Goldsmith, furniture maker, innovative eyewear creator – Serge Bracké’s formidable talents highlight theo designs. In an exclusive interview with Eyestylist, the Belgium designer shares his viewpoints on creativity, inspiration, and the future.
What event in your life may have motivated you to pursue a challenging career in creative design? “Like most things in life, it’s probably a combination of events, influences, being at a certain place at a certain time…With my final exams, the school strongly hinted that I look for ‘new opportunities’ and my parents had all but given up on me. Luckily my art teacher showed up during the examination board meeting. He didn’t really have to but – divine intervention? he did. Based upon an interpretation I had made on a Mondrian painting, he convinced the other teachers to refer me to a design/art college. The funny thing is that the Mondrian assignment, the search for balance between horizontal and vertical lines, and primary colours, is still of great influence in my daily work. I can still literally lose myself in the equilibrium of a shape, the mix of materials, or the combination of colour shades.”
Please elaborate on how you became involved in creating eyewear for theo? “I spent my college years in jewellery design, but designing more practical objects already had my preference. When I had a job with an eyewear brand near Brussels, my skills as a goldsmith helped me make prototypes as if they were finalised production frames. From the start, I knew that eyewear was going to be a big part of my future. That challenging balance between aesthetics and functionality was right up my alley. I contacted Wim Somers at theo. It took about a year to convince him to meet. I wasn’t playing football, a needed skill back then at theo. Nowadays, cycling is a plus…”
With regard to your unique creative process, how do you cultivate and energise your instincts for design concepts? “For me inspiration and new concepts are everywhere – stay curious, open and alert for new impressions. For children everything is new and exciting. Too often, as a grown-up we stare at things in a singular, mono-dimensional way, or observe on a superficial level only. ‘Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional’ should be on a tile in every kitchen and design studio. I try to absorb as much as possible from ‘exotic’ disciplines, and stay fresh and inspired. I have a weak spot for cities that never sleep, for industrial heritage, for youth subcultures, for…so many impulses, so little time!”
Are there any designers – past or present – whose creative concepts provided inspiration and guidance for your own artistic innovations? “I have a thing for movie directors with a distinctive layout and a creative identity. The balanced framework and colour schemes of Wes Anderson’s films, as well as the vibrant, eclectic scenes from a Baz Luhrman movie (inspiration for the theo ‘Graffiti’ frames came from his Nextflix series ‘The Get Down’) can really overwhelm me with respect, inspiration and a healthy dose of jealousy. Of course, these two examples are relatively easy to translate to the theo story.”
What particular trends in shapes, colours, and materials do you envision or anticipate in eyewear? “History repeats itself. We had the vintage 80s revival – which back then was already a revival of 50s shapes – followed by the oversized 70s frames that positioned the eyebrows into the rim shape again. Today the small, flat shapes of the 90s overrun all sunglass collections, and optical frames follow in their wake. The advantage at theo is that we don’t follow trends. Patrick and Wim always considered small metal frames as being a part of the brand’s DNA. I think in the long term there will be an even larger amount of new brands that develop 3D printed frames. And I see two directions that will survive: first, bespoke frames with a perfect fit and framing. Today the algorithms to scale frames aren’t yet what they should be. German brand YouMawo as well as Yuniku from Hoya and Materialise are really leading the way in this young niche. Secondly, the frames you can’t make in a traditional way. 3D printed manufacturing allows for shapes that cannot be made by milling or even injection moulding technology. The theo strategy for the future remains on creating interesting colours and combining them in original ways, while experimenting with extraordinary shapes and techniques. We set our own trends.”
Are there possibly any new and different products – other than eyewear – you would be interested in developing? “I took a seven-year furniture course and have amassed an eclectic range of woodworking machinery. I spend time in my workshop as therapy or meditation: just the machines, the timber and me. Honestly – and this is by no means meant to be disrespectful or politically incorrect – I think it would give me great satisfaction to develop and design prosthesis. What attracts me is the crossroads of technique and aesthetics, as well as the fact that it can fundamentally change a user’s life. With regards to styling and personalisation there is a universe to be explored. New materials, new combinations, interchangeable covers…In fact, a pair of glasses is also a sort of prosthesis, but one that has become an expression of someone’s identity. See what I mean?” www.theo.be JG