For centuries, glasses have been treated mostly as a functional item, worn because our eyes don’t work perfectly. Something we are made to wear as children, often under protest or perhaps with embarrassment. For others they might be an unwelcome admission that middle age is arriving.
It's an exceptional few that are happy to hear they need glasses, and unless we consciously shed that association, it can be tricky to re-make our attitude to glasses. But if you can treat them instead as fashion eyewear, you might just discover a new world of fun, pleasure and style.
Until recently, only a few people in the public eye celebrated glasses. Those that did wore flamboyant designs, extensions of big personalities. Think Elton John, Dame Edna Everage and the odd movie star. But as we see below, that's completely changed now.
Glasses are also a work of quite complex industrial design – vying with bras and shoes (particularly stilettos) for the most interesting fashion industry design challenge. And we all know how much fun those can be!
One of our favourite modern day icons of fashion eyewear is the fictional FBI analyst Penelope Garcia, star of hit show Criminal Minds and played by actress Kirsten Vangness.
The character’s bold, quirky outfits are an extension of her personality, and her use of accessories to complete them is one of her style hallmarks – particularly her wonderful range of glasses.
Kirsten has talked in interviews about her role in selecting her character's fashion eyewear, and she specifically mentions our first designer l.a.eyeworks.
Our Designer Pick #1: l.a.Eyeworks
l.a.Eyeworks is well known in the optical world, not least because of their celebrity fan following.
We love the bright, happy colours and the bold designs by founders Barbara McReynolds and Gai Gherardi.
Our favourites from the current range are Innski (in colour Rocket Pop) and Carmen’s Birthday (in colour Tang Orange with Pinkette metal bow).
Another model we like very much – this time a slightly more everyday possibility – is Birdy, with its attractive, distinctive shape.
The folks at the company told us one of their favourites is Arden, with its retro look reminiscent of the iconic frames of the 50s.
One of the reasons we love this brand is because of their enlightening attitude to glasses - and actually an outlook that we think applies to style in general:
Given this wealth of possibilities, it’s astonishing to me that many women still relegate their eyewear to categories of at best “diminished expectations,” and at worst, “necessity.”
Great glasses—wonderfully designed and beautifully styled—amplify not only the individual style, but more importantly the personality, of the wearer.
Our Designer Pick #2: Dzmitry Samal
Our next designer, Dzmitry, is typical of the modern day global spread of the fashion industry. He originally hails from Belarus, has a design degree from Milan and is now settled in Paris.
Dzmitry started his career designing cars including Renault, till he decided to go it on his own, to create a set of exciting products that combine technology & design.
He created the world’s first concrete watch (which we'll be writing about another time), but for now we stay with his wonderful fashion eyewear.
His first pair, 5DPI has won accolades. We love 5DPI and 7DPI as well as O6, which are hand-made in France like all his products. Their picture are below, in that order.
Dzmitry’s current pick from his range is Leonard
Dzimitry's view on his brand gives us a great insight into the creative mind behind the designs:
I come from the car design industry. I have been heavily influenced by constructivism, the art deco and the 80s... a delirious cocktail. Hence my love for graphic frames, colliding geometrical figures, happy colours and pixels...
People are more daring individuals. The trend, as I see it, is to look for genuine creative glasses that will not be seen everywhere - wearable but original.
Our Designer Pick #3: Wissing Brillenfassungen
Wissing is a German brand that’s been handcrafting optical frames from 1953. With some of the world’s best opticians as their clients, they are known for their distinctive combination of colours.
What we really like about their designs are their asymmetric frames. We also love their multi-colour pieces.
Their website reflects their emphasis on opticians, as most of the information requires you to log in. But the striking images speak for themselves, and there’s an intriguing section about their "Indual" service. This allows opticians to send in custom fashion eyewear designs which they will make in acetate.
Our trademark is the variety of colours and forms of the multilayer material, giving us unlimited possibilities in the design of the frames.
Special productions according to our customer´s wishes are our specialty.
Our Designer Pick #4: A Morir
A Morir is the luxury fashion eyewear brand by designer Kerin Rose Gold. Kerin rose to fame with her bespoke pieces for stars like Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.
Her background is a little different to some of our other picks. From New York, her education was in Pop Culture History and then Costuming, and she’s used that to connect her passions for art, music and fashion into a set of striking designs.
Even the name of the brand is different – named after a video piece by Argentinian artist Miguel Angel Rios, of 100 spinning wooden tops fighting to the death! More about this in her own words in the quote below.
She is now a favourite for a wide set of “A List” customers, not just modern stars but also legends like Grace Jones and Debbie Harrie.
Perhaps as a result of this, she is best known now for her exclusive limited edition fashion eyewear. Our favourites are McCready Red, Suzy Denim, Lux Black - pictures below in that order.
If you want to feel like a diva, you might want to try Lena!
The “until death” or “until I die” meaning is what I hope people feel when they look at my eyewear work; I want a little piece of them to die inside, and when they purchase the item I want them to have it forever.
Our Designer Pick #5: Caroline Abrams
Paris-based designer, Caroline Abrams has a rich cultural heritage, with a wonderful blend of Carribbean, Indian, French and Polish roots.
Raised in Senegal, she started as an optician in a family business, where she soon discovered her love for design, and now creates fashion eyewear the equal of the best names in the business.
Caroline’s designs are towards the elegant rather than statement end of the spectrum.
Our picks are Gigi, Oxana and Queen.
In her 2016 range, she’s picked 5 women around whom she’s created her collections: the Dreamer, the Creative, the Femme Fatale, the Sassy and the Super Mom.
Even allowing for the influence of her marketing folks, we really like the language she uses around these designs. Again, like our other picks, the thinking is about the wearer's personality:
Sometimes gracious, rather dangerous, even insolent, secretly fragile, always irresistible . . . Every woman must be given the chance to unveil each facet of her personality
Our Designer Pick #6: Etnia Barcelona
Etnia Barcelona is the fashion eyewear label founded by David Pellicer, aimed at men and women.
The designs are aimed at customers looking for individual style, and includes a wide selection of styles and colours. Like Caroline Abrams, this isn’t an obvious place to look for extreme statement pieces, but there is a lot of eye-catching use of colour.
Etnia Barcelona also sees itself as a brand sitting on the boundaries of art, design, culture and fashion, and this comes across in its artistic collaborations. They have a prominent set of photomontages created with some talented names from the world of art and photography. For example, 10 days in Africa with photojournalist Steve McCurry.
We’ve picked three designs for our selection: Weimar, Malmo and Lille.
Etnia Barcelona is a pioneer in the study and application of color
Color studies are conducted twice a year (F/W-S/S) to incorporate new tones into the designs and inspirational moods are generated to imbue the new collections with life, richness and content
The Secret to Carrying Off Great Glasses
We're so happy that people are discovering it’s possible to treat glasses more like the way they choose handbags, shoes and even jewellery. There’s nothing wrong with having quite a few, including special occasion ones, everyday ones, something for fun days out, something for romantic or even passionate nights in.
If you can make the switch to treating glasses as fashion eyewear - like any other fashion accessory - a whole new world opens up.
The best advice we’ve heard for women re-discovering glasses is from our friends at l.a.Eyeworks:
Take time to try on many glasses. Try things you think could never work for you. Ignore the conventional notions of “face shapes and frame types” and let your instinct guide you to reach for new silhouettes and exceptional colors.
Unless you wear one pair of shoes every day of the year, why would you treat something that adorns your face with less consideration? …you will never regret indulging yourself in a great collection of eyewear