Family Business with Individualist Approach
1st September 2012 Anticipation about visiting Antwerp was high – I’d heard many good reports about the city. But what really tweaked my curiosity was visiting the dynamically creative eyewear company, theo, based in the city recognised for its port history, and more recently, its avant-garde approach to fashion, art and culture. Communications director Miet Vaes was the perfect tour guide, escorting me not only through theo’s illustrious story, but also showing me some of the city’s highlights.
The theo tale began in 1989 when opticians Wim Somers and Patrick Hoet designed their first eyewear collection. “From the beginning, the concept was that design comes first,” says Miet, “along with the need to find a factory that can make frames to our standard of high quality – our requirements go beyond ordinary eyewear. Our frames are made in the Jura region of France in specialised factories.” The theo building hums with activity spread over three floors, with a brightly coloured interior – each floor is painted a different colour – plus a roof terrace. Located in a charming area of Antwerp, dotted with vintage clothing boutiques and antique shops, plus restaurants and galleries, it is in this creative hub that designing, marketing and sales takes place. The atmosphere is convivial and harmonious – during the winter months, employees play table tennis during lunchtime. Miet says that Wim’s “rules” includes “wearing suits is not allowed in the office.” Theo creates not only unique frames, but forges working relationships with employees who are very loyal – several employees have been with theo for over twenty years.
Wim Somers oversees the family business – ideas are put forth from Wim’s wife and sons – who are all involved. (top photo, left to right: Mik Somers (Sales) Jamme Cardoen, Wim’s wife (Administration Optiek Boutique Antwerp) Wim Somers (Big Boss theo) Jan Somers (commercial side of theo-Optiek shop) Toon Somers (Marketing). No doubt the wellspring of imaginative creativity, coupled with the unified team spirit, has catapulted theo to the top of the eyewear world – theo frames are sold in over fifty countries, and wearers include Bill Gates, among many other high profile fans.
Belgium/European designers also bring their innovations to theo – including Tim Van Steerbergen, James Van Vossel, Christoph Broich and Serge Bracké, who have all created eyewear for the company. Theo also encourages young talent, and works with students at the prestigious Fashion Academy in Antwerp.
Always on the cutting edge of eyewear with imaginative designs, the latest theo collection is called Fruit-O-licious- with deliciously exotic names – MelOn, LemOn, COcOnut, MangO and AbricOt. Two acetate colours are combined to create an illusion that one frame was made by assembling two frames. Technology, fashion, creativity and ingenuity unite harmoniously at theo, celebrating their third decade of eyewear innovation. Coming soon on eyestylist.com – more exciting theo news! www.theo.be JG