Conversations in lockdown: James Van Vossel

Thinking differently is what puts James Van Vossel apart in the field of eyewear. His work with Belgian label theo began in 2010, and has continued to flourish, alongside an ever expanding portfolio of innovative design products through very different disciplines. Most recently his work has included ‘Hollow’ for Modular Lighting Instruments ( and through the current lockdown – when not looking after the kids, he is working on ceramics, lighting concepts and tableware, from a studio style space in his workspace connected to his home.

Hollow by Modular Lighting Instruments: winner of an iF Design Award in 2020

From the theo collaboration, Van Vossel tells me how his work with eyewear continues to grow – always approaching the object “from a different angle”. He refers to one of the most distinctive enduring frames in his repertoire so far – James 6 (launched in 2012), a design which has an integrated ‘folded’ section which forms the nose piece of the design. From the front, the frame appears to have a missing piece. It’s a style that lives on in the theo collections, a reminder of the possibilities of bucking the trend, exploring alternatives, with an experimental ‘hands on’ process using moulds, modelling from life, far removed from what is more normal in eyewear production.

James 6 – first launched in 2012 by theo, worn by Wim, and still an eye-catcher in the collection

In Outlines, the line launched in 2018, James developed a concept based on prototypes crafted to scale – a mode of working that he prefers across disciplines where no predetermined outcome has been laid down. He produced a number of frame design studies in prototypes, giving a sense of the design and material and allowing him to see what works and what doesn’t.

Outlines for theo Sketch – © 2018 copyright protected Artworks,
Photography & Graphic Design!

“In the outline collection the radical and revolutionary step of starting with the shape of the lens was taken, allowing it to determine the further design of the glasses by extending the existing vocabulary of the lenses and allows them to continue into the frame”, he explains.

ROLF Spectacles
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Outlines for theo Assembly – black and fluo pink

“In a natural way, the frame is then shaped and moulded around it as an outline, as a shadow image around the essence – the glass; thus creating an original tension between the frame and the shadow image.”

Current colorations in the Outlines collection at theo include signature brights, in combinations of black/fluo pink or the more demure black on black.

For more details about all James Van Vossel’s design work visit
For the eyewear collections, visit