Mehran Baghaie in Vancouver Canada weaves tradition, art and history into his frame creations. Ideas and inspiration are inexorably linked with his Persian ancestry, and then beautifully balanced with trends of today’s style and technical directions. Baghaie and his wife Anisa are both opticians, and managed several shops in Vancouver, where they have lived since 1984.
However, as Baghaie explains, “I wanted to design something of my own, and my first SILMO was in 1999, and there were only a few independents. Now there are many more people gravitating towards micro brands, and people are looking for brands that cater to independent opticians.
“Materials that are personally fascinating to me include wood – which I started to use in 2004. I’m a real history buff, and I’m very fond of Native Arts, including Homa, a mystic bird from Persia, and a lion from the 17th Century. Also, I love gothic, and vintage cat-eyes have a special place in my heart, and a cat-eye is an uplift for the face.” Baghaie has a unique collection – Pussy Galore – devoted only to sleek cat-eye shapes in ravishing colours. Another favourite Baghaie material is stainless steel. His latest collection in the German crafted material is distinctly angular, with modern, clean design that brings a chic mystique to each style. Colours are contrasted with multi-layering, which results in rich intonations. Baghaie has added a special touch with a message included inside one temple. One phrase is ‘Oneness of Mankind’, and Baghaie reveals:”I was always moved by these words, and I wanted to share them by bringing hope of peace on earth.
“I like to create frames that I can relate to in my collections, which means carving beautiful fashion that recycles itself. My influences change by my surroundings and by world events.” Spectacle Eyeworks is sold throughout Europe, America and Canada. For more information on the collection, visit www.spec-eyeworks.comJG
The charming Italian medieval village of Castiglione Olona is the home location for Mazzucchelli – the internationally acclaimed producers of acetate. Product Development Manager Elena Orsi Mazzucchelli has graciously shared the amazing history of this remarkable brand with Eyestylist.
Could you please give the history of Mazzucchelli? “Born as a tiny factory, established in 1849 for the production of combs and buttons made from animal horn, bone and tortoiseshell, Mazzucchelli is now the worldwide leader in the production and distribution of the plastic material traditionally used for the production of optical frames: Cellulose Acetate. The company, still owned by the Mazzucchelli family, has been operating for the last 165 years through 6 generations. Now, the last two generations are directly involved in the company, always focused on carrying out the traditional of this exceptional example of Italian excellence. Throughout the years, Mazzucchelli 1849 has been active in several industrial fields and is now performing as the parent company of the most important industrial conglomeration worldwide, which supplies semi-finished products for the optical market (acetate sheets and granules, metal components and sunglass lenses). Massucchelli’s products are aimed at markets ranging from spectacles, sunglasses and fashion accessories, to interior decoration and design objects, where quality and aesthetical values are greatly appreciated. The products with technical qualities are valued by safety, sports and automotive industries.”
Mazzucchelli has successfully survived major upheavals including two World Wars, and economic transitions. How has this been realised or accomplished? “Over three centuries entrepreneurial spirit, intuition, vision have enabled Mazzucchelli to take a global view of the countless new challenges of the market, and to converse with the fashion world, which demands a particular sensibility to aesthetical and innovative features.
“Quality, creativity, and innovation have always been Mazzucchelli’s core values and advantages over its competitors. Over the years, Mazzucchelli has always shown a great capacity for innovation and this has enabled the company to face successfully all the major upheavals, including the two World Wars and economic transitions. After the First World War, with great insight, Mazzucchelli decided to produce on an industrial scale the first thermoplastic material, celluloid, and celluloid still remains a vivid product in collective imagination. Another reason for the success of Mazzucchelli was the elaboration of a new product: cellulose acetate, a polymer of plant origin. The research laboratories developed this product which has the same characteristics of celluloid, but it is safer because it is flame-proof. Even when the standards of beauty evolved towards a ‘modern’ concept of design (since the 60’s), Mazzucchelli, thanks to its traditional vocation to be a pioneer, readily caught these new values participating actively in the new trend, and working with major companies such as Kartell and Campari in the production of articles which had become cult objects. Starting from the 70’s, the eyewear world has been highly influenced by design. Emerging Italian fashion designers, such as Armani, Valentino and Missoni gave a strong acceleration to the evolution of taste and distinguished themselves in the global fashion environment with the concept of Made in Italy. Mazzucchelli did not remain indifferent to such a huge phenomenon and conveyed the new standards to its product.”
What do you think is the most important development or improvement in the eyewear industry in the past fifty years? “Over the past fifty years, the biggest evolution in the eyewear industry has been the metamorphosis of the optical frame into a fashion accessory, a trendy item. Once the prosthesis function was lost, the optical frame became the answer – in the colours and designs to the specific taste of the moment. this was a real revolution, and since fashion entered the world of eyeglasses nothing has ever been the same. Mazzucchelli started to collaborate with leading fashion brands, and created a research center dedicated to the study of trends, and to all the socio-cultural factors capable of influence on the current taste. This research center, the historic ‘Centre O” is still operating and has become the undisputed benchmark in the world of eyewear.”
Mazzucchelli creates thousands of different colours every year – what general research methods do you incorporate in this massive project? “Product development has always been guaranteed by the Italian ‘Centre O’ based in Castiglione Olona. This research center works closely with brands, designers and customers from all over the world, offering a wide range of products and design consultancy. Every year this activity creates 40 collections inspired by different stylistic tendencies.The creative source for inspiration comes from fashion trends, design trends, from the suggestions collected travelling, from visits to fairs, art exhibitions, as well as from the stimulating conversations with customers, designers or artists. Besides the collections, Mazzucchelli annually develops about 6,000 new colours, unique products specifically manufactured for individual customers, developed to satisfy the need for customization, nowadays increasingly demanded by the market.”
What three colours are enduring favourites with designers? “The colour selection for optical frames includes: a tortoiseshell that, according to the prevailing fashion of the moment, could be a bleeding or a streaky tortoiseshell, or a spotted one. Black as a basic colour, and a unique colour and pattern combination which personalizes the selection.”
What are Mazzucchelli’s insights or perceptions for the future of eyewear? “Trends remain the guiding principles over the years, but as we have seen, a new requirement has become more assertive, that of personalization. We also feel that the quality and attention paid to detail will gain more significance each day, along with the need to accompany each product with its history, in order to convey its value and its DNA to the market. Eyeglasses will be more and more an object of cult used to reinforce the concept of brand identity. They will also become a new post-modern communicational tool, used to express one’s personality and to feel at ease in specific contexts.”
Creating Mazzucchelli acetate requires specialized skills. Nowadays, are young people interested in this unique and challenging career? “Every day we perceive an increasing interest in knowing more about the material used for production, because it’s only by being aware of its origin, of its history and of its components that we can be sure it is suitable to meet specific needs. Mazzucchelli manufacturers a wide range of products from classical to trendy and avant-garde. In particular, it’s the sheet produced following the Block process which represents a great attraction for stylists and designers, because the block, being made up of many and always different elements, can create inimitable effects allowing release of boundless and free creativity. This creativity can find expression thanks to the aesthetic sensibility of the workers in the laboratory, whose specialized skills are the outcome of a school, and a long cultural tradition and craftsmanship handed down from generation to generation. Yes, Mazzucchelli receives many requests from people who would like to take part in this creative process: this induces us to continue our work with great enthusiasm.” www.mazzucchelli.comJG
Just as we’d thought we were up-to-date on all the most creative brands around the world, Niloca Eyewear came to our attention in 2013. There followed the discovery of Scoogle in Melbourne, and several chats with Colin (aka Mr Niloca) in Paris. With a background in industrial design and a fascination for all things innovative in eyewear, it quickly became apparent that this was another rule-breaking label with their own unique approach to spectacle-making.
“I married into eyewear,” explains Colin who first met his wife Josie at the optometrist’s where she was working at the time.” “We went out for dinner and found we’d both outgrown Brisbane. A few months later we were packing our life into a 3 ton truck together and drove 2,000km south to Melbourne. We wanted to open our own eyewear store and expand my 3D printing and design company.”
Despite tumultuous initial experiences, including the onset of GFC 1 in November 2008, the Scoogle store has flourished, run by both Josie, a trained optometrist and Colin, the designer. Collections found here today include Niloca, Theo and Anne & Valentin (read about Scoogle at https://www.eyestylist.com/2014/10/scoogle-melbourne/).
“From the outset, our point of difference wasn’t our product variety, our brand or price. It was our service, which started from the very beginning, before the frame or customer even entered the store. Exceptional service started with an equally exceptional design, created as a service to cater for the needs and wants of the customer. We didn’t need bells, whistles, bling, mirror and smoke to attract customers – all we needed was design and service. The rest took care of itself.”
Soon after, the creation of the Niloca collection began. “I dispensed with the traditional design process of computer designs. The $50,000 worth of advanced software and hardware I had used in 3D Printing parts for automotive, mining and science companies now gathered a patina of dust.
“Boxes of Derwent, Pantone and Rotring implements took centre stage and I drew new models by hand on actual paper and made prototypes using tin, balsa wood, foam and card board. It was a chimerical process of tactile sensory pleasure, live in 3D in front of my eyes. I’d been deprived of this for many years as 2×30” flat LCD screens desperately tried to fool me into a 3D environment of CAD models to the 4th decimal point. This new found enthusiasm for drawing was immediately rewarding and solution driven.”
By summer 2011/12, Colin had released his first sunglass model, Florna, named after the couple’s first daughter. The colours chosen were derived from classic archived Italian acetates, meticulously stored in an Australian eyewear factory 5 hours west of Sydney. Florna is a classic chic frame infused liberally by Art Deco lines, proportion and as the designer explains, “the most important ingredient – chromaticness”.
Several collections later came some Niloca “classics”, such as Hyperfocus, one of the first Niloca concepts I saw myself at Silmo 2014. Handsculpted in the Jura in France, this acetate design, in patterned and single colour versions, has a cutting-edge 3d form, that flatters the face, but in a rather unexpected way. Like an optical illusion, the 3d effect is apparent really only when viewed from the side, not from the front; it’s surprising, elegant and unconventional, all at once.
This time, our Silmo releases will hold more surprises, says Colin. “I’m taking the 3D form theme I started out with 5 years ago,” he explains, “and pushing it even further. In 2013, we released a ‘frame within a frame’ concept, something people were scared of, but now copy in droves. So in Paris, I hope to give Niloca ‘fans’ more to inspire them, pushing the idea of depth to a new level.” For more information: www.niloca.com / www.scoogle.com.auCN
Vue dc Founder Chris Mascré is one of the most modest designers we have come across in the eyewear profession but his handmade French designs speak volumes about his love for traditional spectacle making and creative artisan design. Chris and Yolande de Clerq talked to Eyestylist ahead of the Autumn eyewear fashion fairs.
“Since I was a teenager I have been attracted by eyewear as an accessory,” explains Mascré, “that expresses individual personality.” Mascré studied optometry at the famous optical institute ISO in Paris, trained at ESSEL (later Essilor) and opened his first optical boutique in Montparnasse in Paris in 1975. The shop was known for its different approach to eyewear, at a time when independent designers were almost unheard of.
“In the 80s I worked with Paulette Guinet and Alain Mikli, and that was when I began to have my own specific style and identity as a designer.”
It was in 2007, at Silmo, the Paris eyewear fair, that Mascré made his debut as a designer in his own right. “By March 2008 we were exhibiting our acetate retro style designs for the first time in NYC,” says Mascré. We were immediately noticed by the most innovative optical shops of the time. That show was the start of everything.”
Today, Vue dc designs are the work of Chris Mascré with consistent input from Yolande de Clercq (aka Yoma). “Yoma has always been involved in Vue dc – she is behind the choice of materials and colours; her approval in the designs is decisive!”
Asked to explain the stand-out qualities of his collection, made in the Jura, in France, Chris says: “Our selection of acetates with specific thicknesses allows us to explore 3-d volumes. This gives both the Vue dc and Chris M collections their particular identity and style. We are dedicated to uncompromising quality and the very best artisan production. The Vue dc Swarovski collection – for example – is quite apart in its quality and aesthetics, and is typical of our dedication to making things with real skill and precise craftsmanship. Over time, we have created several Vue dc timeless designs…Kis, Rok, Tao, Art and Eva.”
With so many changes in the eyewear industry itself, Chris firmly upholds his dedication to tradition and authentic handmade frames.
“We have chosen the creative route in eyewear, which means we are all about traditional quality. In the years ahead, we plan to continue to enhance our French “savoir-faire”; it is fabulous to be working with people who express the same creative spirit. I would say that our love for producing frames with a real passion and dedication to the product as an art form or design object continues to be the main driving force for both our labels.”
Vue dc will present five new designs in the eyewear fairs ahead including Silmo in September, and shows in Las Vegas and and New York (Capsule). The new Chris M sunglasses collection will also be launched with five Chris M optical designs. Find more information at www.vuedc.frCN
London Designer Alexia Parmigiani creates luxurious, original scarves that are sold internationally. She discusses with Eyestylist her concepts and intuitions.
How did you decide to create luxury scarves? “I began my journey with scarves in 2005 after a close friend – Indian Summer based in London – suggested I concentrate only on scarves as my designs were selling so well in her shop. At that point, no one had just a scarf collection. It was a very fresh idea and I loved the ‘one size only.’ My brand is about texture and unique pieces. Basically the scarf is a piece of jewellery. I see scarves as part of the personality.”
Are there other products that you would like to design? “I have designed other acccessories and clothing in the past, and each summer collection supports the scarf range with a mini resort wear line. I have just opened a page on my website called “Wanderlust” that will display my one-off designs. I call them ‘One & Only.’ This is a very exciting part of the business for me.”
Do you have particular inspirations for your creations? “Yes, I try to pick a theme, like Venice for my AW15 collection, which I visited with my husband, and fell in love with the absolutely magical and fascinating city that is Venice – it is breathtaking. I was completely inspired by the colours of the buildings, washes of dark and light blended together, a naturally distressed effect…I researched by taking millions of pictures and just taking in the Venetian life. My shapes are extremely important to my designing, and I usually pick a design that I love from my past collections and redevelop. I see where I can push the design further, and during that stage a completely new design can appear too. Mixing all of this with daily life is how I like to design. For years I have thought about a collection for men, and after my husband was stealing my samples that were not complete I thought: ‘this is a sign’ – I’m ready! So I have introduced a menswear collection for AW 15 – a capsule collection of soft cashmere and wool blends, snake tie dye, and dip dyed in different weaves, with shapes that include square and long scarves. Watch out for the menswear capsule collection launching 1st July – exclusively on line.
“I have very exciting news and Eyestylist is the first to hear it. I have decided to concentrate on sales through my website only. Not designing collections, but ‘One & Onlys’ – you can find the beginnings on my Wanderlust page. Fashion has changed, and always will, but now stores are driven by high profile brands more and more. I do believe we all would like a wider choice of well-sourced, new and wonderful designs of any level. I am excited about the freedom that I will have in my designs, and really look forward to this new chapter in my life. Through my website I can release these pieces exclusively for the consumer. This gives me the freedom to create a ‘one of a kind’ place for all shoppers, something new and fresh is what I think people are looking for. This will be an ever changing shop window throughout the year. The Dancers at Dusk AW15 collection will go live by mid-July, and will be sold only though my website store. I hope you will follow me on my new and exciting journey! www.alexiafashion.co.ukJG
“I started working in the optical/ophthalmic field in 1993, and then also started to work in fashion. Passionate about accessories since childhood, the spark snapped during a trip to Caracas, after my studies, when I was hit by a pair of sunglasses worn by a young tourist. A glance is able to lead us into new worlds and fantasies just watching what is around us, and through the glance we experience and learn. Glances are the protagonists of memories, sensations, emotions, and make eyewear the King of accessories.
“As a self-taught designer, I decided to form my own eyewear label “Pollipo’ Occhiali” in 2000, inspired by my passion for acetate glasses. Acetate is just my favourite material for eyewear. My love for accessories – and pearls in particular – led me to create my collection of jewels, and the unique, creative line of jewel clutches…which are not only for glasses. The collections are fully handmade in Italy, and I’m always focusing on the combination between colours of the acetates, with the colours of the gemstones and leathers. The leathers are from Tuscany, and I choose the gemstones during my world travels, discovering special gems such as the Rhodochrosite from Argentina, a beautiful pink to red-rose stone. I’m also passionate about Red Coral which I select from Torre del Greco in Italy.
“Another stone I use is the enchanting Pietra Paesina from Tuscany, a stone that hides inside designs that look like the work of a painter, but really are absolutely natural and stimulating. So sometimes there is a surprising landscape. Turquoise from Arizona I use, but always and above all I am fascinated by selecting and researching pearls!
“I get intuition to create eyewear and jewels by the sea, basically it is my homeland of inspiration. I live in this atmosphere, and the sea is around me everyday, as my home is located in the seaside of beautiful Roma. ” www.pollipocchiali.itJG
David Rose is a born and bred Californian, equally at home on a surfboard or ‘surfin’ European capitals. Indeed, it is his love of travel and sport that sparked the initiative to create SALT Eyewear. “I found my fondness for eyewear when I was twelve years old because of the ski frames that I wore. That’s how I started to get into eyewear.
“Before I started the company in 2006, I worked in an optical shop in Aspen, and I discovered I was really passionate about eyewear – the shapes, colours, sizes, and materials. Eyewear has a foot in the medical and fashion worlds.” A peripatetic traveller, Rose explored the world and indulged in lots of surfing. “Seeing the world and nature is the best place for creative ideas,” says Rose. The name SALT is an acronym for Sea, Air, Land and Time. The themes and colours are all based on the outdoors and the marvels of nature.
“When you travel you experience nature; you see great greens in the mountains and sea. There is so much inspiration in what Mother Nature gives out. At SALT, we are giving an authentic message, and we use real people in our photos. It gives a genuine feel that people can relate to what they are seeing.”
SALT frames are handcrafted in Japan with Mazzucchelli and Japanese acetate. Rose commented: “I’m in Japan several times a year to oversee everything. You don’t want to over promise and under deliver. I follow fashion from afar, but it is not the SALT driving force. I’m more about designing something that is not here today and gone tomorrow.” www.saltoptics.comJG
Vera Wang creations are the epitome of chic and contemporary fashion. The celebrated designer dresses an international clientele of sophisticated women who appreciate her understated styling in beautiful fabrics. Frames are also a passion for Vera Wang, and in an exclusive interview with Eyestylist, she shares her thoughts on fashion and eyewear.
“I’m always excited about eyewear – it can change the way you look; it’s like wearing a new cosmetic, and can change your whole mood. Eyewear is the biggest accessory, and eye protection is so valuable against sun levels. I’m into studying lens making and flat screen eyewear. It’s important to keep the quality going, and keep exploring lens construction. I’m bursting with ideas and excitement and fascinated with eyewear. Temples can be mixed with various materials, or take lenses used for skiing and adapt to sunglasses. It’s challenging, and competitive, but always exciting.
“Eyewear has always interested me, and I’m a hands on designer – very much involved, and I bring passion to what I do, and study what is going on in the market. I design from my heart. I’ve seen so much change – it is a staggering new world.
“A woman can express herself creatively, while protecting her eyes. Glasses give you attitude, and they make you look totally different. I design in the context of what I feel as a designer – and perhaps as an artist. I’m fascinated by it all.
“The focus on eyewear in Los Angeles is so obvious. It comes from loving sports. The vocabulary of eyewear has changed. Eyewear is a form of self-expression, and I always encourage women to express themselves, and also offer options and alternatives.
“I’m intrigued with jewelled eyewear. Diana Vreeland and Carrie Donavan (both editors and style icons at Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar at different periods) were defined by their eyewear – they saw the potential and power of eyewear.” www.kenmarkoptical.com / www.verawang.comJG
1st March 2015 Tucked away on a petit “rue” in the Parisian Marais district, is a charming oasis for accessories. Johanna Braitbart designs marvellous selections of hats, headbands, jewellery, and distinctive scarves and bags. Eyestylist discovered her captivating designs in the prestigious Parisian stores Franck et Fils www.francketfils.fr, and also in chic Le Bon Marché www.lebonmarche.com
The fabrics in which she crafts her designs are elegant and luxurious – Braitbart has a special knack for sourcing unusual materials. “Many of my fabrics are found in France,” she says, pointing to elegant silks, satin, wools, laces, beads and feathers, “and I also find materials in Germany and leathers in Italy.” Her travels also result in gorgeous finds from New York and Marrakech.
“I’m inspired by vintage – always – geometric shapes, and gentlemen farmer style. I also like L’école de Vienne, Sarah Moon photography, and sculpture. Many of the influences from the past are new ideas for now.” Braitbart says that trends “include lots of light colours – like macaroons – pink, yellow, green, blue and green. Then there are bright tones of electric blue and red, plus florals, polka dots and stripes. We offer a bespoke accessory service, and you cannot find that easily in Paris any more. People want special accessories.”
Le Marais is a must-see when in Paris – and so is Johanna Braitbart’s chic boutique for unique, handcrafted accessories. You’ll discover wearable treasures with long lasting memories. 26, rue des Blancs Manteau 75004 Paris www.johannabraitbart.com JG
Three generations of eyewear DNA flow creatively through Jason Kirk’s genes. His ancestors were optical pioneers who opened workshops in London in 1919. Nowadays, Jason and Karen Kirk continue the optical heritage with their recently launched Vivarium and Solarium collections.
Did you have a particular style/fashion concept in mind when you decided to launch Kirk & Kirk? “Our goal is to create frames that are unique, and, at the same time, wearable. We serve two types of customer: the retailer (optician, department store, fashion boutique) and the consumer. We need to understand the needs of the optician and the desires of the consumer. Twenty years experience has shown us that our end wearer is independent, and will not be told what to wear. We need to excite them, to make them feel an affinity with us, and to show that we understand their taste, in order to gain their confidence and loyalty.”
Kirk and Kirk has made an important style statement using Italian acrylic for frames. Is this a material in which you will continue to create frames – plus using other materials? “We spent many years working with our acrylic manufacturer to create the correct specific grade of material. Then with the frame manufacturer to establish how to hand-make glasses using this material…and then with the opticians showing them the benefits of using acrylic. We are not tied to using acrylic, but it is very much our signature, and it offers a beautiful range of colours and textures that allow us to differentiate ourselves from other designers, and allow independent opticians to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The frames are incredibly light and comfortable, so they are a pleasure to wear.”
Do you have particular inspirations for creating the collections? “Inspiration can come from anywhere, and for Vivarium we were inspired by Victorian scientists and their relationship with nature. Colour plays a major role in our design process, and the relationship between colours. Different colours have various meanings to different cultures which we find fascinating. It is often the unseen connections which ignite our passion – ‘what emotions do colours create’? for example.”
You have been in the eyewear business for many years. What do you feel have been the biggest changes – and what are future trends? “We started in optics in the early 1990’s, originally producing our frames in the UK, even owning our own factory at one point. But this is no longer an option and we moved all of our production to France in 2002 where it has stayed. European production has been under enormous pressure in the last fifteen years, and Asian production has developed dramatically. This is neither a good nor a bad thing, it is just a reality. The last seven years or so have seen economic pressure weigh heavily on decisions made within our industry, but notably by the opticians. We are a profession that is slow to embrace change, as illustrated by lack of availability of high end, independent frames on the internet.”
Could you please describe some of the challenges faced creating a new collection today – versus twenty years ago? “First and most obviously, it is a very expensive process to create a collection. It always has been, but today it is not just about the frames themselves, but the whole branding, marketing and general presence that is essential to compete in a crowded market. How do you create a collection that is different, but wearable in a market that is quickly saturated, and where the ability to copy quickly and effectively is such a threat? We have been fortunate in that our clients and industry colleagues have been extremely loyal to us, and have appreciated Kirk & Kirk’s collections. We are very grateful for that support. There are very few truly independent eyewear designers, and relatively few independent eyewear boutiques. We need to work together and to support each other if our businesses are to flourish.” www.kirkandkirk.comJG
Zac Posen launched his modern American glamorous fashion collection in 2001. The award winning designer is recognised for his artisanal craftsmanship and masterful use of textiles.
Do you have any favourite inspirations for designing clothing and eyewear? “I’m inspired by everything that surrounds me – people, places, art, and even a mood. I recently created a colourful gown in my ZAC Zac Posen collection that was inspired by a sunset I saw while taking a vacation in Harbour Island. I wouldn’t say one influence has driven the design of our eyewear collection. I’ve drawn inspiration from the essence and DNA within the Zac Posen brand. The collection, both men’s and women’s, is infused with the notion of modern American glamour that is always present in everything I create. Translating that to eyewear has been an exciting process for me.”
What is your favourite material in which to design clothing – and eyewear? “That’s hard to say, I’ve used so many wonderful and highly innovative materials and fabrics from all around the world over the years. In eyewear I’ve always loved the use and look of metal combined with other materials. We always try to use it in innovative and interesting ways to create a bold and distinctive frame that exudes sophisticated glamour.”
What do you find the most interesting aspect in eyewear design?“Form and function within the design of eyewear has always interested me. The use of certain methods when designing eyewear fascinates me. It’s essential that you consider the function of the product when introducing certain design elements or materials to the frame.”
You are now designing Bridal wear – are their other items you would like to design – perhaps beyond fashion? “Of course! Design and my love for creating is definitely not exclusive to fashion. I’ve been fortunate enough to create many other things outside my Zac Posen brand. I’ve designed cars, technology products, and even a Barbie! I always look to stretch my design skills outside of my everyday role so I am continually inspired and challenged.”
Do your fashion designs ever inspire frames – or frames a fashion piece? “Yes, quite often one influences the other. Both the dramatic and subtle gestures of our pieces can be translated across to the eyewear. We also design our exclusive runway eye collection to fit into the overall design theme of that particular season. The design consistency across the categories allow us to maintain the common themes that build brand recognition.” www.zacposen.comwww.kenmarkoptical.comJG
1st December 2014 There was a time when no fashionable man or woman would leave home without a hat. Fashion principles relaxed, and hats became a choice rather than a style must-have. However, the fashion pendulum swings, and nowadays there is a definite revival of both men and women wearing hats. Great designs in marvellous fabrics have accelerated the trend, and the Italian designers at Super Duper Hats set the pace with their spot-on stylish creations.
The discovery of a unique hat blocker by the Italian design trio Ilaria and Veronica Cornacchini who are sisters, and Matteo Bioli, kindled the idea for Super Duper Hats. Their goal is that every hat is authentic – handmade to the finest standards in superior quality materials, using only traditional processes.
The fabrics are beautiful – the winter collection features soft felts, bright wools and countryside herringbone tweeds. Summer materials include straws and elegant cottons. Recently they launched a new collection – Super D – that features young, jazzy and colourful styling.
Super Duper Hats are sold internationally, and can be found at 10 Corso Como in Milan, Harvey Nichols in London, and Dee Cee Style in Zurich, and elsewhere. The unique, spirited designs at Super Duper make wearing hats fun and fashionable once again. www.superduperhats.com JG
1st November 2014 The lustrous lightweight metal Titanium was the benchmark idea for Adrian Marwitz to pursue his teenage dream. “The idea came to me when I was seventeen. I dreamed about making frames in this material and having them handcrafted in Germany,” recalls Marwitz. But before Adrian realised his ambition, he trained as an optician in Berlin, where he was born. With heritage eyewear genes already in Adrian’s DNA – his grandfather founded Marwitz Eyewear in nineteen eighteen, and his father is Hans-Joachim of Conquistador – perhaps it was inevitable that Marwitz would follow an optical path. However, like many offspring of established families, he wanted to strike out on his own, and started his company eighteen months ago.
“Unfortunately, I never met my grandfather, he died the year before I was born. However, I liked his philosophy of focusing on quality and good shapes. That concept, plus my love of travel definitely influences what I design. Italy, Asia, Thailand, Japan – different countries and cultures are inspiring. I recently went to Scotland and I loved the beautiful landscape – but the weather is not very good! I also visited a Scottish distillery and tried whiskey; you feel the Scottish life!” Marwitz also finds London exhilarating. “I love this city,” he says enthusiastically, “with all its different cultures and wonderful food.”
An unusual influence that motivates Marwitz designs is shoes. “Yes, shoe shapes, including Dutch shoes, are inspirational, and I like to play with colours, but in everything I do, I like minimal style, pure and uncluttered.” Streamline shapes are the Marwitz signature, everything handmade in Germany, so he is hands-on for quality and precision control. Are there other items or different materials in which he would like to work? “”That is an interesting question! People frequently ask if I will make acetate frames, but I think it might be a mistake. My brand is getting known for high-quality Titanium. Sometimes I think I would like to make furniture – that could be very interesting, perhaps to make a Titanium chair. Maybe in the next few years, I’ll do something totally different!” www.adrianmarwitz.comJG
Photo of Adrian Marwitz exclusively for Eyestylist by Gilles Stüssi All Rights Reserved
Barbara McReynolds and Gai Gherardi Co-founders/Co-designers
1st October 2014 Creative colour vibrations, unexpected shapes, and innovative materials have characterised l.a.Eyeworks for thirty-five years. Barbara McReynolds and Gai Gherardi are genuine pioneers in eyewear – they launched their first collection in 1979 – long before eyewear had achieved the stylish accolades that glasses now enjoy.
When McReynolds and Gherardi decided to embark on eyewear design, they believed it was time to open up a new kind of conversation about glasses. Their philosophy is that frames are more than just something you wear. Eyewear also expresses individuality and personal expression. McReynolds and Gherardi are purists in their approach to eyewear – each design is hand-drawn – the first step on a path of meticulous production. They use only the finest materials that are shaped by a combination of technology and hand-finished crafting.
The designer’s restless imaginations and ability to absorb from their surroundings has resulted in an expanding legacy of glasses that balance innovation with wear-ability. They recall: “Seeing Andy Warhol’s work in the 1960s was such an incredible revelation to us. Warhol’s ideas gave us permission to break the rules. Watching a video with the legendary jazz singer Anita O’Day was the inspiration for another design.”
Do McReynolds and Gherardi have a particular l.a. Eyeworks moment or experience that is especially memorable? “We’re easily overwhelmed when we think of all the incredible opportunities we’ve been offered and the moments of transformation we’ve witnessed. Different memories flash across the radar at different times. The other day, we recalled the marvellous story a customer told us about walking on the Great Wall of China, and spotting something colourful on the ground. On closer inspection, that “something” was an l.a. Eyeworks cleaning cloth!”
What do McReynolds and Gherardi feel are the biggest changes in eyewear during a thirty-five year period? “Without a doubt, from design to production to communication, rapid evolutions in technology have challenged the possibilities for making glasses. Some developments – like eyewear as some kind of venture capital enterprise – are not so interesting to us. Nevertheless, the ‘basics’ of glasses as apparatus, sensitivity to the future of fashion, great storytelling, and the principles of good design have never really changed.”
As the year-long anniversary celebrations commence, already the exciting news includes l.a. Eyeworks induction to the prestigious CFDA – Council of Fashion Designers of America. A new website is to be launched this autumn, and the latest collection previewed at SILMO is a tribute to Gai and Barbara’s creativity and signature flair for colour. Autumn 2014 also unveils a new series of l.a. Eyeworks “Uncensored Visions” – dazzling portraits that feature a sensational group of performers and models wearing iconic l.a. Eyeworks designs. McReynolds and Gherardi’s creative vision has established an exciting eyewear legend. www.laeyeworks.comJG
Photo of Gai Gherardi exclusively for Eyestylist.com by Gilles Stüssi All Rights Reserved
1st September 2014 Belgian designer Tim Van Steenbergen discusses with Eyestylist his collaboration with avant-garde eyewear brand theo and his fashion inspiration.
How did the collaboration develop between your label and theo eyewear? “I met Mik, the son of theo’s big boss Wim Somers in 2008 at a fashion show, in a well-known concept store in Moscow called Cara & Co, where both theo glasses and my clothes are sold. Once back in Antwerp, the first appointment was quickly arranged.”
What do you find the most interesting about creating eyewear – and the most frustrating – if anything! “I find it very interesting how you can reach a wider audience with eyewear, and that audience is willing to step out of its comfort zone. It’s apparently easier to choose a more extreme pair of glasses than it is to wear an eye-catching outfit. For me, eyewear is also a way to complete a silhouette. I can create a total look. The most frustrating yet fascinating – is how a garment never has a fixed form, while with designer eyewear, the form of the frame never changes. The disadvantage is that afterwards you can’t change it any more to make it fit. You see, it works in both ways.”
What is your favourite material in which to design clothing – and eyewear? “I tend to use classic materials like horn or tortoise, but it becomes interesting when combining these materials. Then you create something exciting. In my clothing line, I do the same. I use different kinds of classic textiles to create interesting forms.”
You have created other accessories in addition to eyewear – bags, shoes, and jewellery. Are there other items you would like to design? “I don’t like to tie myself down to one discipline. After all, you can translate ideas into so many things. It’s just a matter of interpretation. The message is most important!”
Do you have any favourite inspirations? “To live, to love, to travel…I find inspiration in a mix of things. I’m like a sponge. I absorb everything I see. And then I let it seep through in my designs.”
You have designed for the Opera – is there a particular opera for which you would like to design the costumes? “Madame Butterfly! I would love to create the costumes for this romantic opera that makes everybody cry! Pure emotion! For the moment, my next sunglass collection together with theo eyewear is ready to be launched later this month at SILMO. So keep an eye out for them!” www.timvansteenbergen.comwww.theo.beJG
1st August 2014 Coppe Gualtiero and Sid Fiz talk to Eyestylist about their designs.
“We have been active in the optical industry for over twenty years. Our worldwide travel experience was an inspiration for us when the idea of creating Coppe+Sid emerged a few years ago. We wanted to create something of an exceptional quality with no compromise for our optician friends. When Coppe+Sid was born five years ago, there was no business planning, just a passion to create beautiful eyewear with the best materials in the best factories possible. Handcrafted in Italy is at the heart of our collection, and we are always inspired by looking at the rich and colourful past. Whether it is an old movie, architecture, fashion or a beautiful classic car that inspires us, we try to bring that forward to relate to today.
“We love acetate – it’s tactile and versatile – it has soul. We never work with mood boards or look at colours and think what is in this season. The “IN” season shape or colour is what we like to get away from as far as possible.We create modern classics, with no logo, made by the finest craftsmen. Our customers are people who appreciate quality and understand the artisanal work involved in producing Coppe+Sid. Our showroom in London has allowed us to work more closely with consumers and this is a great experience for us, to see customers and experience their feedback. We like to see the smile when they are fitted with a Coppe+Sid frame and hear the compliments! It is an absolute joy and an affirmation we are doing the right thing by pushing the boundaries when we create.
“In the last few years, we have seen a movement towards more artisanal craftsmanship – something of an old school production concept. At the same time, the new 3D printing is pushing the boundaries forward. It’s very interesting that on one hand we see a harking back to the old times, but also we see technologies developing eyewear that are looking to the future. Eyewear is an integral part of fashion – we look at iconic figures such as Michael Caine, John Lennon, Audrey Hepburn…can we imagine them without their glasses and sunglasses? Can we imagine Jack Nicholson without his sunnies? In relation to today’s world, specs are simply cool. Geek chic is here to stay. Glasses act as a face accessory – to hide – or to dress up and transform yourself. They are no longer just a pair of glasses. Consumers are aware of the powerful transformation the right pair of glasses have on the wearer.” www.coppeandsid.com JG
Photos: Exclusively for Eyestylist by Luca Santocono All Rights Reserved
1st July 2014 Grey Ant’s designer Grant Krajecki talks to Eyestylist.com as six new Grey Ant sunglasses hit the stores. Based in NYC, Grey Ant is a trendsetting label that manufactures its sunglass designs in limited quantities. Grey Ant started out as a clothing label to which eyewear was added and eventually took over as a result of their resounding success.
What is your background? I have a background in fashion and costume. In 2006 I thought eyewear would be a good addition to our collection but had no idea things would end up this way. I designed two frames at the time – one being the ‘Status’ frame. It was a mash up of 1950’s and 1970’s Elton John’esque elements which still remains our most sought after model.
When did you launch Grey Ant? We launched in 1998. Natalie Levy became by business partner in 2004.
Like us you are obsessed with quality and individuality. Please comment and explain about the processes you use to make your frames.
Sometimes colors can inspire my designs and sometimes they are chosen afterwards. Once I send the factories the initial specs there are usually a few revisions before we nail it. We work with top class factories in Japan, Italy and China. We use Carl Zeiss lenses from Germany.
We see you as young innovators in the world of eyewear, setting creative standards. Please expand on your direction and hopes/desires for the next years? I feel the men’s fashion market in particular has made some great leaps forward in what is acceptable in shapes and colors. We’re in a very eccentric state right now that hasn’t been seen since the early 80’s. As much as there’s a growing market for the turn of the century “vintage” aesthetic the avante garde has fueled itself into the unwearable. I love both of these views and choose to subtly unite these two worlds in my designs. We plan on expanding our optical frames in the near future.
Is expansion the aim or does off the grid mean “hard to find”, unique and very small scale.
Since the market trickles down and not up we like to remain a very exclusive brand for now. I feel our brand speaks to a customer that understands and appreciates a delicate balance of classic and experimental. Kind of like Coltrane meets Joy Division.
Are you an NYC label through and through or does your philosophy go beyond that? I think there’s a strong New York ingredient in Grey Ant which combines the uptown, downtown and underground elements.
Explain your collaborative work and video projects. We have just joined forces with Jeaneen Lund on a new video short which will be finished very soon. She has captured a very New York street scenario involving real life and fantasy with the backdrop of original music from Terminal Twilight. We are also very excited about working exclusively with Helmut Lang as their sole eyewear brand for their retail stores.
I’ve always admired the Helmut Lang brand since the early 90’s and would never have foreseen this opportunity to work with them. I have also been working with our Japanese factory for almost a year originating an exclusive component for our new collection. They will premier this September in our Paris showroom Paper Mache Tiger and Silmo. www.greyant.com
1st June 2014- J.F. Rey is synonymous with innovative frame creations and amazing colours. Designer Jean-François Rey tells the history of the family label to Eyestylist.
Could you please give us a brief history of the brand. “I am above everything else a French eyewear designer from the Jura region, the French eyewear capital. It was in a privileged family context that I acquired my know-how from my father and grandfather – two generations who specialized in frames. I was about 16 years old when I designed my first collection for the family company, respecting the tradition of French eyewear. So I can say that the famous “French Touch” of J.F. Rey is coming from my family experience. After working in my father’s company, I collaborated for major labels in ready-to-wear fashion, including Agnès B., Issey Miyake and Marithé Francois Girbaud, before launching my own collections. In 1995, I created the company you know today in Marseille, in the south of France. I am the director of Bli-DPB (J.F. Rey and Boz) and Sli (Sky Eyes and Volte Face).”
Colours in the collections are always beautiful – is this influenced by your Marseille location? “J.F.Rey is recognized worldwide for its unique design signature, including unexpected colour combinations. This creative and aesthetic challenge is mainly in the hands of my wife Joëlle, Artistic Director. We find inspiration all around us: travels, paintings, fashion textiles, cultures etc. New and permanent inspirations make you feel alive and give you ideas for creation and design.” One of our secrets is also teamwork and the J.F. Rey philosophy.There are no limits between design and colour – on the contrary. J.F.Rey is a family story with a common passion that continues today in the way we work. Team spirit is very important to us, at each level of the work, and it contributes to the success of our collections. The J.F. Rey Creation Studio is composed of 5 designers, working on all the brands. Together, the designers develop close and positive relations. Sensibilities, experiences, and visions are different from each designer, and this makes the difference, a very constructive and efficient way of working.”
Your collections include a variety of different materials. Are there any new materials you would like to use in future collections? “Each collection is the opportunity for a new creative and technical challenge. In ten years, we have succeeded in taking techniques to the limits and managing projects to fruition that we thought were impossible. The passion that characterizes our designer’s signature makes the difference. Challenges bring unexpected results that are very exciting for everybody. A new laser cutting and engraving unit allows us to engrave materials, and we can rejuvenate acetate and metal, and create amazing graphics at a touch. For the future, we are preparing surprises for our customers. And yes, a new material will be used. But “chut” for the moment…….”
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing eyewear designers today? “The eyewear field is an attractive world for creative people. At the beginning of the adventure, eyewear design was only responding to medical requests. Along with other designers, we’ve introduced design dimension:eyewear for aesthetics, frames as a fashion accessory. This obviously has turned out to be the very core of our design projects. We always try to create trends, to preserve our difference, and our typical design signature. It’s a real opportunity to have the possibility to continue our passion, and bring it to the competitive market and eyewear evolutions. Our work is aimed at the final customers; to create surprise, to attract and bring happiness.” www.jfrey.frJG
Photo of J.F. Rey and Joëlle by Luca Santocono exclusively for Eyestylist. All Rights Reserved.
1st May 2014 Once upon a time, children who needed to wear glasses really didn’t want to. Styles and colours were limited, and frames just weren’t fun. Then, like a magic wand in a children’s fairy tale, there appeared a delightful collection of frames for youngsters with a catchy name – Zoobug – that appealed to little hearts and fashion desires. Eyestylist meets Dr. Julie Le, children’s eye surgeon – above with her daughter Prosper – who shares her story about the creation of Zoobug.
Was there a defining moment when you realised that there was a need for high quality protective eyewear for youngsters? “I saw a lot of UV related eye problems during my training as an ophthalmologist in the UK, but it only hit home when I tried to buy sunglasses for my one-year-old niece. There was little choice and the quality was very poor.
What are your design influences? “I design instinctively and draw inspiration from London life as we’ve got this amazing hub of creativity and style at our doorstep. I love experimenting with colours and strong shapes. But what looks good on paper may not always work on a child’s face; that’s why all my new ideas are prototyped and tested on actual children first. I am lucky I have many willing volunteers from family and friends. My quest for the perfect pair of sunglasses or ophthalmic frames lends itself to my progressive design method, where I am constantly tweaking and refining. It may take several seasons and versions to come up with a shape and fit that I am truly happy with. This is because children’s faces are so varied and pose the biggest challenge. I always design with a particular age range in mind, but even then, there are huge variations in shape and size. Now that children’s tastes are more sophisticated, it becomes harder as you need to understand what they are willing to wear at what age.”
Do you feel that parents are more aware nowadays about eye protection for children? “Yes definitely which is a great thing. We struggled in the early years but now there is much more public awareness for the need to protect children’s eyes and to spend a little more for quality.” What are the most fun aspects of creating eyewear for children – and the most challenging? “I am a big child at heart so if I get excited by a shape, design or colour , then I know kids will too. A good fitting frame that makes a child feel great and confident about themselves is the most rewarding aspect of my job. I’ve often been asked the question of why I left my surgical career to design eyewear for children. Well, I naively wanted to make a difference. In the UK, children had a raw deal when it came to the dreaded NHS frames, and it was unusual to think that children had any desire to look cool or stylish in their glasses. The issue of course, was the lack of public awareness to protect children’s eyes in the sun. I thought it would take 3-4 years to instigate change and return to my day job. Eight years on, and I’ve only just scratched the surface. In China, where we have just entered the market, parents don’t even believe in their children wearing glasses, fearing that it will make their vision worse and they will become dependent.” www.zoobug.comJG
1st April 2014 Hapter was created in the Italian Dolomite Mountains in January 2013 by founders Eric Balzan and Mirko Forti, when they launched the txt1001 collection, featuring a trademark tactile expressiveness obtained by a special fusion of surgical steel to high-end textiles. Balzan and Forti share with Eyestylist how they created and are developing their business.
Before the discovery of the amazing goggles, in what profession were you working? “Mirko brings on board several years of solid experience designing for some of the big players in the eyewear business. Trained as an Industrial Designer, he is in charge of product development, and is the technical side of Hapter,” says Eric.
“I am more a hybrid profile matching creativity and business experience, with solid brand and product management experience gathered in a variety of fashion companies, primarily in the eyewear business, but also in apparel and more recently in the watches and jewellery segment. Hapter represents the overlapping zone of different experiences, cultures and personalities of Mirko and I. And the ambition is really to lay the foundations of an eyewear project based on creativity and debate between opposite elements, like Mirko and I. In 2009 the discovery of the heirloom glasses, and the three years that followed have been chaotic, with an uncertain period of dreams, hopes, tries, failures, excitement, and we invested all our savings to create our own independent enterprise.”
Please tell us about your background and love of mountain climbing?
“Mirko and I met at college, but it was about ten years ago that we started to develop a friendship based on important common interests, mainly in design, eyewear and the mountains. We are expert all-rounders – from ski mountaineering to snowboard to rock and mountain climbing. We assiduously spend our free time wandering on Dolomite Mountains that surround us. We initially treated them as a playground; through maturity we evolved to see the mountains as a mystic place, and a source of experience and inspiration which deserves respect. The mountains are an important element of our culture; therefore, of our project. Besides the lucky retrieval of the military goggles, out minds are soaked with cultural and visual inspiration that comes from the mountains, and this is what we transfer into our project….and in fact….the elements in our project are:
“Brand: We chose the name Hapter by the concept of ‘Haptic Perception’ which is the process of recognizing objects through touch: hands are still the most important body-part to survive in the mountains, and observing the strong hands of mountain people is an experience in itself. Design: The Dolomite region, in the far north of Italy, is an historic military battle front, but this for us also represents a land of integration between varied and symbiotic cultures. In Hapter, we combine the rigorous structural concept derived from a Nordic engineering background, and the artisanal know-how and flair of Mediterranean expressiveness.
“Tradition: Hapter offers the exclusivity of a multi-prized object, nevertheless it carries the tradition of a luxury product, thanks to a contemporary reinterpretation of unique local materials with history. Style: Mountain people are no-frills and straight to the point – ‘repulsion for excess’ guides all our design, creative and stylistic choices; the fabrics used in collection txt1001, though artisanal and precious, were developed by an Italian expert in artisan fabrics. They have a light weave and sober, natural shades. Visual Inspirations: We transfer a specific mood, that is typical of the mountain environment: wind, cold, solitude, sufferance, effort, survival are our topics that we transfer to the collection.”
What is the profile of the Hapter customer?
“People that take things a bit more seriously than they should…this is how we are, and how we think our customers could be. People that, no matter what their social environment is, look for solitude and intimate realization in their fast lives. People sensitive to beauty with a consolidated experience of critical consumption, looking for an intimate experience in what they buy. Most of the numerous spontaneous contacts and requests for information in the market comes from artists, fashion and product designers, architects or similar professions. And we think a good number of them fall under the above description.” www.hapter.itJG
Photos: Top photo of Mirko Forti and Eric Balzan, and image of the heirloom goggles by Luca Santocono exclusively for Eyestylist.
1st March 2014His tall, lithe figure is silhouetted against Parisian landmark buildings – Eglise Saint Germain des Près, and Aux Deux Magots – the latter the favourite café of Jean-Paul Satre, Simone de Beauvoir and other literary luminaries. In his own metier, Jérémy is an eyewear designer of international acclaim. Paris is an inspriation for Tarian – The Left Bank being a favourite and familiar haunt, while The Marais is another source of energy and reference. Streets, buildings, and history all inspire his work. But so do travel, people, museums, nature, architecture – in fact – life itself.
We settle comfortably at Deux Magots, and over delicious coffee, Jérémy relates his eyewear odyssey. “I designed my first fame for myself, as ‘revenge’ because I needed to wear glasses from the age of eight.” However, his “revenge” evolved into a continuing unbridled passion for eyewear. He worked at ic! berlin for two years – where he won his first Silmo d’Or – before setting up his own business three years ago. In 2012 he captured his second Silmo d’Or – the eyewear equivalent of a Bafta or Oscar trophy – for his sunglass design Saintonge. Tarian’s sunglasses and optical frames can now be found in over 200 boutiques worldwide.
How does his design process work? “When I design, I really need to concentrate only on design, and I find this more and more necessary. I just cannot say ‘oh well, I’ll take an hour and design'”, explains Tarian. He also finds his master classes in eyewear design at HEAD (Geneva University of Art and Design/Switzerland) have a reflection in his work. “I find that working with the students opens me to new ideas. Glasses are not just a product, but also a personality on the face. I find that talking with the students, and listening to their stories, who are from all over the world, comes into my thinking.
Tarian draws each line, curve and detail of a frame design, and he says: “My designs now are very different from when I began five years ago. I focus more on comfort, and I can see how just one millimetre can change everything. Harmony is important – how the shape will fit on the face. I love working in acetate and metal, and there are so many things to explore with these two materials. For the collection in the autumn, we are experimenting with new textures, using these two elements.” The Tarian Collection is also eco-friendly, and only the finest quality acetate is used in his designs.
“For independent designers, it’s so important to keep independent in terms of product, and to explain the brand philosophy,” says Tarian. His original, unique and desirable frames contribute to making eyewear such an exciting accessory with creative design and style. www.jeremytarian.com JG
1st February 2014The maze of little Parisian streets in The Marais is always fun to visit and enjoy a stroll. So much French history can be explored in this area, plus there are many irresistible cafe’s, galleries and shops! Sometimes, a new treasure is discovered, which I found recently while scurrying down the rue de Parc Royal. Nestled in between an art gallery and a café, and only steps away from Musée Picasso and Musée Cognac Jay, is a charming boutique – Zoe Lee Shoes. Peering into the shop, it was evident that the designs were beautifully crafted and lovingly created.
The talented woman behind these must-have shoes is a cosmopolitan young lady, the daughter of a Japanese mother and Canadian father. Zoe Lee studied fashion design at Central St. Martin’s in London. However, she became interested in shoes, and continued her design studies at The Royal College of Art, where she was mentored by the shoe-king, Manolo Blahnik. Her impressive story includes working with Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Betty Jackson and John Rocha, plus she spent several years designing in Barcelona. Then she moved back to London, and during a visit to Paris, happened to find this boutique that was available. Lee successfully navigated infamous French bureaucracy to open her little boutique jewel last October.
“I’m inspired by everything – travel, exhibitions and seeing beautiful materials,” says Lee, “and I love leather and enjoy sourcing fabrics for the shoes. When I design, I like to cover different types of people who would like to wear the designs.” Family owned companies in Italy, who have been crafting fine shoes for three and four generations, make the shoes. The materials used in Zoe Lee shoes are luxurious and creative. Printed kidskin, bronzed patent, brushed linen, nubuck with laser techniques, and incredibly soft suede are all included in her shoe designs. I tried on several pairs and they feel wonderful – like a cosy hug for your feet. Zoe Lee’s innovative interpretations in materials add to the pleasure of wearing the shoes.
Zoe Lee is among the discerning accessory designers who value and appreciate haute couture quality, beautiful materials, and expert craftsmanship. When in Paris, definitely pop into her shop, and her shoes can be ordered online. Zoe also commented that her mother is an eyewear collector – Eyestylist looks forward to meeting her! www.zoelee.co.ukJG
1st January 2014 “My background is in apparel design and manufacturing, a somewhat logical extension of my lifelong interest in fashion and the technical construction of things,” says Ti Kwa, Creative Director of the buffalo horn specialist label, Rigards. “I started Rigards with my business partner Jean-Marc Virard, a French recording artiste, currently based in Los Angeles. Jean-Marc and I share a vision that combines the love for design and an appreciation for handcrafted eyewear. We met doing what we both enjoy— snooping around an old antique store, and now we’ve joined forces.”
Rigards first came to our attention in 2012 and since that time we are delighted to have seen the brand shooting to the attention of the optical sector, as well as the fashion industry, with specialist stockists appearing across the globe.
“I have been wearing glasses since I was 8 so I guess it’s no surprise that I’ve parlayed my boyhood fascination with how to make things into Rigards,” explains Ti. After a ton of research—we don’t claim to be experts but we certainly have learnt a few things,
having also experimented with acetate and wood—and we took the plunge with horn. With horn, we saw an opportunity to produce our eyeglasses under conditions we felt were optimal: traditional craftsmanship, exclusivity, and sustainability.”
Rigards represents not only artisanal craftsmanship, but also a desire to try new and different techniques. “Horn is a material that translates our aesthetic into a physical object, yes, of course,” – explains Kwa, “it’s also a medium that presents unparalleled textural possibilities—the freedom to go where our creative imaginings can take us. Each piece of horn is absolutely beautiful in its own way and as unique as your fingerprint. Horn is warm to the touch and allergen-free, and therefore very comfortable to wear. Working with horn is a painstaking, labour intensive and time-consuming process, but the result is incredibly satisfying. Understanding the aesthetics and behaviour of horn has enabled us to use a conventional material in unconventional ways, to create frames that are both compelling in their beauty and complementary to the times.”
“In the Japanese spirit of “kaizen”, our emphasis is also to improve on what we’ve done previously, to refine our collection on all fronts: superior lenses, hinges, techniques. Gradual steps rather than abrupt leaps. We also have a couple of collaborative projects in development—the who and how of which I’m going to keep under wraps for the moment.”
Rigards exhibits at Paris Fashion Week at least twice a year. The fashion forward audience appreciates their avant-garde designs and showing in Paris helps them to maintain a good relationship with the fashion industry. “The pleasures enlivened by traveling,” says Kwa, “and meeting old friends and new ones, and the city during the buzz of PFW, of course, never fail to be an enriching source of inspiration too.”
Asked about his interests outside eyewear, Kwa has many that are linked to design. “I have an obsession with collecting vintage finds: modernist furniture, 1940s phantom heads and, of course, antique eyewear. Travelling is what I do quite a bit these days and as tiring as that can get, it’s also invigorating to step out of my everyday routine to see and experience something foreign. I also enjoy discovering independent labels (a long-time favourite is Sarpaneva Watches from Finland), perhaps because we ourselves are an indie label. I like the idea of small-time designers with a stronger dedication to originality and quality being quiet revolutionaries in a culture of consume-and-discard. So my design aesthetic, I suppose, is influenced by a conglomeration of them all: my eclectic taste, my quasi-wanderlust, my affinity for good old craftsmanship.”
“We will be kicking off 2014 with a presentation at Opti Munich (Jan 10-12, Messe München, Hall C4 Booth 608). There’s always something special about the first time so we’re eagerly looking forward to the event—even if the weather forecasts suggest it will be bitterly cold. We’re also equally excited to be returning to our private showroom in Paris— please join us at Galerie de Thorigny on 1 place de Thorigny from January 16-20 2014. All in all, we couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year. Happy 2014 to everyone, may all your new ventures be a galloping success!
1st December 2013 This month Eyestylist visits with Suzanne Klemm, designer at Suzy Glam, who launched her label earlier this year.Why did you decide to create eyewear? “My first education was as an optician. I was seventeen, and listened to my parent’s advice not to study (like I wanted) design, but instead learn a “real job” where I could be financially independent. I used this profession as a side job next to my later profession as a jewellery designer. I studied jewellery and exhibition design at Zurich University of Arts, and I have a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Utrecht. In the optical shop in Amsterdam where I work part-time, I met Etienne Frederiks. Quite soon it was clear that we wanted to start our own label. We combined our interests and talents, and developed over a period of more than one year our first collection. Now it seems very logical to us that we took this step.” Inspiration: What are your sources – travel, art, architecture, your jewellery background? “Nature is an endless source of inspiration to me. I try to materialize my observations. On the other hand, visiting art installations and sculptures gives me a drive to work. Some of my ideas are going in the direction of jewellery, some in the direction of eyewear. Sometimes I use shape or technical solutions for eyewear from my jewellery experiences. I create a concept that helps me to give a sense to each creation, and a coherency between every single piece. In other words, I like to think in series.”
As a newcomer to the optical world, were there any challenges/obstacles to start? “Starting is always hard and uncomfortable. At the same time, it was one of the reasons why we took this step – starting something new is extremely exciting. Every step is a step on unknown territory. The fact that Etienne had so much experience and contacts in the optical world helped us a lot. Everyone we knew supported us and we are very thankful for that.” What materials are your favourite in which to create frames? Do you have a “wish list” for materials that you would like to use? “I love acetate. I love plastics in general, also for jewellery. It’s warm, colourful, soft to touch, translucent and it gives me the possibility to shape it very three-dimensionally. I know it would be a good time to create in metal, but at the moment I express myself the best in acetate.”
What advice would you give to designers/students who wish to enter the optical design world today? “What advice? Hmmm…same as for every design direction student; keep it close to you. I don’t believe in marketing research. Sure it can work out for earning money, but for satisfaction…..besides that, you can compare it to fashion: a trend is always coming out of a fresh, creative mind, and never out of marketing.” Anything else you would like to include? “About your site: I’m happy that this kind of platform exists, before I designed eyewear, I wasn’t aware of that. It helps to pull the optical world out of the traditionally, dusty profession, where it sometimes still is.” www.suzyglam.com JGPhotos: Image of Susanne Klemm and Etienne Frederiks exclusively for Eyestylist by Gilles Stüssi Frame photo: Dick Kikstra
1st November 2013The vibrant, lively colours of the Mediterranean pulsate through the Mondelliani eyewear collections. The Rome-based company has a long history of an optical presence in this fabled city. Forty years ago a boutique was opened by Giancarlo Mondello, which now has cult status in the city with its wonderful collections of Mondelliani styles, as well as acclaimed independent designers, including Theo, Anne et Valentin, Lindberg, and Yellow Plus among others. The family legacy continues today with Giancarlo’s wife Rosaria, and son Federico heading the Mondelliani team. Above photo: “Work in Progress” at Mondelliani
Giancarlo Mondello was interested in photography, with a stylised ‘lens eye’ enabling him to understand design. Everything in the Mondelliani collection is linked to colour – “Our attitude to colour is closely related to our being Italian,” says Federico Mondello. Gorgeous, superb quality acetate hues of green, ocean blue, vibrant orange, champagne, and aquamarine are among the delectable tones available in the frames.
Expansion of the Mondelliani brand began eight years ago with the launch of a second shop. Then in 2009, there was the debut of the frame collection. The delightful, sunny colours take their cue from the proximity to the Mediterranean, and the lovely Aeolian Islands in the south of Italy, near Sicily. Inspiration for the beautifully crafted designs for men and women is also gleaned from customers who visit the shops. Quality is keynote at Mondelliani – eveerything is handmade in Italy, with fine Zeiss lenses. The frame tones and lens tint colours co-ordinate – and the harmonious results are stunning. www.mondelliani.itJG
1st October 2013 We first met founder of Paulino Spectacles, Ramiro Paulino, in London around this time last year. Since then we have been delighted to see their fantastic progress into international specialist stores, and so we asked to catch up with Ramiro and colleague John in Paris just a few days ago….
From what we see, Paulino Spectacles is growing quickly. How is everything going? The feedback we have been having has been beyond expectation, and things have moved very quickly for us. As a new, small independent brand the idea was to take things one step at a time, but without any major marketing strategy our frames are now available in London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Oviedo, Lisbon and Porto. The collections will also be available further afield very soon…..we are delighted to have a new distribution coming up in Asia.
You continue to concentrate on handcrafting and traditional spectacle making techniques using exclusive, very elegant acetate? My aim is to go against the grain of mass production, and continue my grandfather’s traditions. Every frame we make is produced in the only remaining factory of its kind on the Iberian Peninsula. With not one single computer in sight, the frames are tooled by hand using very fine organic acetate from Mazzucchelli. We insist on a level of finish that matches our vision and design qualities.
This production process is arduous and takes several days. From the hand made tools that start off the production process – using rasps, saws and files – through to the manually operated pantograph that cuts our frames, one by one, to the tumbling – a process that takes at least 48 hours – which smooths the surface and prepares the frame for hand polishing. We use vintage pins on the hinges, some of which are over 30 years old. This gives me great pleasure and a certain sadness at the same time, as one day they will run out. In any event, it all takes time and makes for a high-end product. I really believe the end result is worth it – frames with their own unique personality and comfort, which mass production can never match in terms of that hand finished quality.
Explain when you are launching your collections each year – you have a slightly different concept in mind I think? My idea is not to launch collections as such but to release new models throughout the year. We have just launched a new model this September and for October, we are on track to release three new models and three further ones before the end of the year. We are also looking to increase our range by launching our first metal frames within the first part of 2014. So we’re pretty busy on the launch front.
Where are your biggest successes so far? Which styles have been a hit? The Alberto, Martim and Sara models were the first models to come out and they have been the bestselling ones overall. Since it came out in February, there has also been a lot of interest in our Filipa model. Though vintage and feminine, it is very up-to-date. It was also a pleasure for me to design it. I was inspired by a model Jacqueline Bisset wore in 1973. It was a metal model and what caught my eye was the ring/circle over the bridge. I ended up designing “Filipa” which is a cateye of course, but differentiated by having the open ring in the bridge.
Could you explain about the cork you use for the accessories cases? Is it sourced locally in Portugal? Yes, the cork is a local product. The idea for the accessories is, of course, to match the quality and philosophy of the frames – handcrafted and made by artisans using old fashioned tools. Cork was a natural starting point for us, as it is very much a Portuguese product and it is organic. Even here, though, we are looking to try new things. We already have in place a new material that we’ll start using this month – Burel, also a 100% Portuguese product made from natural wool. The factory is located in the “Serra da Estrela” (Star Mountain – Portugal’s highest point) and is also made in the traditional handcrafted way. My idea is always to look at the possibility of adding new natural products that are unique to our country and that fit with the Paulino philosophy.
What do you expect in 2014 or what are your hopes for Paulino Spectacles? I expect and hope to consolidate on the very fast paced 2013, so to speak. And I have an idea to add a metal collection soon. As mentioned, things have moved quickly for Paulino Spectacles – a great sign that our collection strikes a chord. But my wish is not to mass market Paulino Spectacles. We just hope to bring the quality and interest of the label to people who wish to try it, whereever they are.
1st September 2013Kilsgaard Eyewear is the Danish eyewear label that has become famous for its expertise in fine, lightweight aluminium. As designer and founder, 34-year-old Jacob Kilsgaard himself says, “We are the company that made aluminium work as a frame material. Aluminium is half the weight of titanium, and it’s the only material you can colour anodize.” “Anodization”, he explains, “is an electrochemical way to colour aluminium. The colours are everlasting and very unique, they are deep and bright and very modern.” It’s an achievement and specialisation that has set the brand apart and set it on an exciting road to success. The Kilsgaard team now have offices in Copenhagen and Aarhus in Denmark, and their frames are available across the world in 35 countries. “Our main office in Aarhus in an old building in the Latin quarter. It is a cozy space where everybody feels at home. The design team and partners Bonnelycke MDD are four blocks away. They are our external designers, but we work closely with them, as we have done from day 1; we are friends and this is a joint project that has become very strong.”
Launched in 2008, Kilsgaard has grown steadily in Europe. In the US, Jacob works with good friend Shane Baum of Baum Vision. ” We launched in North America two years ago and we have a growing business there. It is a privilege to work with friends and Shane and I are best buddies as well as business associates.” In design, Kilsgaard manages to bring vitality to metal frames, and an individuality that is exciting. “We have found a corner of the business where we – as we see it – are on our own. We try to use some of the same elements as the fashion industry – especially the Danish fashion industry.” The Danish design roots are important, but Jacob explains this in his own way. “I find my inspiration in Denmark’s design heritage – solid materials, minimal design, and caring for the function intended for the product, comfort and every day use. Many of the Danish designers set out to create comfortable furniture that looked great, in that order. The basics need to be in place. This is our starting point as well.” Eyestylist asked Jacob to reveal something about the new collections coming up. “We have six new shapes and one new colour being added to the existing range. Our new temple concept employs a new material that we haven’t used before – titanium. It is really something to talk about!”
Outside work, Kilsgaard spends time with his daughter, new girlfriend and family…and he loves to cook. “I had a catering company while I was “studying” in Aarhus many years ago. My love of cooking didn’t go away. I cook everyday with Smilla, my four year old daughter, and try to pass on my passion for great food and the importance of high-quality ingredients – I like to show her that good food can bring people together on many levels. To me, cooking and dining with people is a very private special thing. If I cook you dinner, you’re in…I love skiing, good wine and change. I guess my working life has made me somewhat impatient. I don’t get bored easily but I enjoy change from the daily routine. It keeps me going.” CN
1st August 2013This month, Eyestylist chats with Tom Stevens of Tom Stevens Eyewear in The Netherlands
Please give details of your background. “I used to be an optician and started my first independent optical store in 2001. Two years later, I opened a second store and enjoyed the years working with people, and always looking for new collections to fill my shops. In 2008, I sold both stores and started doing what I really wanted to do: designing frames. Together with my business partner we launched the children’s label Red Kids Eyewear. In 2011, Tom Stevens Eyewear was launched.”
What inspires your eyewear designs? “My ideas and inspiration for new designs can come from anywhere: cars, buildings, fashion, shapes I discover in objects. I start drawing shapes that I prefer or might be interesting for new models. I like to anticipate the trends too. For instance, ultra round shapes in our new titanium collection. The colours for each model are partly inspired by fashion and catwalk trends. We used neo coating on previous models, as an example. The different seasons also affect my preference for certain colours. The new collection – which will be launched in September – shows darker, sophisticated and ‘calm’ colours, such as midnight blue, matt gold, warm autumn red and soft creamy white.”
Do you have a customer ‘profile’ in mind when you design? “I don’t think of a potential customer when I design. I just draw shapes that I like; this part of the process is quite abstract actually. Clearly I think about measurements, sizes and fittings for male and female faces. But for me, my designs can be worn by all sorts of people.”
In what countries are your frames sold? “Our collection is sold in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Italy, Ireland and Denmark. We are in the process of distribution with South Korea, the U.S. and Australia.”
What are your favourite eyewear materials? “I prefer to work with acetate and titanium in the highest quality. We are experimenting with new materials, and new ideas often pop up in my mind, but it has to work in the final product too. Acetate and titanium have proven to be very solid and beautiful materials in which to produce frames.”
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring creators? “Follow your heart, work hard, have fun and never, ever forget what started you in the first place. You will have to overcome bumps in the road, and it might be hard. But if you do something you believe in, and it’s the only thing you really want to do, keep going for it. It will pay off.” www.stevenseyewear.comJG