Italy’s historic producer of cellulose acetate, Mazzucchelli 1849 is held in high esteem across the optical industry for its beautiful richly coloured creative acetate materials, which include the sustainable Bioplastic M49. During a visit to the Mazzucchelli factory in Castiglione Olona this month, arranged by Italian independent label RES/REI (www.resrei.com) – a company that works closely with Mazzucchelli to create its own custom acetate colours – Eyestylist spoke to Elena Orsi Mazzucchelli, one of several members of the Mazzucchelli family at the helm of the day-to-day running of the business today. Trained as a lawyer, Elena works at Mazzucchelli HQ as Product Development Manager, CENTRO O Group – in the creative hub for Mazzucchelli’s research, study and design and colour development.
First, can you explain your current role at Mazzucchelli and how long you have been working there? What does it mean to you to be part of such a historic family business? I am responsible for product development, one of the beating hearts of the company. I work with a super professional and passionate team, made up of people with different interests and passions, but all united by an innate sensitivity for the product. I have been working for the company for 13 years.
Mazzucchelli1849 is a family business that next year celebrates an important anniversary: 175 years. I can say that it is a great pride to belong to the sixth generation of the family who works in the company. On the one hand I feel very lucky to be part of such an important reality, able to create beauty with values, on the other I know I have a great responsibility towards the people who work in this large family.
What are the most creative elements of your job and what do you enjoy the most about it? In my role, I have the fortune to range from the creativity necessary for the creation of a new product, the ability of laboratories to create prototypes, from the most artisanal to the most technologically advanced, up to the production of what I like to call mass-produced uniqueness.
I think creativity is a very special value with which we are lucky enough to be born, it must be cultivated and everyone has to do it according to their own inspirations.
One of the fundamental moments for the birth of a new product is the idea: that feeling that does not leave you until it is realized. It must not remain something abstract, it must be shared and if, after discussing this idea with your colleagues, with the laboratories, it still conveys the same strength to you, it means that it must be created. And seeing the first sample made from this idea is one of my favourite moments.
Changes are underway in the optical business with the switch to more sustainable materials. Can you summarise how Mazzucchelli is committed to this switch? It is now quite a long time that Mazzucchelli is committed to sustainable materials, since well before the market and the customers asked for such a change. M49 is our sustainable material on the market now since 2010. During the years, we have continued to improve the performance of M49 material and to promote its usage among the customers, even if at that time the approach to bio, natural and sustainable materials was definitely much less sensitive than what it is today. Mazzucchelli is committed to improving sustainability of the materials through continuous improvements of its iconic M49 as well as the general improvement of its processes, with the increased usage of sustainable energy and improvement of the efficiency of the production processes.
What is your view of the opportunities offered by – for example – M49 – a bio-based and biodegradable material produced by Mazzucchelli? M49 is the only material capable of fully responding to the demand of a more sustainable material. It is a natural material, coming from wood and the plasticiser used is from natural origins, while the “normal” acetate has a plasticiser with fossil origin. Besides, acetate is a recyclable material and, within some technical limitation, can be re-used in some production processes, thus improving its sustainable footprint.
What other sustainable developments can you tell us about? We think in the coming future there will be a much wider usage of natural and sustainable materials, replacing the other materials. This is a no-return decision of the market. Therefore all the efforts will be to sustain this market change by enlarging our offer of M49 together with other solutions aimed at improving the global sustainability not only of our materials and processes but also of the entire supply chain. The usage of acetate Renew helps to improve the sustainability through the Chemical Recycling Technology developed by our supplier Eastman. In this way it is possible to recycle the cellulose acetate waste without affecting the final quality of the Renew material.
Regarding 2023, what are the highlights in terms of trends and colours for eyewear? What for you really stands out for Autumn/Winter, and do you think there is one particular trend that we will see continuing into next year? I think this Autumn/Winter will give us the desire to seek out timeless pieces, which move further and further away from what does not coincide with our commitment to sustainability, which have stories to tell and preserve. We do not have to think of a basic and hyper-classic product, but of a contextualised product that looks towards the future. A combination of material and colour, tones that manage to lighten and give a boost of energy to any pattern. I believe this is not a fleeting desire, it is, in any case, the result of the stimuli we receive from nature on the one hand and from digital technology on the other. The basic colours are sophisticated and transversal, we can think of a rich palette of browns, rusts and greys, combined with brighter tones, contaminated by digital and at the same time empathic.
What are your passions beyond eyewear and eyewear creativity? My passions affect my work and my work affects my passions. I understood that the love for this job is something that is part of my DNA, my roots. And it was a discovery that I gained over the years, because my education goes beyond this world, I trained as a lawyer. Since I joined the company, and got to know the reality of product development, I can say that it was love at first sight.
Just as I love travelling, getting to know new places and different cultures. My father is Italian and my mother is Dutch, so I experience different influences myself and I like to look for beauty in the things around me especially in those I don’t know.
I love to fill my eyes with beauty: whether it’s a painting that attracts the eye, a walk in nature with my children, a city by the sea, a good local dish or people who spend happy time together. I never get tired of looking around. And I have a thing for colour, in everything I do. Professional deformation….