballet Viaanderen, I wasn’t thinking about creating new frames. However, I discussed this with some colleagues, and realised the stage is dominated by five golden frames, and the story of a world in front of and behind the frames: to watch while being watched.
“That reminded me of frames. People are looking at you through the frame, and you look back at them. And just at that moment, theo asked me about creating a special Limited Edition! The main thing about the frames is ‘being watched.’¨ That’s why I chose the golden aspect – and it also refers to the golden frames onstage, which the dancers move through. With the golden mirrored lenses people look at you; but you don’t show them everything.”
The dance idiom in the ballet is tranquil and fluid, and translated into eyewear – this means bold forms in black, highlighted with golden edges in 24-carat gold. The reflective gold lenses are a reference to the interaction with the artist – or in this instance – the wearer. Six elegant models are available, wrapped in a cleaning cloth with a pattern from the costumes designed by Van Steenbergen for Pictures at an Exhibition, and stylishly packaged in a protective hard case. www.theo.beJG
Smoke x Mirrors – the New York label that launched last year – is the creative endeavour of two cousins: David Shabati and Roi Ironi (above). Roi tells Eyestylist how they started their business.
Please give a brief history of how Smoke x Mirrors was created? “It started in Mexico when I lost my glasses. I went out to replace them, but couldn’t find anything I liked – it all looked the same to me. After this, I couldn’t help but to explore, and that’s when I recognised the lack of innovation in the industry, and the white space waiting to be tapped into. After working in the watch business, a very traditional industry from a manufacturing standpoint, I saw eyewear as an opportunity and vehicle to really express creativity, and push technology to reach the desired design level.”
How would you describe the fashion concept and philosophy of Smoke x Mirrors? “We approach eyewear as a means of fashion innovation. Outside of our core collection, we release diverse, radically different capsule collections, and collaborations that don’t necessarily adhere to a set identity – that’s where the name comes in. It gives us the freedom to play and experiment with design, to push boundaries on the technical and aesthetic level. ”
What is the customer profile – and consumer marketplace – of the Smoke x Mirrors frame wearer? “Our glasses are genderless and ageless. Simply put, my girlfriend and my father wear the same frames.”
As newcomers to the eyewear industry – what are the biggest challenges so far? “The classic industry is not relevant as it is today, but is undergoing a seismic shift that we’re set to lead.”
In the next three years, how do you foresee Smoke x Mirrors developing your own identity, and distinguishing your brand in the eyewear business? “In terms of identity, time is not relevant – whether’s it’s now or in three years, we’ll still be Smoke x Mirrors.” www.smokexmirrors.com Smoke x Mirrors will presenttheir latest capsule collection – GEO – at Silmo in Paris 23rd-26th September. www.silmoparis.comJG
What feeds a Creative Spirit? For Brent Zerger, Director of Communications at l.a. Eyeworks in California, it’s the arts, architecture, eyewear and food! Insightful, curious, blessed with a deliciously wicked sense of humour, and a passionate eyewear advocate, Brent shares his views on life and living with Eyestylist.
Please give us a brief profile about your professional career. “After graduate school, my professional career began in the contemporary art world. I worked for nearly a decade in a curatorial/programming capacity with The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) here in Los Angeles; also as an independent curator; and as a public art officer helping to oversee the artworks in the MTA transit system of L.A. county. The second big chapter of my career began as the manager of a retail store for l.a. Eyeworks that opened in 2002. I became Director of Communication for the company in 2007 and the story continues!”
What sparked your passion in eyewear? “True story: my passion for eyewear began as a passion for l.a. Eyeworks as a brand. Growing up in the relatively rural Midwest, there weren’t a lot of cultural avenues to explore – and I was hungry! But I remember somehow getting my hands on Interview magazine and taping the l.a. Eyeworks portrait ads to my bedroom wall. I was hypnotised by their glamour, mystery, and incredible energy. That I would one day stand in Greg Gorman’s studio to watch him shoot one of those portraits is such a meaningful completion of a circle for me.”
If you could have been born in another era, what century would you choose, and why? “Truly, there isn’t one I would choose. I’m happy in this time and place. BUT…if I could have misspent my young adulthood in southern California in the 1960’s, I imagine that would have been a very fine thing.”
l.a.Eyeworks is based in Los Angeles – do you think the city continues to be an international, inspirational source for art, fashion, etc.? “For many reasons, it’s hard to comprehend the breadth of Los Angeles and the scale of the things that are produced here. It’s a full spectrum show. From the scientific geniuses working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to the worst reality TV, from superstars of the art world to Star Wars-branded non-dairy coffee creamer, love it or hate it: what L.A. ‘says’ is incredibly influential. Los Angeles is so engaging to me because it’s constantly reinventing itself with little regard to the past, and an anxious grasp for the future. It can be daring, gorgeous, audacious, and horrible all at the same time. Whatever the case, it’s intensely visual and I love that. At this moment, what’s particularly interesting to me is watching these huge production fields – television, film, music – as they pivot to adapt to the realities of the proliferating on-demand economy. While this dynamic is being felt in every field (including fashion, travel, transportation, and so on), I’m keeping a keen eye on Hollywood because the stakes are so enormous. It’s a sea change of operatic proportions!”
Nowadays, who do you think most influences eyewear styles and market appeal? “I doubt my answers to this question would surprise anyone. Whether it’s celebrities or red carpet designers, or massive ad campaigns by mega-labels, I pay attention…and then I don’t. There’s the influence of those who know how to meet all the expectations, and then there’s the influence of those who startle the world by going their own way. Personally, I’m so much more interested in any person I meet who sees their glasses as a way to stand out from the crowd. I don’t care if the frames came from a yard sale or a boutique; when I see anyone who’s wearing glasses to express their individuality and not their allegiance to trend, that’s when I get excited.”
Please select a favourite fashion moment that inspires you. “What comes immediately to mind is the Apollo 11 spacesuit worn by Buzz Aldrin to walk on the surface of the moon in 1969. That helmet with the gold mirrored shield? Now that’s a radical, avant-garde garment! To me, the space suit says everything about the future we’ve come to live: the integration of apparatus and the body, not to mention the role of outfit as a metaphor for the complex relationship between humans and their environment. Right behind that as a close runner-up would be the fishtail gown that Divine wore in John Waters “Pink Flamingos,” which today looks almost like a prophecy!” www.laeyeworks.comJG
Top image: “Los Angeles is a fertile ground for amazing architecture.” Brent attending an event at the Fitzpatrick-Leland House in Laurel Canyon, designed by architect R.M. Schindler (1936). https://makcenter.orgThe MAK Center for Art & Architecture oversees the Fitzpatrick-Leland House http://www.hereslookingatyoula.com/#hlay
With great personal flair and style, plus fashion forward vision – meet David Duralde. Eyestylist speaks with the Chief Creative Officer at Kenmark Optical.
Please tell us about your professional career. “Raised in Southern California, an Orange County boy, I embraced the spirit of optimism, adventure and innovation that is key to the sunshine state. California has a tradition of creating trends that question convention – setting fashion on its ear with things like surf wear, sports and workout clothes to the boardroom, jeans at a formal dinner – nothing was sacred or precious in LA. From a town that lets a person make his own history, this was a fertile brewing ground for my creative start. Then moving to Los Angeles to study at UCLA, I was immersed in the looking good culture. So it was this strange mix living in a place and time when young ideas bucking the establishment were the norm, and people wanting to completely transform themselves through fashion, design and fitness – this became a major driver that convinced me I could make people look and feel better, and pay the rent. As I was fortunate enough to work under Barbara McReynolds and Gai Gherardi from l.a.Eyeworks, I got an early taste of the importance of design reaching out to many disciplines in culture – fashion, architecture, music, photography, food, literature and fine art. In other words, I developed a huge desire to make the world more beautiful by expressing myself through design.”
What sparked your passion in eyewear? “From the minute I started as a product manager, developing eyewear under the tutelage of great spirited eyewear designers, I knew this was for me. It was incredible that I could be part of a team that opens people’s eyes to their own radiance and beauty. I learned so much about the craft and technology of making eyewear. It was incredible to me in the early 90’s that you could take machinery and techniques from other industries, and experiment with them for the first time in our industry. Most importantly I became so passionate about eyewear because it seemed you could do so many things from a design perspective to make eyewer unique, yet everyone thought it was just two circles, or rectangles and a bridge with temples.”
Why and what do you think is the most original, spirited time period in fashion, that influences today’s eyewear industry? “I believe eyewear has the freedom to include many points of inspiration from many time periods. It’s a multitude of influences and influencers. The 70’s and 80’s glam story is timeless and elevating, while the chunky, funky 50’s nerd theme always makes people feel smart and edgy. I particularly like the attention to detail from the 30’s and 40’s that infuses an old English wallflower sexiness to the product.”
Please name three women and three men whom you think have profoundly influenced fashion? “Diana Vreeland; Miuccia Prada; Anna Wintour; Halston; Giorgio Armani and Calvin Klein.”
Nowadays, what and whom do you feel are the most important motivators in fashion? “Looking good and creating a unique persona that communicates who you are is the key motivator to embrace fashion.”
Where are your favourite travel destinations – and why? “Paris – love the 24-hour energy and the fairy tale feeling every time you walk up and down the historical streets. Of course, exquisite chocolate at every corner doesn’t hurt either. Milan – I love the juxtaposition of industrial grit and sheer fashion polish in the DNA of this city. The delicious food is accessible to everyone at every price point, fresh, modern and straightforward. People work to live in this city, rather than live to work like most U.S. cities. Italian culture is a clear reminder that living life to the fullest every single day is the best mantra.” www.kenmarkoptical.comJG
New York based textile designer John Robshaw on travel, textile design and a sunglasses collaboration with Mondelliani
“I am travelling regularly in India, Asia and now Africa and South America,” explains John Robshaw, the textile designer who has linked up in collaboration with Mondelliani in Rome, the independent label co-founded by Federico Mondello. “I met Federico through a mutual friend who had given me a pair of Mondelliani sunglasses. We started to think about a collection that experimented with my textile designs. A meeting in Rome, one in NYC, and we had come up with these incredible sunglass designs. It was interesting and fun. I hadn’t imagined there were so many things to know about eyewear, it is a fascinating world.”
“When you look at my textiles it is as if you have been on a world tour alongside me.” John Robshaw
Available at www.johnrobshaw.com, sunglass design has been a new departure for the John Robshaw Textiles emporium which specialises in bedding, wardrobe, tabletop, curtains and travel accessories. The frames have unique decorations and all the benefits of the quality artisan finish of a Mondelliani design. The frame shape Sanganer, one of the first styles created in the collection is inspired by an old Indian frame, recovered by John during one of his trips in Asia.
The John Robshaw brand continues to expand through new collaborative projects, although Robshaw’s passion for the world keeps him on the road as much as possible. “By working abroad I became a minor character in the lives of the people I work with, and get inspired by what I see and do there. I go to their weddings, celebrate their festivals, get sick with them. I develop relationships with the people who are teaching me.” For more information about John Robshaw and Mondelliani, Rome, visit www.mondelliani.it / www.johnrobshaw.com/fashion/sunglasses.htmlCN
The man behind the luxury label Finest Seven has designed international eyewear collections as well as setting up his own British label in 2011 – with Ainjali Fine. Since our first interview with Jesse Stevens in July of that year, the label has become sought after for its authentic luxury style and attention to technical detail and precise handcrafting, a focus it has upheld and developed throughout the last five years.
What is your view of eyewear and how it has changed since you started working in it? I love the eyewear industry. I am constantly learning and take great pleasure in gaining knowledge from the old makers of the eyewear world – when frames were literally made by hand. I have a small workshop where I make frames by hand for friends and family. There is an increasing number of new brands coming to the eyewear market compared to when I first started over 10 years ago. The main point of change is the amount of fashion brands wanting to expand their accessories ranges to include eyewear or fashion brands wanting to do collaborations with existing eyewear houses under license.
You are an innovator and design expert in eyewear….how did you get to that point? I have always had an affinity towards a simple but beautiful design aesthetic, first gaining a degree in sculpture, I then obtained a scholarship to attend a product design school in Paris. I became friends with the son of famed Spanish sculptor Miguel Berrocal. He made it sound like his dad did it for a hobby but in fact he was a highly achieved artist who had made a very successful career out of being a sculptor. I ended up working as his apprentice for two years.
I then moved back to New Zealand to finish my 2nd degree in Product Design. After working on various design projects including furniture, interiors, architectural fittings and lighting I finally found work with Cutler and Gross as a production manager and designer working under Marie Wilkinson, where I learnt my craft.
I have found that my combined skills and experiences have shaped the way I design. I see eyewear as design objects as well as sculptures in their own right. I am very interested in the idea of functional sculpture and eyewear definitely fits into this group of products.
You have worked for top level eyewear companies including Roland Mouret, Oliver Goldsmith and Kering. How has that experience enriched your work? Working with different brands means that I get to experience building and contributing to a wide range of styles and concepts. This strengthens the scope of my design work and also allows me to be flexible and robust within my design thinking and problem solving. As a consultant designer I am very happy to have a wide variety within my client base, some production work, some smaller niche brands as well as the larger commercial projects. An ideal stable of clients includes a broad mix of projects and this is when I am happiest.
What most inspires you? Are you an archive fanatic? I really enjoy referencing the past and am a keen vintage eyewear collector. I love to learn about the history of eyewear and have recently been studying the Anger family from Austria and their contribution to the eyewear industry. One of whom owned Silhouette, another owned Viennaline that went onto become Optyl, producing collections for Carrera and Serge Kirchhofer. The third developing the first automatic machinery for cutting out eyewear from acetate revolutionising the whole industry. A truly great family achievement. As a starting point I always start with a brief or a description of the desired outcome supplied by my clients. Sometimes this is very much based in historical context, other times I am able to develop a completely separate narrative that allows me to design a collection without reflecting on vintage product at all. Complex brands like Alexander McQueen require a profound knowledge of the brand and a very close working relationship with their internal team to produce something that resonates with the brands DNA.
What makes the independent eyewear niche interesting now? Independent eyewear is getting better and better – the design, the quality, the passion. A few years ago, 3D modelling was a bit of a dream, but now many top brands are using this technique. Another obvious development in niche brands has been the sheer number of them in the market. It is a buyer’s market now with a vast number of exciting small brands starting up. From the public’s point of view the market is offering a wonderful range of eyewear for every taste.
What is your focus now at Finest Seven? What has changed since we first interviewed you in 2011?
We still appreciate clean minimalist lines in our eyewear and are now moving towards superlight metal, in shapes that are interesting and at the same time very easy to wear. We have streamlined our packaging and been thinking a lot about the future and how we can make Finest Seven memorable in a very full market. We still enjoy working with a small family brand that is able to offer a level of personal service and care that are impossible to achieve on a larger scale. As we grow, it is important to focus on this and make sure we continue to make eyewear that we are proud of and reflect our core values.
Where can we find Finest Seven glasses? Is your distribution expanding? Up until now we have simply visited stores that we liked as we travel around the world for work and pleasure. We are only a small family team this has been fantastic but unfortunately we are not able to physically get everywhere we need to be. We have finally begun to look into using agents. If it were possible, I think we would both prefer to work out of our studio in east London and stay small, but business doesn’t work like that so we are working to grow in the best way possible. www.finestseven.com CN
“Boring is over” The three Danish friends who set up an eyewear brand in the late 1990s in the design capital Copenhagen continue to expand their titanium success story with the support of optical retailers worldwide. Henrik Ørgreen, CEO and Founder and Tobias Wandrup, the creative force behind the brand, met us at the busy Ørgreen store in Copenhagen earlier this year for an update on where the Danish independent eyewear business sees itself today. Photo above: Henrik Ørgreen, Tobias Wandrup and Gregers Fastrup.
“We started with sunglasses. I remember meeting Tobias in the park and planning to set up the first ever sunglass brand to come out of Scandinavia. And then we approached Gregers and there it was. Our first product came out in 1999.”
“The eyewear market has become competitive, complex and more serious. It is to our advantage that we entered the market as a new independent brand over 15 years ago – there were only probably around 5 or 10 brands then that were actually emerging. We have our established design, production and logistics, and customer services and that ensures we can just keep moving forward to produce the best titanium designs in the world….” Henrik Ørgreen
By 2001, the brand moved production to Japan, and with that came the interest in titanium. “At that time we were working in acetate, few people know that! We were really focused on good quality. Today, it’s the same. We have an even higher level of quality and detailing, but that has come because we are more experienced. What we also learnt today is that sometimes you do have to compromise to have the best functionality or the best quality – back then there was no compromise – our first frames were described by our Austrian factory at the time as the most complicated they had ever tried to make.”
Asked to describe the proudest moments so far, Henrik refers to an Ørgreen “classic” with open temple featuring two hinges per temple. He says the concept soon became reproduced by other companies, but the impact of being the innovator of this design ensured that they found their place on the map in terms of innovation and new ideas. “The second turning point was when we did sheet titanium in two-tone colour – where we had two different colours on the inside and outside of the frame. This was an inspired concept that came from looking at car details. We found it was exciting to do really strong colours on the inside, making the frame wearable without being overpowering. We worked closely with our Japanese producers on this; they put in a lot of technical know-how to make this work.” Today the two-tone effects remain a part of the brand’s image.
And the direction in 2016? “We are working with around 15 factories in Japan, each one with their own expertise. But we still have the original guy with us who worked on the innovations I’ve mentioned. We are all really proud about that.” Overall the label continues to respect its roots and its open-minded Danish mentality where simplicity of design is one of the essentials.
“Copenhagen is full of interesting people. We get inspired by people from all around the world who come here and this is important to us and a part of what we have created and continue to use as inspiration. It’s our lifestyle.”
As Silhouette Eyewear launches distinctive, cutting-edge design brand neubau, Eyestylist asked Daniel Liktor, Head of Brand, to explain the origins and to give his own input about the new collections available in stores in June (optical collection) and in the Autumn 2016 (sunglasses).
“My professional background is rooted in strong brands; Mercedes-Benz/smart, Puma and Red Bull; my positions were linked to brand, product, sales and licensing,” explains Daniel, who says his arrival at Silhouette is a special journey. “We have a clear and outspoken vision for neubau. We want to become a benchmark within the field, with an independent lifestyle eyewear brand for trend-oriented, quality-driven consumers.” Above: Daniel Liktor, Head of Brand, neubau eyewear
Since his arrival at Silhouette, Liktor has become aware of how discerning the modern urban audience is today. “For them, eyewear is more of a lifestyle accessory than a medical aid – they want to express their personality through their style, and they see eyewear as part of their selected outfit. The product quality and fit for everyday comfort is important and has to be spot on. A definite plus is a unique, genuine and interesting brand story.”
neubau frames are made from lightweight polymer, a custom stainless steel or a mix of both. Both materials produce very light designs with a high level of comfort. For the optician, they are easy to glaze, easy to adjust. The colour concept is based on a trend-inspired assortment of colours including new ones like copper.
“The copper is a good example of what we’re offering,” explains Daniel. “It’s a buzzing trend in interior design but it’s unexplored in eyewear. We always cross-check with what other industries are doing, especially fashion, interior design and other lifestyle industries.”
Silhouette’s Austrian heritage gives a significant reference point and mark of quality. “We produce all our frames in Austria. Being part of Silhouette International, we are proud of our background. This is one of the reasons why the brand is named after a district in the Austrian capital.”
Liktor also refers to other districts when explaining the neubau concept, and references his own love of travelling. “There are so many (places) out there! I’ve been travelling a lot in my past and these districts have always been a focus. Almost every big city has a place like Neubau with a special energy…Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte in Berlin, Brera and Tortona in Milan, Shoreditch and Hackney in London, the Meatpacking district, Manhattan and Williamsburgs/Brooklyn, NYC. This is how we got inspired.”
With her exceptional ‘eye’ for fashion and eyewear, in nineteen seventy-five, Annette Hoffman opened her boutique in the picturesque area of Montmartre in Paris. At that time, the concept of independent eyewear labels was relatively unknown, and Mme Hoffman was one of the first to support budding designers. Forty years on, independent brands have brought innovation, beauty and amazing designs to eyewear, and Les Créateurs d’Opta continues with their presentation of international independent eyewear creators.
Celebrations were held recently, and the dynamic Mme Hoffman has taken a step back from the business, and Erik Sudre (both seen above) is now CEO and Opta partner. Sudre commented: “The party was very happy and full of emotion. The theo team attended, including Wim Somers; Pascal Jaulent from Face à Face; Susanne Klemm and Etienne Fredriks from Suzy Glam; and Caroline Abram among others were also with us.”
Time – and success – has certainly validated Annette Hoffman’s concept for individualist eyewear that continues to grow and flourish, and the charming boutique remains an oasis for the best in independent brands. www.opta-createurs.netJG
At a particularly beautiful wedding reception in the heart of Provence in France, sitting across from me was a lovely, chic woman wearing superbly crafted and luxurious refined jewellery. I commented on her necklace, and she replied: “Thank you – I designed this necklace.” Consequently, I was fortunate to meet Parisian jewellery designer Catherine von Specht (above) of Umbellina, who creates original one-of-a-kind necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings.
The pure simplicity, united with premium quality materials – exquisite jewels and fine gold – highlight the stunning designs. She discovered her passion for jewellery and gold, and created her first designs in Hamburg. Having lived in France, England, and Germany, plus travelling globally with her German husband, von Specht’s perspective and intuition reflects serenity and harmony in her jewellery.
Perfect balance in the lines and symmetry of her creations, further enhance her elegant expressions. Certain designs have little messages engraved on the metal or medallions. The result is always unique and personal. Umbellina creations are sold in select shops in Paris, Munich, Miami and Los Angeles. Von Specht also works with perspective clients so they can select their own metal and stones, achieving the jewellery design of their dreams. www.umbellina.comJG
Bas and Mirjam van Hensbergen – brother and sister – are the inspiring design duo behind the children’s collection Red Optical. “We work together, and we are good friends,” exclaims Mirjam. The Netherlands based team has been making fun, safe and fine quality designs for youngsters since 2008. “Red Optical Kids Eyewear was created because Bas and I sensed a lack of fashionable eyewear for kids at that time,” says Mirjam, “and we started designing and producing children’s frames purely by making what we like to see on kid’s faces.”
Bas adds: “Number One rule when designing frames in general is that fitting and measurements must be perfect. Next to that, we pay a lot of attention to the designs and colours for kids, and the quality of the materials. We use Mazzuchelli acetate in our frames. When you design children’s eyewear, you also have to remember kids can be rough, and will handle the frame with less care. So some designs are not that suitable for kids, like a nylor or rimless frame.”
Another important aspect of children’s eyewear is fashion and colour. “Nowadays, eyewear for kids is fashionable, and it is easier for parents to get their child to wear frames,” says Mirjam, “and children tend to go for bright, happy colours, like red, blue and pink. We also have basic colours in our collection – black, grey, Havana and Tortoiseshell. There is a tendency for those more mature colours, and we hear from opticians that parents like the ‘mature’ colours the most. Red Optical Kids Eyewear is sold globally, and we are delighted to have a very good and steady international business.” www.redoptical.com JG
Innovative design and a zest for adventure has always been the trademark of theo eyewear in Belgium. So when the opportunity arose for theo to collaborate with leading French interior designer Matali Crasset – the first time the Belgium brand has worked with a designer from another country – theo was quickly convinced that Matali was the perfect partner. The eyewear collection – Wide Open – is a creative symbiosis between contemporary, bold design, and a passion for colour.
“I love working with interiors and space,” says Crasset, “and this idea of ‘wide open’ means being wide open to life. I like people who are curious, and curious about others. Creating glasses is more complex than interiors – however, there is the symbolic aspect to be personally comfortable.”
Wide Open includes twelve designs – eight optical glasses and four sunglasses in metal and acetate. Each model is named after a character trait: Rebelle (rebellious) Sensible (sensitive) Expressif (expressive) plus other traits. The daring shapes are available in approximately forty-six different colour combinations. Wide Open by theo+Matali Crasset is an eyewear collection that embodies creativity, comfort, form and colour – plus a reminder of how glasses contribute to the formation of one’s own personal identity. www.theo.bewww.matalicrasset.comJG
Mehran Baghaie in Vancouver Canada weaves tradition, art and history into his frame creations. Ideas and inspiration are inexorably linked with his Persian ancestry, and then beautifully balanced with trends of today’s style and technical directions. Baghaie and his wife Anisa are both opticians, and managed several shops in Vancouver, where they have lived since 1984.
However, as Baghaie explains, “I wanted to design something of my own, and my first SILMO was in 1999, and there were only a few independents. Now there are many more people gravitating towards micro brands, and people are looking for brands that cater to independent opticians.
“Materials that are personally fascinating to me include wood – which I started to use in 2004. I’m a real history buff, and I’m very fond of Native Arts, including Homa, a mystic bird from Persia, and a lion from the 17th Century. Also, I love gothic, and vintage cat-eyes have a special place in my heart, and a cat-eye is an uplift for the face.” Baghaie has a unique collection – Pussy Galore – devoted only to sleek cat-eye shapes in ravishing colours. Another favourite Baghaie material is stainless steel. His latest collection in the German crafted material is distinctly angular, with modern, clean design that brings a chic mystique to each style. Colours are contrasted with multi-layering, which results in rich intonations. Baghaie has added a special touch with a message included inside one temple. One phrase is ‘Oneness of Mankind’, and Baghaie reveals:”I was always moved by these words, and I wanted to share them by bringing hope of peace on earth.
“I like to create frames that I can relate to in my collections, which means carving beautiful fashion that recycles itself. My influences change by my surroundings and by world events.” Spectacle Eyeworks is sold throughout Europe, America and Canada. For more information on the collection, visit www.spec-eyeworks.comJG
The charming Italian medieval village of Castiglione Olona is the home location for Mazzucchelli – the internationally acclaimed producers of acetate. Product Development Manager Elena Orsi Mazzucchelli has graciously shared the amazing history of this remarkable brand with Eyestylist.
Could you please give the history of Mazzucchelli? “Born as a tiny factory, established in 1849 for the production of combs and buttons made from animal horn, bone and tortoiseshell, Mazzucchelli is now the worldwide leader in the production and distribution of the plastic material traditionally used for the production of optical frames: Cellulose Acetate. The company, still owned by the Mazzucchelli family, has been operating for the last 165 years through 6 generations. Now, the last two generations are directly involved in the company, always focused on carrying out the traditional of this exceptional example of Italian excellence. Throughout the years, Mazzucchelli 1849 has been active in several industrial fields and is now performing as the parent company of the most important industrial conglomeration worldwide, which supplies semi-finished products for the optical market (acetate sheets and granules, metal components and sunglass lenses). Massucchelli’s products are aimed at markets ranging from spectacles, sunglasses and fashion accessories, to interior decoration and design objects, where quality and aesthetical values are greatly appreciated. The products with technical qualities are valued by safety, sports and automotive industries.”
Mazzucchelli has successfully survived major upheavals including two World Wars, and economic transitions. How has this been realised or accomplished? “Over three centuries entrepreneurial spirit, intuition, vision have enabled Mazzucchelli to take a global view of the countless new challenges of the market, and to converse with the fashion world, which demands a particular sensibility to aesthetical and innovative features.
“Quality, creativity, and innovation have always been Mazzucchelli’s core values and advantages over its competitors. Over the years, Mazzucchelli has always shown a great capacity for innovation and this has enabled the company to face successfully all the major upheavals, including the two World Wars and economic transitions. After the First World War, with great insight, Mazzucchelli decided to produce on an industrial scale the first thermoplastic material, celluloid, and celluloid still remains a vivid product in collective imagination. Another reason for the success of Mazzucchelli was the elaboration of a new product: cellulose acetate, a polymer of plant origin. The research laboratories developed this product which has the same characteristics of celluloid, but it is safer because it is flame-proof. Even when the standards of beauty evolved towards a ‘modern’ concept of design (since the 60’s), Mazzucchelli, thanks to its traditional vocation to be a pioneer, readily caught these new values participating actively in the new trend, and working with major companies such as Kartell and Campari in the production of articles which had become cult objects. Starting from the 70’s, the eyewear world has been highly influenced by design. Emerging Italian fashion designers, such as Armani, Valentino and Missoni gave a strong acceleration to the evolution of taste and distinguished themselves in the global fashion environment with the concept of Made in Italy. Mazzucchelli did not remain indifferent to such a huge phenomenon and conveyed the new standards to its product.”
What do you think is the most important development or improvement in the eyewear industry in the past fifty years? “Over the past fifty years, the biggest evolution in the eyewear industry has been the metamorphosis of the optical frame into a fashion accessory, a trendy item. Once the prosthesis function was lost, the optical frame became the answer – in the colours and designs to the specific taste of the moment. this was a real revolution, and since fashion entered the world of eyeglasses nothing has ever been the same. Mazzucchelli started to collaborate with leading fashion brands, and created a research center dedicated to the study of trends, and to all the socio-cultural factors capable of influence on the current taste. This research center, the historic ‘Centre O” is still operating and has become the undisputed benchmark in the world of eyewear.”
Mazzucchelli creates thousands of different colours every year – what general research methods do you incorporate in this massive project? “Product development has always been guaranteed by the Italian ‘Centre O’ based in Castiglione Olona. This research center works closely with brands, designers and customers from all over the world, offering a wide range of products and design consultancy. Every year this activity creates 40 collections inspired by different stylistic tendencies.The creative source for inspiration comes from fashion trends, design trends, from the suggestions collected travelling, from visits to fairs, art exhibitions, as well as from the stimulating conversations with customers, designers or artists. Besides the collections, Mazzucchelli annually develops about 6,000 new colours, unique products specifically manufactured for individual customers, developed to satisfy the need for customization, nowadays increasingly demanded by the market.”
What three colours are enduring favourites with designers? “The colour selection for optical frames includes: a tortoiseshell that, according to the prevailing fashion of the moment, could be a bleeding or a streaky tortoiseshell, or a spotted one. Black as a basic colour, and a unique colour and pattern combination which personalizes the selection.”
What are Mazzucchelli’s insights or perceptions for the future of eyewear? “Trends remain the guiding principles over the years, but as we have seen, a new requirement has become more assertive, that of personalization. We also feel that the quality and attention paid to detail will gain more significance each day, along with the need to accompany each product with its history, in order to convey its value and its DNA to the market. Eyeglasses will be more and more an object of cult used to reinforce the concept of brand identity. They will also become a new post-modern communicational tool, used to express one’s personality and to feel at ease in specific contexts.”
Creating Mazzucchelli acetate requires specialized skills. Nowadays, are young people interested in this unique and challenging career? “Every day we perceive an increasing interest in knowing more about the material used for production, because it’s only by being aware of its origin, of its history and of its components that we can be sure it is suitable to meet specific needs. Mazzucchelli manufacturers a wide range of products from classical to trendy and avant-garde. In particular, it’s the sheet produced following the Block process which represents a great attraction for stylists and designers, because the block, being made up of many and always different elements, can create inimitable effects allowing release of boundless and free creativity. This creativity can find expression thanks to the aesthetic sensibility of the workers in the laboratory, whose specialized skills are the outcome of a school, and a long cultural tradition and craftsmanship handed down from generation to generation. Yes, Mazzucchelli receives many requests from people who would like to take part in this creative process: this induces us to continue our work with great enthusiasm.” www.mazzucchelli.comJG
Just as we’d thought we were up-to-date on all the most creative brands around the world, Niloca Eyewear came to our attention in 2013. There followed the discovery of Scoogle in Melbourne, and several chats with Colin (aka Mr Niloca) in Paris. With a background in industrial design and a fascination for all things innovative in eyewear, it quickly became apparent that this was another rule-breaking label with their own unique approach to spectacle-making.
“I married into eyewear,” explains Colin who first met his wife Josie at the optometrist’s where she was working at the time.” “We went out for dinner and found we’d both outgrown Brisbane. A few months later we were packing our life into a 3 ton truck together and drove 2,000km south to Melbourne. We wanted to open our own eyewear store and expand my 3D printing and design company.”
Despite tumultuous initial experiences, including the onset of GFC 1 in November 2008, the Scoogle store has flourished, run by both Josie, a trained optometrist and Colin, the designer. Collections found here today include Niloca, Theo and Anne & Valentin (read about Scoogle at http://www.eyestylist.com/2014/10/scoogle-melbourne/).
“From the outset, our point of difference wasn’t our product variety, our brand or price. It was our service, which started from the very beginning, before the frame or customer even entered the store. Exceptional service started with an equally exceptional design, created as a service to cater for the needs and wants of the customer. We didn’t need bells, whistles, bling, mirror and smoke to attract customers – all we needed was design and service. The rest took care of itself.”
Soon after, the creation of the Niloca collection began. “I dispensed with the traditional design process of computer designs. The $50,000 worth of advanced software and hardware I had used in 3D Printing parts for automotive, mining and science companies now gathered a patina of dust.
“Boxes of Derwent, Pantone and Rotring implements took centre stage and I drew new models by hand on actual paper and made prototypes using tin, balsa wood, foam and card board. It was a chimerical process of tactile sensory pleasure, live in 3D in front of my eyes. I’d been deprived of this for many years as 2×30” flat LCD screens desperately tried to fool me into a 3D environment of CAD models to the 4th decimal point. This new found enthusiasm for drawing was immediately rewarding and solution driven.”
By summer 2011/12, Colin had released his first sunglass model, Florna, named after the couple’s first daughter. The colours chosen were derived from classic archived Italian acetates, meticulously stored in an Australian eyewear factory 5 hours west of Sydney. Florna is a classic chic frame infused liberally by Art Deco lines, proportion and as the designer explains, “the most important ingredient – chromaticness”.
Several collections later came some Niloca “classics”, such as Hyperfocus, one of the first Niloca concepts I saw myself at Silmo 2014. Handsculpted in the Jura in France, this acetate design, in patterned and single colour versions, has a cutting-edge 3d form, that flatters the face, but in a rather unexpected way. Like an optical illusion, the 3d effect is apparent really only when viewed from the side, not from the front; it’s surprising, elegant and unconventional, all at once.
This time, our Silmo releases will hold more surprises, says Colin. “I’m taking the 3D form theme I started out with 5 years ago,” he explains, “and pushing it even further. In 2013, we released a ‘frame within a frame’ concept, something people were scared of, but now copy in droves. So in Paris, I hope to give Niloca ‘fans’ more to inspire them, pushing the idea of depth to a new level.” For more information: www.niloca.com / www.scoogle.com.auCN
Vue dc Founder Chris Mascré is one of the most modest designers we have come across in the eyewear profession but his handmade French designs speak volumes about his love for traditional spectacle making and creative artisan design. Chris and Yolande de Clerq talked to Eyestylist ahead of the Autumn eyewear fashion fairs.
“Since I was a teenager I have been attracted by eyewear as an accessory,” explains Mascré, “that expresses individual personality.” Mascré studied optometry at the famous optical institute ISO in Paris, trained at ESSEL (later Essilor) and opened his first optical boutique in Montparnasse in Paris in 1975. The shop was known for its different approach to eyewear, at a time when independent designers were almost unheard of.
“In the 80s I worked with Paulette Guinet and Alain Mikli, and that was when I began to have my own specific style and identity as a designer.”
It was in 2007, at Silmo, the Paris eyewear fair, that Mascré made his debut as a designer in his own right. “By March 2008 we were exhibiting our acetate retro style designs for the first time in NYC,” says Mascré. We were immediately noticed by the most innovative optical shops of the time. That show was the start of everything.”
Today, Vue dc designs are the work of Chris Mascré with consistent input from Yolande de Clercq (aka Yoma). “Yoma has always been involved in Vue dc – she is behind the choice of materials and colours; her approval in the designs is decisive!”
Asked to explain the stand-out qualities of his collection, made in the Jura, in France, Chris says: “Our selection of acetates with specific thicknesses allows us to explore 3-d volumes. This gives both the Vue dc and Chris M collections their particular identity and style. We are dedicated to uncompromising quality and the very best artisan production. The Vue dc Swarovski collection – for example – is quite apart in its quality and aesthetics, and is typical of our dedication to making things with real skill and precise craftsmanship. Over time, we have created several Vue dc timeless designs…Kis, Rok, Tao, Art and Eva.”
With so many changes in the eyewear industry itself, Chris firmly upholds his dedication to tradition and authentic handmade frames.
“We have chosen the creative route in eyewear, which means we are all about traditional quality. In the years ahead, we plan to continue to enhance our French “savoir-faire”; it is fabulous to be working with people who express the same creative spirit. I would say that our love for producing frames with a real passion and dedication to the product as an art form or design object continues to be the main driving force for both our labels.”
Vue dc will present five new designs in the eyewear fairs ahead including Silmo in September, and shows in Las Vegas and and New York (Capsule). The new Chris M sunglasses collection will also be launched with five Chris M optical designs. Find more information at www.vuedc.frCN
London Designer Alexia Parmigiani creates luxurious, original scarves that are sold internationally. She discusses with Eyestylist her concepts and intuitions.
How did you decide to create luxury scarves? “I began my journey with scarves in 2005 after a close friend – Indian Summer based in London – suggested I concentrate only on scarves as my designs were selling so well in her shop. At that point, no one had just a scarf collection. It was a very fresh idea and I loved the ‘one size only.’ My brand is about texture and unique pieces. Basically the scarf is a piece of jewellery. I see scarves as part of the personality.”
Are there other products that you would like to design? “I have designed other acccessories and clothing in the past, and each summer collection supports the scarf range with a mini resort wear line. I have just opened a page on my website called “Wanderlust” that will display my one-off designs. I call them ‘One & Only.’ This is a very exciting part of the business for me.”
Do you have particular inspirations for your creations? “Yes, I try to pick a theme, like Venice for my AW15 collection, which I visited with my husband, and fell in love with the absolutely magical and fascinating city that is Venice – it is breathtaking. I was completely inspired by the colours of the buildings, washes of dark and light blended together, a naturally distressed effect…I researched by taking millions of pictures and just taking in the Venetian life. My shapes are extremely important to my designing, and I usually pick a design that I love from my past collections and redevelop. I see where I can push the design further, and during that stage a completely new design can appear too. Mixing all of this with daily life is how I like to design. For years I have thought about a collection for men, and after my husband was stealing my samples that were not complete I thought: ‘this is a sign’ – I’m ready! So I have introduced a menswear collection for AW 15 – a capsule collection of soft cashmere and wool blends, snake tie dye, and dip dyed in different weaves, with shapes that include square and long scarves. Watch out for the menswear capsule collection launching 1st July – exclusively on line.
“I have very exciting news and Eyestylist is the first to hear it. I have decided to concentrate on sales through my website only. Not designing collections, but ‘One & Onlys’ – you can find the beginnings on my Wanderlust page. Fashion has changed, and always will, but now stores are driven by high profile brands more and more. I do believe we all would like a wider choice of well-sourced, new and wonderful designs of any level. I am excited about the freedom that I will have in my designs, and really look forward to this new chapter in my life. Through my website I can release these pieces exclusively for the consumer. This gives me the freedom to create a ‘one of a kind’ place for all shoppers, something new and fresh is what I think people are looking for. This will be an ever changing shop window throughout the year. The Dancers at Dusk AW15 collection will go live by mid-July, and will be sold only though my website store. I hope you will follow me on my new and exciting journey! www.alexiafashion.co.ukJG
“I started working in the optical/ophthalmic field in 1993, and then also started to work in fashion. Passionate about accessories since childhood, the spark snapped during a trip to Caracas, after my studies, when I was hit by a pair of sunglasses worn by a young tourist. A glance is able to lead us into new worlds and fantasies just watching what is around us, and through the glance we experience and learn. Glances are the protagonists of memories, sensations, emotions, and make eyewear the King of accessories.
“As a self-taught designer, I decided to form my own eyewear label “Pollipo’ Occhiali” in 2000, inspired by my passion for acetate glasses. Acetate is just my favourite material for eyewear. My love for accessories – and pearls in particular – led me to create my collection of jewels, and the unique, creative line of jewel clutches…which are not only for glasses. The collections are fully handmade in Italy, and I’m always focusing on the combination between colours of the acetates, with the colours of the gemstones and leathers. The leathers are from Tuscany, and I choose the gemstones during my world travels, discovering special gems such as the Rhodochrosite from Argentina, a beautiful pink to red-rose stone. I’m also passionate about Red Coral which I select from Torre del Greco in Italy.
“Another stone I use is the enchanting Pietra Paesina from Tuscany, a stone that hides inside designs that look like the work of a painter, but really are absolutely natural and stimulating. So sometimes there is a surprising landscape. Turquoise from Arizona I use, but always and above all I am fascinated by selecting and researching pearls!
“I get intuition to create eyewear and jewels by the sea, basically it is my homeland of inspiration. I live in this atmosphere, and the sea is around me everyday, as my home is located in the seaside of beautiful Roma. ” www.pollipocchiali.itJG
David Rose is a born and bred Californian, equally at home on a surfboard or ‘surfin’ European capitals. Indeed, it is his love of travel and sport that sparked the initiative to create SALT Eyewear. “I found my fondness for eyewear when I was twelve years old because of the ski frames that I wore. That’s how I started to get into eyewear.
“Before I started the company in 2006, I worked in an optical shop in Aspen, and I discovered I was really passionate about eyewear – the shapes, colours, sizes, and materials. Eyewear has a foot in the medical and fashion worlds.” A peripatetic traveller, Rose explored the world and indulged in lots of surfing. “Seeing the world and nature is the best place for creative ideas,” says Rose. The name SALT is an acronym for Sea, Air, Land and Time. The themes and colours are all based on the outdoors and the marvels of nature.
“When you travel you experience nature; you see great greens in the mountains and sea. There is so much inspiration in what Mother Nature gives out. At SALT, we are giving an authentic message, and we use real people in our photos. It gives a genuine feel that people can relate to what they are seeing.”
SALT frames are handcrafted in Japan with Mazzucchelli and Japanese acetate. Rose commented: “I’m in Japan several times a year to oversee everything. You don’t want to over promise and under deliver. I follow fashion from afar, but it is not the SALT driving force. I’m more about designing something that is not here today and gone tomorrow.” www.saltoptics.comJG
Vera Wang creations are the epitome of chic and contemporary fashion. The celebrated designer dresses an international clientele of sophisticated women who appreciate her understated styling in beautiful fabrics. Frames are also a passion for Vera Wang, and in an exclusive interview with Eyestylist, she shares her thoughts on fashion and eyewear.
“I’m always excited about eyewear – it can change the way you look; it’s like wearing a new cosmetic, and can change your whole mood. Eyewear is the biggest accessory, and eye protection is so valuable against sun levels. I’m into studying lens making and flat screen eyewear. It’s important to keep the quality going, and keep exploring lens construction. I’m bursting with ideas and excitement and fascinated with eyewear. Temples can be mixed with various materials, or take lenses used for skiing and adapt to sunglasses. It’s challenging, and competitive, but always exciting.
“Eyewear has always interested me, and I’m a hands on designer – very much involved, and I bring passion to what I do, and study what is going on in the market. I design from my heart. I’ve seen so much change – it is a staggering new world.
“A woman can express herself creatively, while protecting her eyes. Glasses give you attitude, and they make you look totally different. I design in the context of what I feel as a designer – and perhaps as an artist. I’m fascinated by it all.
“The focus on eyewear in Los Angeles is so obvious. It comes from loving sports. The vocabulary of eyewear has changed. Eyewear is a form of self-expression, and I always encourage women to express themselves, and also offer options and alternatives.
“I’m intrigued with jewelled eyewear. Diana Vreeland and Carrie Donavan (both editors and style icons at Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar at different periods) were defined by their eyewear – they saw the potential and power of eyewear.” www.kenmarkoptical.com / www.verawang.comJG
1st March 2015 Tucked away on a petit “rue” in the Parisian Marais district, is a charming oasis for accessories. Johanna Braitbart designs marvellous selections of hats, headbands, jewellery, and distinctive scarves and bags. Eyestylist discovered her captivating designs in the prestigious Parisian stores Franck et Fils www.francketfils.fr, and also in chic Le Bon Marché www.lebonmarche.com
The fabrics in which she crafts her designs are elegant and luxurious – Braitbart has a special knack for sourcing unusual materials. “Many of my fabrics are found in France,” she says, pointing to elegant silks, satin, wools, laces, beads and feathers, “and I also find materials in Germany and leathers in Italy.” Her travels also result in gorgeous finds from New York and Marrakech.
“I’m inspired by vintage – always – geometric shapes, and gentlemen farmer style. I also like L’école de Vienne, Sarah Moon photography, and sculpture. Many of the influences from the past are new ideas for now.” Braitbart says that trends “include lots of light colours – like macaroons – pink, yellow, green, blue and green. Then there are bright tones of electric blue and red, plus florals, polka dots and stripes. We offer a bespoke accessory service, and you cannot find that easily in Paris any more. People want special accessories.”
Le Marais is a must-see when in Paris – and so is Johanna Braitbart’s chic boutique for unique, handcrafted accessories. You’ll discover wearable treasures with long lasting memories. 26, rue des Blancs Manteau 75004 Paris www.johannabraitbart.com JG
Three generations of eyewear DNA flow creatively through Jason Kirk’s genes. His ancestors were optical pioneers who opened workshops in London in 1919. Nowadays, Jason and Karen Kirk continue the optical heritage with their recently launched Vivarium and Solarium collections.
Did you have a particular style/fashion concept in mind when you decided to launch Kirk & Kirk? “Our goal is to create frames that are unique, and, at the same time, wearable. We serve two types of customer: the retailer (optician, department store, fashion boutique) and the consumer. We need to understand the needs of the optician and the desires of the consumer. Twenty years experience has shown us that our end wearer is independent, and will not be told what to wear. We need to excite them, to make them feel an affinity with us, and to show that we understand their taste, in order to gain their confidence and loyalty.”
Kirk and Kirk has made an important style statement using Italian acrylic for frames. Is this a material in which you will continue to create frames – plus using other materials? “We spent many years working with our acrylic manufacturer to create the correct specific grade of material. Then with the frame manufacturer to establish how to hand-make glasses using this material…and then with the opticians showing them the benefits of using acrylic. We are not tied to using acrylic, but it is very much our signature, and it offers a beautiful range of colours and textures that allow us to differentiate ourselves from other designers, and allow independent opticians to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The frames are incredibly light and comfortable, so they are a pleasure to wear.”
Do you have particular inspirations for creating the collections? “Inspiration can come from anywhere, and for Vivarium we were inspired by Victorian scientists and their relationship with nature. Colour plays a major role in our design process, and the relationship between colours. Different colours have various meanings to different cultures which we find fascinating. It is often the unseen connections which ignite our passion – ‘what emotions do colours create’? for example.”
You have been in the eyewear business for many years. What do you feel have been the biggest changes – and what are future trends? “We started in optics in the early 1990’s, originally producing our frames in the UK, even owning our own factory at one point. But this is no longer an option and we moved all of our production to France in 2002 where it has stayed. European production has been under enormous pressure in the last fifteen years, and Asian production has developed dramatically. This is neither a good nor a bad thing, it is just a reality. The last seven years or so have seen economic pressure weigh heavily on decisions made within our industry, but notably by the opticians. We are a profession that is slow to embrace change, as illustrated by lack of availability of high end, independent frames on the internet.”
Could you please describe some of the challenges faced creating a new collection today – versus twenty years ago? “First and most obviously, it is a very expensive process to create a collection. It always has been, but today it is not just about the frames themselves, but the whole branding, marketing and general presence that is essential to compete in a crowded market. How do you create a collection that is different, but wearable in a market that is quickly saturated, and where the ability to copy quickly and effectively is such a threat? We have been fortunate in that our clients and industry colleagues have been extremely loyal to us, and have appreciated Kirk & Kirk’s collections. We are very grateful for that support. There are very few truly independent eyewear designers, and relatively few independent eyewear boutiques. We need to work together and to support each other if our businesses are to flourish.” www.kirkandkirk.comJG
Zac Posen launched his modern American glamorous fashion collection in 2001. The award winning designer is recognised for his artisanal craftsmanship and masterful use of textiles.
Do you have any favourite inspirations for designing clothing and eyewear? “I’m inspired by everything that surrounds me – people, places, art, and even a mood. I recently created a colourful gown in my ZAC Zac Posen collection that was inspired by a sunset I saw while taking a vacation in Harbour Island. I wouldn’t say one influence has driven the design of our eyewear collection. I’ve drawn inspiration from the essence and DNA within the Zac Posen brand. The collection, both men’s and women’s, is infused with the notion of modern American glamour that is always present in everything I create. Translating that to eyewear has been an exciting process for me.”
What is your favourite material in which to design clothing – and eyewear? “That’s hard to say, I’ve used so many wonderful and highly innovative materials and fabrics from all around the world over the years. In eyewear I’ve always loved the use and look of metal combined with other materials. We always try to use it in innovative and interesting ways to create a bold and distinctive frame that exudes sophisticated glamour.”
What do you find the most interesting aspect in eyewear design?“Form and function within the design of eyewear has always interested me. The use of certain methods when designing eyewear fascinates me. It’s essential that you consider the function of the product when introducing certain design elements or materials to the frame.”
You are now designing Bridal wear – are their other items you would like to design – perhaps beyond fashion? “Of course! Design and my love for creating is definitely not exclusive to fashion. I’ve been fortunate enough to create many other things outside my Zac Posen brand. I’ve designed cars, technology products, and even a Barbie! I always look to stretch my design skills outside of my everyday role so I am continually inspired and challenged.”
Do your fashion designs ever inspire frames – or frames a fashion piece? “Yes, quite often one influences the other. Both the dramatic and subtle gestures of our pieces can be translated across to the eyewear. We also design our exclusive runway eye collection to fit into the overall design theme of that particular season. The design consistency across the categories allow us to maintain the common themes that build brand recognition.” www.zacposen.comwww.kenmarkoptical.comJG
1st December 2014 There was a time when no fashionable man or woman would leave home without a hat. Fashion principles relaxed, and hats became a choice rather than a style must-have. However, the fashion pendulum swings, and nowadays there is a definite revival of both men and women wearing hats. Great designs in marvellous fabrics have accelerated the trend, and the Italian designers at Super Duper Hats set the pace with their spot-on stylish creations.
The discovery of a unique hat blocker by the Italian design trio Ilaria and Veronica Cornacchini who are sisters, and Matteo Bioli, kindled the idea for Super Duper Hats. Their goal is that every hat is authentic – handmade to the finest standards in superior quality materials, using only traditional processes.
The fabrics are beautiful – the winter collection features soft felts, bright wools and countryside herringbone tweeds. Summer materials include straws and elegant cottons. Recently they launched a new collection – Super D – that features young, jazzy and colourful styling.
Super Duper Hats are sold internationally, and can be found at 10 Corso Como in Milan, Harvey Nichols in London, and Dee Cee Style in Zurich, and elsewhere. The unique, spirited designs at Super Duper make wearing hats fun and fashionable once again. www.superduperhats.com JG
1st November 2014 The lustrous lightweight metal Titanium was the benchmark idea for Adrian Marwitz to pursue his teenage dream. “The idea came to me when I was seventeen. I dreamed about making frames in this material and having them handcrafted in Germany,” recalls Marwitz. But before Adrian realised his ambition, he trained as an optician in Berlin, where he was born. With heritage eyewear genes already in Adrian’s DNA – his grandfather founded Marwitz Eyewear in nineteen eighteen, and his father is Hans-Joachim of Conquistador – perhaps it was inevitable that Marwitz would follow an optical path. However, like many offspring of established families, he wanted to strike out on his own, and started his company eighteen months ago.
“Unfortunately, I never met my grandfather, he died the year before I was born. However, I liked his philosophy of focusing on quality and good shapes. That concept, plus my love of travel definitely influences what I design. Italy, Asia, Thailand, Japan – different countries and cultures are inspiring. I recently went to Scotland and I loved the beautiful landscape – but the weather is not very good! I also visited a Scottish distillery and tried whiskey; you feel the Scottish life!” Marwitz also finds London exhilarating. “I love this city,” he says enthusiastically, “with all its different cultures and wonderful food.”
An unusual influence that motivates Marwitz designs is shoes. “Yes, shoe shapes, including Dutch shoes, are inspirational, and I like to play with colours, but in everything I do, I like minimal style, pure and uncluttered.” Streamline shapes are the Marwitz signature, everything handmade in Germany, so he is hands-on for quality and precision control. Are there other items or different materials in which he would like to work? “”That is an interesting question! People frequently ask if I will make acetate frames, but I think it might be a mistake. My brand is getting known for high-quality Titanium. Sometimes I think I would like to make furniture – that could be very interesting, perhaps to make a Titanium chair. Maybe in the next few years, I’ll do something totally different!” www.adrianmarwitz.comJG
Photo of Adrian Marwitz exclusively for Eyestylist by Gilles Stüssi All Rights Reserved
Barbara McReynolds and Gai Gherardi Co-founders/Co-designers
1st October 2014 Creative colour vibrations, unexpected shapes, and innovative materials have characterised l.a.Eyeworks for thirty-five years. Barbara McReynolds and Gai Gherardi are genuine pioneers in eyewear – they launched their first collection in 1979 – long before eyewear had achieved the stylish accolades that glasses now enjoy.
When McReynolds and Gherardi decided to embark on eyewear design, they believed it was time to open up a new kind of conversation about glasses. Their philosophy is that frames are more than just something you wear. Eyewear also expresses individuality and personal expression. McReynolds and Gherardi are purists in their approach to eyewear – each design is hand-drawn – the first step on a path of meticulous production. They use only the finest materials that are shaped by a combination of technology and hand-finished crafting.
The designer’s restless imaginations and ability to absorb from their surroundings has resulted in an expanding legacy of glasses that balance innovation with wear-ability. They recall: “Seeing Andy Warhol’s work in the 1960s was such an incredible revelation to us. Warhol’s ideas gave us permission to break the rules. Watching a video with the legendary jazz singer Anita O’Day was the inspiration for another design.”
Do McReynolds and Gherardi have a particular l.a. Eyeworks moment or experience that is especially memorable? “We’re easily overwhelmed when we think of all the incredible opportunities we’ve been offered and the moments of transformation we’ve witnessed. Different memories flash across the radar at different times. The other day, we recalled the marvellous story a customer told us about walking on the Great Wall of China, and spotting something colourful on the ground. On closer inspection, that “something” was an l.a. Eyeworks cleaning cloth!”
What do McReynolds and Gherardi feel are the biggest changes in eyewear during a thirty-five year period? “Without a doubt, from design to production to communication, rapid evolutions in technology have challenged the possibilities for making glasses. Some developments – like eyewear as some kind of venture capital enterprise – are not so interesting to us. Nevertheless, the ‘basics’ of glasses as apparatus, sensitivity to the future of fashion, great storytelling, and the principles of good design have never really changed.”
As the year-long anniversary celebrations commence, already the exciting news includes l.a. Eyeworks induction to the prestigious CFDA – Council of Fashion Designers of America. A new website is to be launched this autumn, and the latest collection previewed at SiLMO is a tribute to Gai and Barbara’s creativity and signature flair for colour. Autumn 2014 also unveils a new series of l.a. Eyeworks “Uncensored Visions” – dazzling portraits that feature a sensational group of performers and models wearing iconic l.a. Eyeworks designs. McReynolds and Gherardi’s creative vision has established an exciting eyewear legend. www.laeyeworks.comJG
Photo of Gai Gherardi exclusively for Eyestylist.com by Gilles Stüssi All Rights Reserved