Monday, 25 April 2016

Modern Day Eyewear Craftsmen

photo Andrea Verzola

One of the things I love most about being an eyewear designer, is that I spend a lot of time at the factories, where I get to meet some very inspiring people. One of these is Raffaele Ricciuti, owner of 1955, a producer of bespoke eyewear in the South of Italy. Here his team of craftsmen create products for niche brands as well as for Occhialeria Artigiana, their own collection, which will be exhibited at this year’s XXI International Exhibition of the Triennale of Milan.

Many things set 1955 apart from other manufacturers. They are decentralised from the eyewear centres of production in the North of Italy, yet unlike some in the country,  they are certified 100% Made in Italy. The other unique feature of of 1955 is Raffaele himself, a luminary who decided to invests in technology to support his team's handcraft skills.

photo Andrea Verzola

Here is an extract from my interview with Raffaele.


As a small Italian eyewear manufacturer we use only the best raw materials and components, fortunately these are all Italian; this grants us a 100% Made in Italy certification, which we are very proud of.

We work with a small portfolio of clients who appreciate the values of Made in Italy craftsmanship and who are looking to develop and produce unique, top quality eyewear. Our production line is not set up to churn-out vast quantities as our machines are manually operated, aside from one, which we use for precision manufactory. Our technical department also relies on a 3D printer and we are set-up to follow our clients from initial concept to finished product.


With 3D printing within a few hours we are able to create an initial prototype, which enables us to fine-tune the initial shape over several iterations, before proceeding to the final, handmade prototype. This way we can reduce sampling lead-times by approximately 30%.


The eyewear industry is frozen in time and most manufacturers are looking at innovation to distinguish themselves from others. We are also investing in the development of unique materials and we have filed a patent application for a new machine.

You can read the complete text of my interview with Raffaele on Utelier.

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Friday, 25 March 2016

Geometry Tricks

Artwork by Eyespectacle - Sunglasses: Pawaka, Markus Lupfer, JPLUS, Ralph Vaessen

Sometimes fashion charms us through beautiful complexity. Our relationship with seasonal trends may be a love or hate affair, as these are often polarized into completely opposite aesthetics. This season is as much about assertive, pure geometric shapes at one end of the spectrum as it is about rétro preppy glasses in classic tortoiseshells, at the other end.

I picked a side and followed my penchant for a more assertive look, defined by architectural geometry. Each creation is designed to be a sculptural form, addressing the similarities between fashion and architecture. Pawaka follows strict rules of symmetry, other designers, like JPLUS and Ralph Vaessen celebrate the asymmetry of the human body with off-kilter shapes. These are exercises in simplification and precision, working to get more across with fewer elements. Think Patrick Nigel’s stylized graphics meet Wassily Kandinsky’s abstract compositions.

As well as sharp geometric configurations there is an element of Surrealism and the trickery of trompe-l’oeil effects like Markus Lupfer did, challenging our eyes as well as our minds. The irony of playing with optical illusions, on a device that is meant to improve our eyesight.

A version of this article was published in the January 2016's - Avant Garde edition of Eyebook magazine, where I am a contributor on eyewear trends.
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Monday, 1 February 2016

Lunar Eclipses And Eyes As Gems

photograph by Sylwana Zybura  

As the 2016 edition of 100% Optical approaches, I look back at one of my favourite project's, from the last edition of the fair's Royal College of Art eyewear design competition, where MA students where invited to submit their designs.

Honggang Lu's original concept for ‘Lunar Eclipse’ was a collection of adornments for the eyes in the form of a ring with a magnifying lens; this has now been developed into a collection of small sculptural objects that the wearer can interact with.

Honggang's poetic inspiration lies in the observation of different ways people position their hands near their face; the way we pull our hair behind our ears or the way we rest our face on our hand. "The method of wearing these eyewear pieces varies the interaction between the jewellery and the
wearer; as well as offering different ways of placing hands around their face and body", said Honggang.

From his first designs for the ring, he went on to create some more jewellery, like broaches and pendants to, once again connects the hand to the jewellery, to the eyewear and then the face.

photograph by Sylwana Zybura  

photograph by Sylwana Zybura  

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