Through the use of colour, sculpture and unconventional materials, Dana Prekopova, founder of IOKO Optika, and the eyewear collection IOKO x NA – aims to educate the Slovakian customer and provide an independent alternative to commercial eyewear. From one-of-a-kind pieces to frames that would be equally at home in the Guggenheim, Dana spoke to Eyestylist about her worlds of frames and retail, which colourfully collide.
1. How would you describe yourself in three words? Precise, creative, detail-oriented.
2. Where do you find yourself looking for inspiration? My inspiration for each IOKO x NA collection is strongly linked to one specific face – we call it my “muse”. I love to visualize each character, which step by step becomes a face I envision wearing the respective shape. So far, four separate collections have been created with unique and very characterful Slovak actresses as the muse. Perfection in beauty is not what I am looking for, it’s actually quite the opposite. I like to find beauty in imperfection, asymmetry and general uniqueness. Each frame in every series always has something in common with the next: there is always a fixed element, which might appear on the temple or in another part of the design. Above: Dana with her son the architect Alan Prekop
The last collection was very specific, a bit more complicated but all the more fun! Two separate lines of shapes and colours were created at the same time and my two sisters Marta and Lea, were part of the visual output – I have an identical twin and one older sister, but we all look very much alike. My “muse” for the collection for Winter 2021 was an actress called Kerekes Vica, who is very similar to us in looks but younger. She has her own special features, so the design for her was quite different than what we’d created for me and my sisters. It was challenging but at the same time it felt very brave. (Youtube film: https://youtu.be/tNiCN-tA31s)
3. The use of colours, patterns and sculptural shaping in your IOKO x NA frames is incredibly striking, tell us more about your design process? Yes, you are right. I try to push my designs to the edge of wearability whilst also remaining consistent with the artistic mastery of their handmade process. I’m fascinated by colour. It is so much fun to use unusual palettes when creating frames: we have worked with orange, fuchsia, purple, bright red and orchid pink since 2018 – a time when other independent designers weren’t very interested in these tones. Since then, I have noted designers I really admire doing the same thing: they have been enchanted by the richness of these brave colours, just as I have. Each pair of glasses is unique, there is nothing like them in other parts of the world in the same shape and colour – we are always one step ahead. Any pair I design must be different and if the demand for a specific colour and shape remains high, I just change the design slightly to honour my passion for originality.
4. Which frame, of any one you’ve ever designed, best represents the IOKO customer? Well, this does not have an unequivocal answer. IOKO celebrates its 18th birthday this year – as always, the beginnings were not easy. At first we needed to educate the customer: in our country, Slovakia, there is no tradition regarding the manufacture of glasses, and the term “independent design” was simply unheard of. At the end of the day, this lack of knowledge was due to so many years spent under a Communist regime. My mission was to teach customers the difference between commercially produced glasses and those manufactured independently.
5. What drives you forward? The fact that the customers have become used to us and the idea of our technique, so they want our products more and more. We have an IOKO clientele that only want one-of-a-kind glasses and I am so glad I can provide this in each of our collections. We have recently seen a lot of interest in our IOKO x NA frames across the industry… mostly before SILMO 2022.
6.What is your stance on sustainability? Our zero-waste manufacturing process was kind of created by accident. Since I worked with a jewellery designer on our very first collection, the idea came about very spontaneously that we would use the ‘waste’ material from the cut-outs to make an original piece of jewellery for a specific pair of spectacles. Since then, we have continued to make use of all usable scraps of material – not only for the jewel – even if we manage to keep some acetate from the plate we cut the frame from, we use that as well. It’s nice when the client gets to know the material in its raw, unprocessed form. It helps them understand how much work there is behind the beautiful, polished result in their hands.
7. Which is your personal favourite frame, and why? It’s probably the very first one. It was created especially for me and to this day I’m still struggling with the fact that it was stolen from me shortly after it was made. It was a painful loss at the time, but I have started to look at it in a more positive light. It happened when I was starting out in the business and there were various doubts and uncertainties in my head – whether my bold ideas would be interesting. I reached out for advice, and the person who turned out to be a thief actually confirmed for me that they really were brilliant! Today, we have achieved awards like the National Design Award 2021, so I will no longer fight with my internal doubts.
8. If you could see your frames styled with any particular designer / stylist’s work, who / what label would it be? Of course I have my favorite designers, many of whom I have more than just a working relationship with. There are several of them who are so outstanding, they boldly present various forms of design, including unique and artistic eyewear objects. I have my own way of doing things, and it makes me happy when I manage to come up with something that does not resemble anything that already exists. I am lucky that IOKO Optika is, to me, the most beautiful space, where our own brand can be presented in all its full glory, honouring its core uniqueness.
9. Could you tell us about your new store and any other exciting developments on the horizon for IOKO? Yes, we have our new showroom in the heart of the Old Town in Bratislava. We spent “teenage years” and our youth in different parts of our small city, but as we matured we moved to the nice modern part of this area. This district of Bratislava is close to my heart because I grew up and studied here. The space for the new Ioko shop was selected by the architect Alan Prekop who happens to be my son – I really wanted him to work on the project from design to implementation. He knows my passion for eyewear very well and how I work personally with each client. He has created a very unique, gallery-like space using very unusual decorative elements: enriching traditional materials such as wood, steel and natural clay with a luminescent foil where our glasses are displayed. Due to this luminescent effect, the room changes colour several times a day. We talked a lot during the process and I always knew that the showroom itself would create the feeling of exclusivity, displaying all the unique pieces from independent designers like you would see in an art gallery. I had only one request: to have a place where I could show the customer how our glasses are made. When the shop is closed, you can find me sitting down with my tools in this work space; right in front of the window beside the street – I love it when people knock on my window and wave or say hello!
10. Do you have any thoughts on the ever-evolving trend of technology fusing with luxury fashion retail? I believe my dreams and ideas will never pass me by, and that behind every door I open there are still a few mysterious doors closed, beckoning me to look inside them. Currently, I am doing a workshop at VSVU at the Department of Experimental Design and I am looking forward to encouraging young designers to experiment with various new materials, and trying to make glasses out of something unusual. Of course, I have plans to continuously develop my brand and to reach opticians in LA, Perth, Melbourne, Barcelona, Madrid, and Amsterdam so that they will get to know our work. So far, the hardest thing for me was to say goodbye to some of our babies and let them out into the world – I am working hard on this now so that even more can fly out of the nest. For more details visit https://ioko.sk
An interview by Victoria G. L. Brunton exclusively for Eyestylist.com – images provided by IOKO Optika – all rights reserved