A great fit and avantgarde style: Sandra Kaufmann and Monica Fink, the founders of award-winning Sol Sol Ito, who come from outside the eyewear sector, told Clodagh Norton about their approach to design, as their new styles launch for the coming season.
“As designers we need to be aware of our role in creating personality”
How did you come to set up Sol Sol Ito? We both wear glasses – me for distance (Sandra) and Monika for better close-up vision. We happened to be searching for a perfect frame which would fit correctly and then we started to create our own ideas. With our different optical prescriptions we felt this was a good starting point. The name of the brand came from Sausalito, the seaside town north of San Francisco.
What are your backgrounds as you are both from outside eyewear? Monika studied sculptural art in Barcelona and Geneva after an apprenticeship in design engineering. I am an industrial designer with years of experience in the Swiss watch industry. As a student, Sandra wanted to work at the Philippe Starck studio and ended up, by chance, working for Alain Mikli, a close friend of Starck and the eyewear partner of the Starck collection, where she learnt a lot about glasses.
You are keen on craftsmanship and quality – how did this come about and tell us a little about the frames – where are they made and what materials do you prefer? Traditionally, Swiss design is quite minimal, smart, adhering to a high quality standard. We are both innovation driven in our fields, and that’s why we started to work on a special hinge as a USP. For weeks, we were bending and cutting wire in Monika’s art studio. In the Swiss watch industry, we found a small manufacturer who was able to produce our metal parts. It’s difficult to produce our temples, although they look so simple. The acetate comes from Italy, and we put everything together in our studio in the centre of Zurich. We can check every detail of each frame ourselves, and that’s important to us.
Can you talk about the “open” design of the temple – the origin of this and how it has evolved since you started the collection? A strong, unique brand recognition is helpful for a newcomer in the market. We searched for an eye-catching design element that would be functional and aesthetically interesting. As we use the same temple shape for the different fronts, opticians can easily exchange the temple colours. Logistically this is interesting for a start-up: it’s the concept of an ‘eyewear kit’. Our first collection had very thick temples and was quite extreme; subsequently, we made the frames lighter and thinner and easier to adjust. Swiss people do not tend to wear heavy frames.
How does your use of colour represent the brand – you use some daring citrus and very bright tones, what inspires this mood? We don’t have a particular source of inspiration for the colour palette. We are inspired by many things, throughout the day – even with closed eyes you get wonderful inspiration. Monika is working on the colours, it’s her passion. The combination of a functional, technically inspired frame concept and an extreme, often elaborate colour range is our speciality. It’s a ‘feeling’, and something that’s in the air.
What is coming up in the collection? Cool new feminine pilot sunglasses in flashy colours. That’s what we will be wearing next season! Sol Sol Ito will exhibit at #SILMO50 in October. For more details visit www.solsolito.com CN Still life images by Hans Hansen.