The creative districts dotted around Europe as well as internationally are the most appreciated, curated and diverse locations for fashion, street culture and design – an eyewear brand inspired by such extraordinary places, seems to be no less. Daniel Liktor graduated University in his twenties and began working in bars, restaurants and pubs towards a career in the culinary industry. He then took an interest in cycling, which led him to product management in sports gear and edged him onto the path that would lead him into the fashion industry and the conception of a sustainable, urban spirited, lifestyle brand of eyewear named ‘neubau’.
How did the idea of ‘neubau’ – a brand of eyewear taking inspiration from creative districts and their inhabitants around the world, first come to light? After Silhouette International took the decision to launch a new brand in 2014, part of the positioning process was to define a clear target group. As we wanted to focus on people with a certain mindset and use a place for the brand story, one came to the other. Austria, urban lifestyle, creativity and a name that can be pronounced all over the world led us to Vienna’s 7th district – named Neubau.
Was alternative eyewear a gap in the market you have always seen in relation to your particularly creative social circle? In all honesty no, not always. It was discovered and then developed out of a natural interest and curiosity I had in the area. I started to work with bicycles and other sports gear as product manager and had the chance to dive deeper into several industries, that are kind of linked to fashion. One day in 2014 I received an offer to meet up with the former CEO of Silhouette to talk about a project they were working on. We got along, shared the same ideas and vision, which was definitely linked to some gaps in the market we could see and 5 years later I must say, I definitely took the right decision to enter the eyewear industry.
Did ‘neubau’ always intend to supply sustainable eyewear (as opposed to solely high quality, artistically unique and stylish frames) ? Yes, it was part of our DNA from day 1, as we had so many positive aspects at our fingertips, that stood out from the masses, like our local production in the centre of Europe, our waste-reducing production processes, and so on. After launching our sustainable plastic material naturalPX in early 2017 the story became more complete and more obvious to everyone.
Did sustainability organically manifest as an important factor due to the ‘urban’, ‘current’ and ‘stylish’ concept of the brand itself as well as its target market? It absolutely did and does more than ever. Especially in times like today with all these relevant, popular and increasingly influential movements like Fridays for future, Plastic Patrol, just to name two out of many, awareness for the necessity of crucial behavioral changes towards a better future for our planet is rising. To me it is part of our culture.
From the perspective of ‘point of sale’ – would you say many customers inquire about the sustainability of ‘neubau’? Is sustainability a prominent selling point that could make or break a sale? Yes and no. To some the style itself is of more importance than the sustainable component, but those who do want a responsibly produced, sustainable product AND style don’t have to compromise any of those aspects with ‘neubau’. And that is great!
What would you say are the benefits and / or the disadvantages of using 3D printing in the manufacturing of your glasses? To start with the disadvantages, as there are only two that come to my mind, colouring is still very limited, as the process does not allow us to produce translucent plastics. The other is the high investment in machinery and competence to start production. As part of our philosophy is to produce our frames in-house, we had to learn this technique from scratch, which on the other side gave us the chance to re-think certain production processes, that are critical in 3D-printing, e.g. sealing the surfaces to avoid that colours from “bleeding out” or even fungi growing on your frame, and find our own solution for those challenges. In terms of design options, you can be very creative compared to other production techniques and very important to us, the production process produces almost zero waste. We just launched our new 3D-printed capsule collection “Côte du Soleil” produced out of 100% bio-based raw materials; our next step in becoming the most desirable, sustainable eyewear brand out there.
What inspires ‘neubau’ most in particular to either the people or the location of some of the creative districts you have mentioned like El Born in Barcelona or Shoreditch in London? Both! Creative ideas and an open mindset mostly characterise the people living in those urban areas we like to refer to!
Is the inspiration ‘neubau’ derives from these special places and people used in just the aesthetic features of the range; colour, shape and so on or does it go further than that? It goes further than that! We try to be as open-minded as possible, one of the characteristics that are typical for those places and its people we really admire. We hope it’s visible in our activities, our collaborations, our communication and last but not least, our products.
From reading ‘neubau’s’ Sustainability Guide, I gather the intentions of the brand’s sustainability and good ethics make special emphasis on future generations – what legacy will ‘neubau’ leave as one of a growing number of sustainable eyewear brands, that is different to the rest? What we share with those of our competition who do care about sustainability too, is the mindset of supporting the environment. What goes beyond the others is our way to link the sustainable world to a certain style, as we believe sustainability can look and feel premium and up-to-date.
Just as ‘neubau’ eyewear beautifully dissects and draws inspiration from the most bustling creative capitals of our world – in the midst of a contagion, one of the most positive culminations of our isolation – where we are limited to little or no exploration, adventure or wandering, is that we have been forced to appreciate the beauty within our own localities and dwellings – some that were once hidden in plain sight. A brand as diverse and continually evolving as ‘neubau’ can be a source of both creative and non-creative inspiration for designers and consumers alike; creativity is an easily identifiable and relatable motif for us all – and that is what helps to set this brand apart from others. Interview by Victoria G. L. Brunton for Eyestylist.com. All rights reserved.