Ti Kwa

Creative Director, Rigards, Hong Kong

1st January 2014 “My background is in apparel design and manufacturing, a somewhat logical extension of my lifelong interest in fashion and the technical construction of things,” says Ti Kwa, Creative Director of the buffalo horn specialist label, Rigards. “I started Rigards with my business partner Jean-Marc Virard, a French recording artiste, currently based in Los Angeles. Jean-Marc and I share a vision that combines the love for design and an appreciation for handcrafted eyewear. We met doing what we both enjoy— snooping around an old antique store, and now we’ve joined forces.”

Rigards first came to our attention in 2012 and since that time we are delighted to have seen the brand shooting to the attention of the optical sector, as well as the fashion industry, with specialist stockists appearing across the globe.
“I have been wearing glasses since I was 8 so I guess it’s no surprise that I’ve parlayed my boyhood fascination with how to make things into Rigards,” explains Ti. After a ton of research—we don’t claim to be experts but we certainly have learnt a few things,
having also experimented with acetate and wood—and we took the plunge with horn. With horn, we saw an opportunity to produce our eyeglasses under conditions we felt were optimal: traditional craftsmanship, exclusivity, and sustainability.”

Rigards represents not only artisanal craftsmanship, but also a desire to try new and different techniques. “Horn is a material that translates our aesthetic into a physical object, yes, of course,” – explains Kwa, “it’s also a medium that presents unparalleled textural possibilities—the freedom to go where our creative imaginings can take us. Each piece of horn is absolutely beautiful in its own way and as unique as your fingerprint. Horn is warm to the touch and allergen-free, and therefore very comfortable to wear. Working with horn is a painstaking, labour intensive and time-consuming process, but the result is incredibly satisfying. Understanding the aesthetics and behaviour of horn has enabled us to use a conventional material in unconventional ways, to create frames that are both compelling in their beauty and complementary to the times.”

Atelier, Rigards
Atelier, Rigards

“In the Japanese spirit of “kaizen”, our emphasis is also to improve on what we’ve done previously, to refine our collection on all fronts: superior lenses, hinges, techniques. Gradual steps rather than abrupt leaps. We also have a couple of collaborative projects in development—the who and how of which I’m going to keep under wraps for the moment.”

RG0024 by Rigards
RG0024 by Rigards

Rigards exhibits at Paris Fashion Week at least twice a year. The fashion forward audience appreciates their avant-garde designs and showing in Paris helps them to maintain a good relationship with the fashion industry. “The pleasures enlivened by traveling,” says Kwa, “and meeting old friends and new ones, and the city during the buzz of PFW, of course, never fail to be an enriching source of inspiration too.”

Asked about his interests outside eyewear, Kwa has many that are linked to design. “I have an obsession with collecting vintage finds: modernist furniture, 1940s phantom heads and, of course, antique eyewear. Travelling is what I do quite a bit these days and as tiring as that can get, it’s also invigorating to step out of my everyday routine to see and experience something foreign. I also enjoy discovering independent labels (a long-time favourite is Sarpaneva Watches from Finland), perhaps because we ourselves are an indie label. I like the idea of small-time designers with a stronger dedication to originality and quality being quiet revolutionaries in a culture of consume-and-discard. So my design aesthetic, I suppose, is influenced by a conglomeration of them all: my eclectic taste, my quasi-wanderlust, my affinity for good old craftsmanship.”

“We will be kicking off 2014 with a presentation at Opti Munich (Jan 10-12, Messe München, Hall C4 Booth 608). There’s always something special about the first time so we’re eagerly looking forward to the event—even if the weather forecasts suggest it will be bitterly cold. We’re also equally excited to be returning to our private showroom in Paris— please join us at Galerie de Thorigny on 1 place de Thorigny from January  16-20  2014. All in all, we couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year. Happy 2014 to everyone, may all your new ventures be a galloping success!