Opticals Are the New Black

PHOTOS BY - FEDERICO MAURO

The production of eyewear, the trends, the designs and the choice – some ideas for professional men who want to make a statement with their specs.

Wood? Carbon? Acetate? Plastic? Glasses can be made in a variety of materials, which means that they can also have very different production cycles.

THE PRODUCTION
Mark Truss, sales director at Norville Group, explains: “The process is long. It takes around 9 months from the initial concept to deliver a product.” Norville Group works with brands such as Barbour. They receive a design brief that is discussed internally to come up with designs that are …both appropriate and functional,” says Truss. Once the design is agreed, it is presented to Barbour, where the team will chip in and eventually sign off. “We then pass it over for pre-production samples, which are all handmade prototypes,” concludes Truss. The process is completed when agreed samples go into production. Quality checks are also extensively run throughout the process. The brand Oi, licensee for Borsalino, concentrates its production entirely in Italy. Piera Salvador, product manager, explains: “From design to manufacture, everything is done in Italy,” and adds, “The most striking aspect is the numbering of each pair to guarantee total traceability; from the beginning of production to the user.” All of Borsalino’s eyewear is made using state-of-the-art machinery, and all components are then hand finished. The brand Esprit operates under the Charmant Group, and as for all of its brands the group keeps an attentive eye on their entire production process, which goes hand in hand with its sales and marketing process. It all starts with planning the right product through extensive research and development. “Then once that’s done,” explains Elena Celeghini, brand manager, Esprit, “we move to the design phase, followed by prototype testing.” When the product is tested and working, the actual production starts.

MODERNIZING THE TRADITION
The fashion world’s fascination with all things vintage has been fun and interesting to watch; however, there are legendary companies that have always made their glasses the “old-fashioned way,” staying true to their values, and creating timeless classics that remain in demand, regardless of current trends. Jessica Penzari, PR manager, MOSCOT, claims, “All of our frames contain the same DNA: authentic, riveted hinges, Italian-made acetate, and quality glass or gradient lenses.” MOSCOT is known for its Caliber Green-Glass Lenses, which are quite scarce today in the eyewear industry. In fact, as Penzari asserts, “We choose not to stray from the quality design and hardware construction of the past that we feel has best stood the test of time.” The design of all MOSCOT frames is done in their studio in NYC. Penzari explains, “We start our design process with paper and pencil, and several design meetings later we create a digital interpretation.” She adds: “At that point, we take a look at our acetate wall (an old-fashioned peg board filled with color swatches) and start putting together a color palette. We pay close attention to the cohesion of a collection, making sure the shapes and colors speak the MOSCOT language. Next we begin the prototype and handcrafted production/manufacturing process, which can take up to six months. And finally, we have our lab professionals in NYC test the durability and strength of our frames through a variety of family-secret tests and techniques.

We take a look inside the manufacturing plant of Marcolin in Northeast Italy.
All photos are courtesy of Marcolin.

INNOVATING TAKES TIME
In the Italian company Tree Spectacles, the production cycle consists of three phases: bonding (the assembly of wood and carbon), milling and polishing, as described by the CEO, Marco Barp. The production cycle at Ogi is labor-intensive. Katy Verbrugge, graphic designer, Ogi Eyewear, asserts: “It takes many months for a frame to be produced. It starts with a hand-drawn sketch on graph paper, which is developed into a technical drawing on the computer to confirm size, shape and other special features. From that technical drawing a prototype is created and sample colors are tested. Trends in pattern and color are closely studied to stay relevant to demand. We narrow each frame down to four color choices for the final selection.” At the Italian eyewear giant Marcolin, production areas include metal frame manufacturing, acetate frame manufacturing, and finishing. These process steps are carried out using automated machines with numeric controls, five-axle machines for the milling of acetate fronts, and semi-automated machines, as well as fully manual processes and operations where the operator’s know-how is the key factor. The team at Marcolin explains, “Eyewear manufacturing requires a large number of manual operations, for example the soldering of metal details, the circles in which the lenses are mounted, the nose pad arms and the temples. In manufacturing acetate frames, the decorations are applied using special presses built in our workshops by skilled operators. The temples and fronts are processed and assembled by hand using abrasive fabric to obtain perfect couplings between metal and acetate.

NEW TRENDS
According to Vierra Reid, marketing manager, Proof Eyewear: “Wood prescription frames are making a huge push right now into the optical industry, and the trends going into next season have a classy but edgy feel. Everyone wants to stand out without being obnoxious, so next season will consist of bold colors and thicker frames.” Colors truly seem to be the new trend for opticals, as Penzari confirms: “We see a lot of playfulness and color in the coming months. For example, MOSCOT has been exploring with jewel-tone colors, different material combinations, and other fun wearable fashion statements for Fall 2014.Darren Dela Cruz, creative director, Leisure Society by Shane Baum, says: “We see the industry moving toward thinner silhouettes and lightweight materials with classically inspired shapes that are enhanced through modern manufacturing methods using materials like hollowed titanium. We also see combination frames becoming more common, acetate-metal combos will inherently have a two-tone effect, which leads to more acceptance of multicolor frames.Alexis Nyro, product manager, Evatik, thinks that round shapes as well as modified rectangular shapes are what we’ll see trending next season. He says: “Profiles are becoming thinner and less clunky, and men are also becoming more daring with their color choices.

MEN WANT TO LOOK GOOD TOO
Today’s look for men is clean and contemporary. Also, mirrored lenses are very popular right now, and that trend will continue. Nicolas Roseillier, creative director, Rem Eyewear, says: “I also believe that fashion is a continuity of reverting the past into the present – what goes around comes around – and most styles or trends come full circle,” and adds, “One trend that’s come full circle is 90s eyewear silhouettes. They’re very much in style now, and probably will continue to be.” For the optical customer of brands such as Barbour, classic styling is essential. Truss explains: “Not geek chic, but tailored and styled. Colors are gunmetals, hues of mixed tortoiseshell, with discreet branding on either temple or inner lug.

GOOD AND BAD
Quality is a very important asset in a pair of glasses and doesn’t necessarily translate into an expensive product. In the field of eyewear, quality is a key element – especially for the technical features of the lenses – and the materials used for realizing the frame have to be long lasting and light, guaranteeing comfort at the same time. There are also health and safety standards to maintain. Frames should enhance facial features in the same way a picture frame does a piece of art. It’s both a functional and fashionable decision, so fit is just as important as looks. “If the consumer doesn’t know what ‘look’ they are trying to achieve, the need for an experienced optician becomes more important as they will need to fill the role of the stylist to make sure the right shapes complement their facial features. When one of these factors isn’t considered, the chance of a poor result becomes more likely,” explains Dela Cruz. Along the same lines, Reid says: “One can distinguish the quality of a pair of specs by the way the frame fits on the face. If it feels unstable, it is a poor model. The frame should be unnoticeable to the person wearing them while standing out to everyone passing by.

ALWAYS GO FOR QUALITY
Both legendary and newer companies strive for quality in both the choice of material and production technology, Barp confirms: “We’ve always wanted to create a pair of glasses that was totally lightweight – this is why we chose wood – but we wanted to raise the quality level of the collections of wood spectacles that were on the market at the time so we developed a frame made out of wood and carbon fiber, which we have patented.” Great frames must also mean quality and feel, as Verbrugge asserts: “The hinges are not loose and provide a nice smooth movement when the temples are opened and closed. The finish on a quality handmade frame is polished and has a smooth texture.” Other key factors to distinguish a great pair of glasses are material and durability. Nyro says: “As people keep their eyewear for a few years, they need a pair of good quality spectacles that will last.” Anyone can tell a good optical frame from a poor one by taking a close look at its appearance, Roseillier asserts: “Examine it for smooth surfaces and transitions, clean solder and welding points, and polishing around the hinges; not to mention the obvious – fit and feel.

PICKING THE RIGHT PAIR
People choose their style of glasses for a myriad of reasons including personal fashion preferences, favoring a certain look or aesthetic, outside influences such as fashion trends, or how they believe they are perceived, or want to be perceived, by others. Penzari explains: “For instance, a person may wear a bolder frame because they want to make a fashion statement and draw attention to their accessories; on the other hand, some people are looking for something that whispers and subtly disappears on the face. There is no simple formula.” Reid agrees, saying: “The choice varies quite a bit from one man to the next, but generally they like to be fashionably acceptable while maintaining functionality; this is why comfort paired with a crisp look does wonders in today’s market.” She adds: “Men want to communicate that they have good taste in the eyewear they choose; it should complement their facial features without taking all the attention away from the man himself.” Men tend to be a bit more subtle than women when selecting their glasses as they normally don’t purchase many pairs to accessorize with. “Brand names don’t seem to matter as much as the quality and feel of the product. Everyday wearability is important, plus the longevity of the look you are going for. Your glasses sit on your face so they are your first style statement. They should be an extension of what you want to portray – whether that be intellectual, playful or glamorous,” says Dela Cruz. According to Verbrugge, there are two kinds of men: “One is more subtle with his selection, choosing classic, darker colors with more versatile, simple shapes. The other tends to be more adventurous and wild, and is open to more stand-out thicker frames in bold colors and patterns.” According to Roseillier, men tend to be very invested in materials, so for eyewear that means quality and artisanship. He adds: “Men also value fit, comfort and feel during our decision-making process. And ultimately we choose eyewear that complements our look and personality.

SOMETIMES BRAND LOSES OVER FIT AND FEEL
Some people prefer to invest their money buying high-quality, well-made and branded eyewear for both functional and aspirational characteristics; for this the brand name is a kind of guarantee. When buyers purchase a product they enter into the brand values’ universe. It’s like selling a lifestyle. Other people, however, are definitely value-for-money oriented and don’t care about quality or brand values; they’re only interested in saving money, buying something that, in style, is similar to what has been created by the trend-setter brands. Nowadays different and opposite consumer behaviors coexist and are the reason that it’s very important for a company to analyze the markets, offer the right product for the specific target group, and have a wide portfolio that can meet different consumers’ needs.

Our Choice Work Style Selection

We researched producers and designers of men’s opticals. We then selected 33 brands. Our jury, including fashion aficionados, managers and professionals, voted on models from the final 33 brands to elect our top 3.  The jury was composed of Nadir Sinis, finance manager, Edelman, London (UK)   Dom Bailey, creative director, Baxter & Bailey, London (UK)   Matthew Seminara, lawyer, Epstein Becker & Green, New York (USA)   Gary Prell, vice president, Centerplate, San Francisco (USA)   Filippo De Bortoli, freelance consultant and journalist, Milan (Italy)   Ana Weber, founder, 360° of Success, Orange County (USA)   Valeria Querini, UX designer, Iconmobile, Berlin (Germany)   Jennifer Loftus, owner, Astron Solutions, New York (USA)   Karolina Nurkowska, PR specialist, ENNBOW, Warsaw (Poland)   Manuela Heinzel, marketing localization manager, UFUUD, Milan (Italy)

THE TOP 3

JOHN VARVATOS,
model V201BLA53

FASHION_TOP_1)-V200BLA51

TIMBERLAND,
model TB1289 049

FASHION_TOP_2)-TB1290_049

BAUMVISION,
model Aristotle

FASHION_TOP_3)-aristotle-tort

Eyeglasses Become Symbols

His work famous eyeglasses is a project he did for fun. It is a minimalist collection.  Mauro’s clean, simple designs include the trademark lenses of people such as Woody Allen, Harry Potter, Steve Jobs and Malcom  X.

[W   barbour.com    borsalino.com    brands-oi.biz    charmant.com    esprit.com   federicomauro.eu    iwantproof.com    lgr-sunglasses.com    moscot.com    norville.co.uk      treespectacles.com]

Published in the hard-copy of Work Style Magazine, Fall 2014