Designer of the Month

Our Designer of the month

Kirk & Kirk

Kirk & Kirk

1st February 2015  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.”

HARPER by Kirk & Kirk from the Vivarium Collection

Harper by Kirk & Kirk from the Vivarium Collection

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.”


GRACE from the Kirk & Kirk Solarium Collection

Grace from the Kirk & Kirk Solarium Collection

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.”


SPENCER from the Vivarium  collection by Kirk & Kirk

Spencer from the Vivarium collection by Kirk & Kirk

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.” JG

Zac Posen

Zac Posen

1st January 2015 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.”

Marcelo by Zac Posen

Marcelo for Men in Tortoise by Zac Posen

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.”


Nico in Maroon by Zac Posen from the women's collection

Nico in Maroon by Zac Posen from the women’s collection

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.” JG




Super Duper Hats

Super Duper Hats

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.


Arabesque by Super Duper Hats

Arabesque by Super Duper Hats

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.


Beret Chic - Felt Pet Blue by Super Duper

Felt Chic – Pet Blue by Super Duper

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 Hobo Hat Box

Super Duper Hobo Hat Box

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. JG


Adrian Marwitz

Adrian Marwitz

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.


Streamlined Titanium Eyewear by Adrian Marwitz

Streamlined Titanium Eyewear by Adrian Marwitz

“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.”


Stranger No. 1 in Olive Green Titanium by Adrian Marwitz

Stranger No. 1 in Olive Green Titanium by Adrian Marwitz

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!” JG

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.


Magda 1990 l.a.Eyeworks Art Deco Influence

Magda 1990 l.a.Eyeworks Art Deco Influence

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.


l.a.Eyeworks U-turn 2004

l.a.Eyeworks U-turn 2004

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!”

l.a.Eyeworks Garza 2013

l.a.Eyeworks Garza 2013

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.”


Vaporetto 2014 l.a.Eyeworks Signature: Vibrant Colour

Vaporetto 2014 l.a.Eyeworks Signature: Vibrant Colour

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. JG

Photo of Gai Gherardi exclusively for by Gilles Stüssi All Rights Reserved

Tim Van Steenbergen

Tim Van Steenbergen

1st September 2014 Belgian designer Tim Van Steenbergen discusses with Eyestylist his collaboration with avant-garde eyewear brand theo and his fashion inspiration.

How did the collaboration develop between your label and theo eyewear? “I met Mik, the son of theo’s big boss Wim Somers in 2008 at a fashion show, in a well-known concept store in Moscow called Cara & Co, where both theo glasses and my clothes are sold. Once back in Antwerp, the first appointment was quickly arranged.”

What do you find the most interesting about creating eyewear – and the most frustrating – if anything! “I find it very interesting how you can reach a wider audience with eyewear, and that audience is willing to step out of its comfort zone. It’s apparently easier to choose a more extreme pair of glasses than it is to wear an eye-catching outfit. For me, eyewear is also a way to complete a silhouette. I can create a total look. The most frustrating yet fascinating – is how a garment never has a fixed form, while with designer eyewear, the form of the frame never changes. The disadvantage is that afterwards you can’t change it any more to make it fit. You see, it works in both ways.”

Regal Eyewear - Tim Van Steenbergen for theo

Regal Eyewear – Tim Van Steenbergen for theo

What is your favourite material in which to design clothing – and eyewear? “I tend to use classic materials like horn or tortoise, but it becomes interesting when combining these materials. Then you create something exciting. In my clothing line, I do the same. I use different kinds of classic textiles to create interesting forms.”

Autumn/Winter 2014/15 Fashion Design by Tim Van Steenbergen

You have created other accessories in addition to eyewear – bags, shoes, and jewellery. Are there other items you would like to design? “I don’t like to tie myself down to one discipline. After all, you can translate ideas into so many things. It’s just a matter of interpretation. The message is most important!”

Do you have any favourite inspirations? “To live, to love, to travel…I find inspiration in a mix of things. I’m like a sponge. I absorb everything I see. And then I let it seep through in my designs.”

Magic and Mystery - Shadows by Tim Van Steenbergen for theo

Magic and Mystery – Shadows by Tim Van Steenbergen for theo

You have designed for the Opera – is there a particular opera for which you would like to design the costumes? “Madame Butterfly! I would love to create the costumes for this romantic opera that makes everybody cry! Pure emotion! For the moment, my next sunglass collection together with theo eyewear is ready to be launched later this month at SILMO. So keep an eye out for them!” JG





Cosmopolitan Eyewear by Coppe+Sid

1st August 2014  Coppe Gualtiero and Sid Fiz talk to Eyestylist about their designs.

“We have been active in the optical industry for over twenty years. Our worldwide travel experience was an inspiration for us when the idea of creating Coppe+Sid emerged a few years ago. We wanted to create something of an exceptional quality with no compromise for our optician friends. When Coppe+Sid was born five years ago, there was no business planning, just a passion to create beautiful eyewear with the best materials in the best factories possible. Handcrafted in Italy is at the heart of our collection, and we are always inspired by looking at the rich and colourful past. Whether it is an old movie, architecture, fashion or a beautiful classic car that inspires us, we try to bring that forward to relate to today.


"We love acetate - it has soul."

“We love acetate – it has soul.”

“We love acetate – it’s tactile and versatile – it has soul. We never work with mood boards or look at colours and think what is in this season. The “IN” season shape or colour is what we like to get away from as far as possible.We create modern classics, with no logo, made by the finest craftsmen. Our customers are people who appreciate quality and understand the artisanal work involved in producing Coppe+Sid. Our showroom in London has allowed us to work more closely with consumers and this is a great experience for us, to see customers and experience their feedback. We like to see the smile when they are fitted with a Coppe+Sid frame and hear the compliments! It is an absolute joy and an affirmation we are doing the right thing by pushing the boundaries when we create.



Lisbon by Coppe+Sid – Cosmopolitan Eyewear

“In the last few years, we have seen a movement towards more artisanal craftsmanship – something of an old school production concept. At the same time, the new 3D printing is pushing the boundaries forward. It’s very interesting that on one hand we see a harking back to the old times, but also we see technologies developing eyewear that are looking to the future. Eyewear is an integral part of fashion – we look at iconic figures such as Michael Caine, John Lennon, Audrey Hepburn…can we imagine them without their glasses and sunglasses? Can we imagine Jack Nicholson without his sunnies? In relation to today’s world, specs are simply cool. Geek chic is here to stay. Glasses act as a face accessory – to hide – or to dress up and transform yourself. They are no longer just a pair of glasses. Consumers are aware of the powerful transformation the right pair of glasses have on the wearer.” JG

Photos: Exclusively for Eyestylist by Luca Santocono All Rights Reserved



Grant Krajecki

Grant Krajecki

Grey Ant for “off the grid” design

1st July 2014 Grey Ant’s designer Grant Krajecki talks to as six new Grey Ant sunglasses hit the stores. Based in NYC, Grey Ant is a trendsetting label that manufactures its sunglass designs in limited quantities. Grey Ant started out as a clothing label to which eyewear was added and eventually took over as a result of their resounding success.

What is your background? I have a background in fashion and costume. In 2006 I thought eyewear would be a good addition to our collection but had no idea things would end up this way. I designed two frames at the time – one being the ‘Status’ frame. It was a mash up of 1950’s and 1970’s Elton John’esque elements which still remains our most sought after model.

When did you launch Grey Ant? We launched in 1998. Natalie Levy became by business partner in 2004.

Like us you are obsessed with quality and individuality. Please comment and explain about the processes you use to make your frames.
Sometimes colors can inspire my designs and sometimes they are chosen afterwards. Once I send the factories the initial specs there are usually a few revisions before we nail it. We work with top class factories in Japan, Italy and China. We use Carl Zeiss lenses from Germany.

Grey Ant

Model Embassy by Grey Ant / Photo by Josh Wool

Bowtie by Grey Ant

Model Bowtie by Grey Ant / Photo by Josh Wool

We see you as young innovators in the world of eyewear, setting creative standards. Please expand on your direction and hopes/desires for the next years? I feel the men’s fashion market in particular has made some great leaps forward in what is acceptable in shapes and colors. We’re in a very eccentric state right now that hasn’t been seen since the early 80’s. As much as there’s a growing market for the turn of the century “vintage” aesthetic the avante garde has fueled itself into the unwearable. I love both of these views and choose to subtly unite these two worlds in my designs.  We plan on expanding our optical frames in the near future.

Is expansion the aim or does off the grid mean “hard to find”, unique and very small scale.
Since the market trickles down and not up we like to remain a very exclusive brand for now. I feel our brand speaks to a customer that understands and appreciates a delicate balance of classic and experimental. Kind of like Coltrane meets Joy Division.

Grey Ant

Public Light by Grey Ant

Incidental Habit by Grey Ant

Incidental Habit by Grey Ant

Are you an NYC label through and through or does your philosophy go beyond that? I think there’s a strong New York ingredient in Grey Ant which combines the uptown, downtown and underground elements.

Explain your collaborative work and video projects. We have just joined forces with Jeaneen Lund on a new video short which will be finished very soon. She has captured a very New York street scenario involving real life and fantasy with the backdrop of original music from Terminal Twilight. We are also very excited about working exclusively with Helmut Lang as their sole eyewear brand for their retail stores.
I’ve always admired the Helmut Lang brand since the early 90’s and would never have foreseen this opportunity to work with them. I have also been working with our Japanese factory for almost a year originating an exclusive component for our new collection. They will premier this September in our Paris showroom Paper Mache Tiger and Silmo.

J.F. Rey

J.F. Rey

1st June 2014- J.F. Rey is synonymous with innovative frame creations and amazing colours. Designer Jean-François Rey tells the history of the family label to Eyestylist.

Could you please give us a brief history of the brand. “I am above everything else a French eyewear designer from the Jura region, the French eyewear capital. It was in a privileged family context that I acquired my know-how from my father and grandfather – two generations who specialized in frames. I was about 16 years old when I designed my first collection for the family company, respecting the tradition of French eyewear. So I can say that the famous “French Touch”  of J.F. Rey is coming from my family experience. After working in my father’s company, I collaborated for major labels in ready-to-wear fashion, including Agnès B., Issey Miyake and Marithé Francois Girbaud, before launching my own collections. In 1995, I created the company you know today in Marseille, in the south of France. I am the director of Bli-DPB (J.F. Rey and Boz) and Sli (Sky Eyes and Volte Face).”

Mediterranean Colours - JFRey Animals

Mediterranean Colours – J.F. Rey Animals

Colours in the collections are always beautiful – is this influenced by your Marseille location?  “J.F.Rey is recognized worldwide for its unique design signature, including unexpected colour combinations. This creative and aesthetic challenge is mainly in the hands of my wife Joëlle, Artistic Director. We find inspiration all around us: travels, paintings, fashion textiles, cultures etc. New and permanent inspirations make you feel alive and give you ideas for creation and design.” One of our secrets is also teamwork and the J.F. Rey philosophy.There are no limits between design and colour – on the contrary. J.F.Rey is a family story with a common passion that continues today in the way we work. Team spirit is very important to us, at each level of the work, and it contributes to the success of our collections. The J.F. Rey Creation Studio is composed of 5 designers, working on all the brands. Together, the designers develop close and positive relations. Sensibilities, experiences, and visions are different from each designer, and this makes the difference, a very constructive and efficient way of working.”

Colorbox Collection for Women by JFRey

Colorbox Collection for Women by J.F. Rey

Your collections include a variety of different materials. Are there any new materials you would like to use in future collections? “Each collection is the opportunity for a new creative and technical challenge. In ten years, we have succeeded in taking techniques to the limits and managing projects to fruition that we thought were impossible. The passion that characterizes our designer’s signature makes the difference. Challenges bring unexpected results that are very exciting for everybody. A new laser cutting and engraving unit allows us to engrave materials, and we can rejuvenate acetate and metal, and create amazing graphics at a touch. For the future, we are preparing surprises for our customers. And yes, a new material will be used. But “chut” for the moment…….”

“We like to surprise.” Nautilus by J.F. Rey

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing eyewear designers today? “The eyewear field is an attractive world for creative people. At the beginning of the adventure, eyewear design was only responding to medical requests. Along with other designers, we’ve introduced design dimension:eyewear for aesthetics, frames as a fashion accessory. This obviously has turned out to be the very core of our design projects. We always try to create trends, to preserve our difference, and our typical design signature. It’s a real opportunity to have the possibility to continue our passion, and bring it to the competitive market and eyewear evolutions. Our work is aimed at the final customers; to create surprise, to attract and bring happiness.” JG

Photo of J.F. Rey and Joëlle by Luca Santocono exclusively for Eyestylist. All Rights Reserved.





1st May 2014 Once upon a time, children who needed to wear glasses really didn’t want to. Styles and colours were limited, and frames just weren’t fun. Then, like a magic wand in a children’s fairy tale, there appeared a delightful collection of frames for youngsters with a catchy name – Zoobug – that appealed to little hearts and fashion desires. Eyestylist meets Dr. Julie Le, children’s eye surgeon – above with her daughter Prosper – who shares her story about the creation of Zoobug.

Was there a defining moment when you realised that there was a need for high quality protective eyewear for youngsters? “I saw a lot of UV related eye problems during my training as an ophthalmologist in the UK, but it only hit home when I tried to buy sunglasses for my one-year-old niece. There was little choice and the quality was very poor.

Daisy by Zoobug - Awarded the Silmo d'Or

Daisy by Zoobug – Awarded the Silmo d’Or

What are your design influences? “I design instinctively and draw inspiration from London life as we’ve got this amazing hub of creativity and style at our doorstep. I love experimenting with colours and strong shapes. But what looks good on paper may not always work on a child’s face; that’s why all my new ideas are prototyped and tested on actual children first. I am lucky I have many willing volunteers from family and friends. My quest for the perfect pair of sunglasses or ophthalmic frames lends itself to my progressive design method, where I am constantly tweaking and refining. It may take several seasons and versions to come up with a shape and fit that I am truly happy with. This is because children’s faces are so varied and pose the biggest challenge. I always design with a particular age range in mind, but even then, there are huge variations in shape and size. Now that children’s tastes are more sophisticated, it becomes harder as you need to understand what they are willing to wear at what age.”

Zoobug for Boys - cool shape, cool colour

Zoobug for Boys – cool shape, cool colour

Do you feel that parents are more aware nowadays about eye protection for children? “Yes definitely which is a great thing. We struggled in the early years but now there is much more public awareness for the need to protect children’s eyes and to spend a little more for quality.” What are the most fun aspects of creating eyewear for children – and the most challenging? “I am a big child at heart so if I get excited by a shape, design or colour , then I know kids will too. A good fitting frame that makes a child feel great and confident about themselves is the most rewarding aspect of my job. I’ve often been asked the question of why I left my surgical career to design eyewear for children. Well, I naively wanted to make a difference. In the UK, children had a raw deal when it came to the dreaded NHS frames, and it was unusual to think that children had any desire to look cool or stylish in their glasses. The issue of course, was the lack of public awareness to protect children’s eyes in the sun. I thought it would take 3-4 years to instigate change and return to my day job. Eight years on, and I’ve only just scratched the surface. In China, where we have just entered the market, parents don’t even believe in their children wearing glasses, fearing that it will make their vision worse and they will become dependent.” JG

Cocoa and Cream - new colourations from Zoobug

Cocoa and Cream – new colourations from Zoobug



1st April 2014 Hapter was created in the Italian Dolomite Mountains in January 2013 by founders Eric Balzan and Mirko Forti, when they launched the txt1001 collection, featuring a trademark tactile expressiveness obtained by a special fusion of surgical steel to high-end textiles. Balzan and Forti share with  Eyestylist how they created and are developing their business.

Before the discovery of the amazing goggles, in what profession were you working? “Mirko brings on board several years of solid experience designing for some of the big players in the eyewear business. Trained as an Industrial Designer, he is in charge of product development, and is the technical side of Hapter,” says Eric.

The goggles that inspired  international award-winning eyewear - HAPTER

The goggles that inspired international award-winning eyewear – HAPTER

“I am more a hybrid profile matching creativity and business experience, with solid brand and product management experience gathered in a variety of fashion companies, primarily in the eyewear business, but also in apparel and more recently in the watches and jewellery segment. Hapter represents the overlapping zone of different experiences, cultures and personalities of Mirko and I. And the ambition is really to lay the foundations of an eyewear project based on creativity and debate between opposite elements, like Mirko and I. In 2009 the discovery of the heirloom glasses, and the three years that followed have been chaotic, with an uncertain period of dreams, hopes, tries, failures, excitement, and we invested all our savings to create our own independent enterprise.”

M01M  by HAPTER txt1001

M01M by HAPTER txt1001

Please tell us about your background and love of mountain climbing?

“Mirko and I met at college, but it was about ten years ago that we started to develop a friendship based on important common interests, mainly in design, eyewear and the mountains. We are expert all-rounders – from ski mountaineering to snowboard to rock and mountain climbing. We assiduously spend our free time wandering on Dolomite Mountains that surround us. We initially treated them as a playground; through maturity we evolved to see the mountains as a mystic place, and a source of experience and inspiration which deserves respect. The mountains are an important element of our culture; therefore, of our project. Besides the lucky retrieval of the military goggles, out minds are soaked with cultural and visual inspiration that comes from the mountains, and this is what we transfer into our project….and in fact….the elements in our project are:

Brand: We chose the name Hapter by the concept of ‘Haptic Perception’ which is the process of recognizing objects through touch: hands are still the most important body-part to survive in the mountains, and observing the strong hands of mountain people is an experience in itself. Design: The Dolomite region, in the far north of Italy, is an historic military battle front, but this for us also represents a land of integration between varied and symbiotic cultures. In Hapter, we combine the rigorous structural concept derived from a Nordic engineering background, and the artisanal know-how and flair of Mediterranean expressiveness.

Tradition: Hapter offers the exclusivity of a multi-prized object, nevertheless it carries the tradition of a luxury product, thanks to a contemporary reinterpretation of unique local materials with history. Style: Mountain people are no-frills and straight to the point – ‘repulsion for excess’ guides all our design, creative and stylistic choices; the fabrics used in collection txt1001, though artisanal and precious, were developed by an Italian expert in artisan fabrics. They have a light weave and sober, natural shades. Visual Inspirations: We transfer a specific mood, that is typical of the mountain environment: wind, cold, solitude, sufferance, effort, survival are our topics that we transfer to the collection.”

MG01 Replica of the heirloom Military Goggles

MG01 Replica of the heirloom Military Goggles

What is the profile of the Hapter customer?

“People that take things a bit more seriously than they should…this is how we are, and how we think our customers could be. People that, no matter what their social environment is, look for solitude and intimate realization in their fast lives. People sensitive to beauty with a consolidated experience of critical consumption, looking for an intimate experience in what they buy. Most of the numerous spontaneous contacts and requests for information in the market comes from artists, fashion and product designers, architects or similar professions. And we think a good number of them fall under the above description.” JG

Photos: Top photo of Mirko Forti and Eric Balzan, and image of the heirloom goggles by Luca Santocono exclusively for Eyestylist.

Jérémy Tarian

Jérémy Tarian

1st March 2014 His tall, lithe figure is silhouetted against Parisian landmark buildings – Eglise Saint Germain des Près, and Aux Deux Magots – the latter the favourite café of Jean-Paul Satre, Simone de Beauvoir and other literary luminaries. In his own metier, Jérémy is an eyewear designer of international acclaim. Paris is an inspriation for Tarian – The Left Bank being a favourite and familiar haunt, while The Marais is another source of energy and reference. Streets, buildings, and history all inspire his work. But so do travel, people, museums, nature, architecture – in fact – life itself.

We settle comfortably at Deux Magots, and over delicious coffee, Jérémy relates his eyewear odyssey. “I designed my first fame for myself, as ‘revenge’ because I needed to wear glasses from the age of eight.” However, his “revenge” evolved into a continuing unbridled passion for eyewear. He worked at ic! berlin for two years – where he won his first Silmo d’Or – before setting up his own business three years ago. In 2012 he captured his second Silmo d’Or – the eyewear equivalent of a Bafta or Oscar trophy – for his sunglass design Saintonge. Tarian’s sunglasses and optical frames can now be found in over 200 boutiques worldwide.


Parisian Sophistication - Saint Germain by Jérémy Tarian

Parisian Sophistication – Saint Germain by Jérémy Tarian

How does his design process work? “When I design, I really need to concentrate only on design, and I find this more and more necessary. I just cannot say ‘oh well, I’ll take an hour and design'”, explains Tarian. He also finds his master classes in eyewear design at HEAD (Geneva University of Art and Design/Switzerland) have a reflection in his work. “I find that working with the students opens me to new ideas. Glasses are not just a product, but also a personality on the face. I find that talking with the students, and listening to their stories, who are from all over the world, comes into my thinking.

Tarian draws each line, curve and detail of a frame design, and he says: “My designs now are very different from when I began five years ago. I focus more on comfort, and I can see how just one millimetre can change everything. Harmony is important – how the shape will fit on the face. I love working in acetate and metal, and there are so many things to explore with these two materials. For the collection in the autumn, we are experimenting with new textures, using these two elements.” The Tarian Collection is also eco-friendly, and only the finest quality acetate is used in his designs.

Cosmopolitan Flair by Jérémy Tarian

Cosmopolitan Flair – Zurich by Jérémy Tarian

“For independent designers, it’s so important to keep independent in terms of product, and to explain the brand philosophy,” says Tarian. His original, unique and desirable frames contribute to making eyewear such an exciting accessory with creative design and style. JG

Zoe Lee

Zoe Lee

Shoes with Flair and Originality

1st February 2014 The maze of little Parisian streets in The Marais is always fun to visit and enjoy a stroll. So much French history can be explored in this area, plus there are many irresistible cafe’s, galleries and shops! Sometimes, a new treasure is discovered, which I found recently while scurrying down the rue de Parc Royal. Nestled in between an art gallery and a café, and only steps away from Musée Picasso and Musée Cognac Jay, is a charming boutique – Zoe Lee Shoes. Peering into the shop, it was evident that the designs were beautifully crafted and lovingly created.

Feminie and Flirtatious

Feminine and Flirtatious

The talented woman behind these must-have shoes is a cosmopolitan young lady, the daughter of a Japanese mother and Canadian father. Zoe Lee studied fashion design at Central St. Martin’s in London. However, she became interested in shoes, and continued her design studies at The Royal College of Art, where she was mentored by the shoe-king, Manolo Blahnik. Her impressive story includes working with Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Betty Jackson and John Rocha, plus she spent several years designing in Barcelona. Then she moved back to London, and during a visit to Paris, happened to find this boutique that was available. Lee successfully navigated infamous French bureaucracy to open her little boutique jewel last October.

Spring/Summer 2014 by Zoe Lee

Spring/Summer 2014 by Zoe Lee

“I’m inspired by everything – travel, exhibitions and seeing beautiful materials,” says Lee, “and I love leather and enjoy sourcing fabrics for the shoes. When I design, I like to cover different types of people who would like to wear the designs.” Family owned companies in Italy, who have been crafting fine shoes for three and four generations, make the shoes. The materials used in Zoe Lee shoes are luxurious and creative. Printed kidskin, bronzed patent, brushed linen, nubuck with laser techniques, and incredibly soft suede are all included in her shoe designs. I tried on several pairs and they feel wonderful – like a cosy hug for your feet. Zoe Lee’s innovative interpretations in materials add to the pleasure of wearing the shoes.

Shoe Chic by Zoe Lee

Shoe Chic by Zoe Lee

Zoe Lee is among the discerning accessory designers who value and appreciate haute couture quality, beautiful materials, and expert craftsmanship. When in Paris, definitely pop into her shop, and her shoes can be ordered online. Zoe also commented that her mother is an eyewear collector – Eyestylist looks forward to meeting her! JG