The Rolf Universe

A Visit to Rolf Spectacles in the Tyrol

26th February 2014 From the first moment I met members of the Rolf team in Paris nearly five years ago, I was intrigued with these unconventional designers. This was their first show, and their “raison d’être” was to present a wooden frame. But….not just any wooden frame. this was a design with superb, beautifully sculpted craftsmanship, extremely professional, and it fit like a dream. The Rolf team (founders Roland Wolf, his partner Marija Lljazovic, her brother Martin, and Christian Wolf) had spent three years perfecting their perception of an elegant wooden frame, in the basement home of Roland and Christian’s father. Others were captivated too – Rolf Spectacles immediately won a Silmo d’Or, and people were intrigued with the beauty and construction of the design.

Discovering more of their unusual approach to eyewear over the years became evermore fascinating. With great anticipation I looked forward to visiting their headquarters in The Tyrol in Austria. Rolf had successfully emerged from the basement gathering international clients and more awards, to become an important player on the global eyewear scene. Nestled in the mountains, the outside of the sprawling Rolf structure looks like many commercial sites; however, enter the building, and a new universe unfolds – the Rolf World of amazing eyewear. The office dogs Jeremy and Lola add to the overall cosiness and casualness of the premises. However, behind this carefree ambience, is a team of extremely dedicated and hardworking people, committed to making superior handcrafted frames. There is a delightful camaraderie among the staff, and a purposeful atmosphere in the air.

 

Elegant Authenticity - oak and maple frames by ROLF
Elegant Authenticity – oak and maple frames by ROLF

Meticulous attention to detail is evident in the creation of each frame. The gluing room is acclimatized; sanding is done to perfection; and the quality control is evident with each frame microchipped so it can be monitored if necessary. Employees are trained over a period of several months to develop the skills and concentration that are required in producing the frames. The Rolf team makes most of the tools themselves used in creating the frames, while even humble instruments like tweezers also play an important role in the final product.

Mary Lljazovic is a construction engineer, which has served her well in developing the frames. “When we started making the frames, we thought we would stay in the cellar,” says Mary, “as we   didn’t know what the reaction of the market would be. When the business began to grow, we had temporary offices: but it’s necessary to have enough space to build a structure, and work on research and development. We did it all, so we know what is involved. It used to be organised chaos, but now we are more structured.”

 

Tools of the Trade at Rolf Spectacles
Tools of the Trade at Rolf Spectacles

Nature and conservation are vital ingredients in everything Rolf pursues. Nothing goes to waste in the Rolf environment; a purpose is found for everything. “We like to influence people in a positive way,” says Bernie Wolf, who joined the family business as sales director, “and travelling so much I see the pollution in places like China. We are lucky to live in a country like Austria where people look after things.” Collecting and restoring old cars is a Rolf hobby. “We love classic cars,” Mary explains, “and every frame is inspired by a vintage car, including the technical features and design. There can be a lot of stress, but it would be boring if everything worked well all the time!” she says with a laugh.

“To break the stress, I take time with the horses and the dogs; think about the frames, and then it comes naturally. The frames are our passion, our love. We want to present wood in a new way; and it took almost three years to get the frames the way we wanted. The Rolf customer is between 18 and 85 years of age. We have a broad spectrum, so it is proof that the collection is well designed.”

 

Nature's Bounty - Handcrafted Stone by Rolf Spectacles
Nature’s Bounty – Handcrafted Stone by Rolf Spectacles

To the original wood designs, Rolf has added incredible frames in stone. The Rolf legend continues to grow and expand. Roland Wolf says: “I’m a crazy guy; I like to try new things and it’s fun to experiment. You know, I can do the glasses, but I still don’t know how to work a cell phone!” www.rolf-spectacles.com JG