Take James Bond. Add a dashing Daniel Craig. Mix with Tom Ford’s Marko sunglasses. Shake and stir. Skyfall may have dominated the world in a way all of the Bond baddies wish they can, but it’s sales of his TF144 shades that have skyrocketed, especially since the movie was released on DVD. Think an 80-percent surge in sales and online retailers reporting more than 100 pairs flying out of their warehouses every week. If this unisex beaut is sold out everywhere you look, we’re sorry we can’t offer any more quantum of solace – it’s not the first time a blockbuster film has transformed sunglasses into the talk of the fashion scene.
We’re really excited about the 2013 rendition of the Mido Optical Fair this weekend, because of the bounty of beautiful and badass goodies that await: Lacoste Eyewear’s 80th anniversary, Police’s “Color Rock” paean to the 1980s, an Ayrton Senna line by Tag Heur and Happiness’ first foray into the optical world, to name a few.
What are you most excited to see unveiled at Mido?
Would you wear glasses made from real deer jaw bones?
How about shades from old Irish whiskey barrels?
Or you could pierce rivets into your face, and snap on prescription lenses using magnets to keep them on.
Or for something more that you never have to replace…
If all of the above don’t sound like attractive options, here are our suggestions for eyewear made from daring materials that are unique and one-of-a-kind, yet nothing that will make you cringe! And if you do own a crazy, unique, limited edition or special edition eyewear, make sure you take good care of them with these tips.
You say plastic, I say metal. Let’s call the whole thing off?
No, we don’t have to. If you can’t decide which way you’re going to go when choosing a pair of glasses, get dressed up in Dior Homme’s new Blacktie 2.0 and have it all – it’s a patented double layer of the highest quality Japanese acetate around light metal, yet ultra-thin so it’s the ultimate slim shade-y.
Available in four styles, each model cuts a stylish figure inspired by the impeccable craft of Japanese ateliers, enhanced by the ingenuity of its dual-material structure. So, set your sights on having it all – both plastic and metal – in one pair of sunglasses.
Wenzhou in China’s Zhejiang province is nicknamed “Optical Village”, because that’s literally what the city does – produce as many optical frames, sunglasses, and eyewear accessories as the world can wear, factories stretching as far and wide as the eye can see. Most of this eyewear is standard issue, always produced in bulk, often copying the latest trends and styles to emerge from the industry’s biggest shows such as Silmo in Paris, Mido in Milan, and IOFT in Tokyo.
And that’s OK. Not everyone needs or wants eyewear of the highest quality, and many prefer for frames and sunglasses for function, not fashion. Plus, these are definitely much more affordable, even if not the most durable – many wearers would prefer to buy several replaceable pairs in a year and enjoy sporting various glasses, rather than splurging on one, and always putting on just that one.
For everyone else more conscious about design, innovation, quality, and celebrating age-old excellence in craftsmanship, Italy, Japan, and France are the most honored eyewear-making countries in the world. Boasting artisans who are precise in production, delicate in applying details, and meticulous in handling exceptional materials, these are the top hand-craft destinations for any independent designer who treasures extraordinary construction and finishes in their work. For example, France’s Les Lunetiers du Jura is a revered association in the eyewear business, protecting both the history of eyewear manufacturing as well as embracing responsible and sustainable processes to keep its standards one of the highest possible.
This is why designer Oliviero Zanon decided to base his RES/REI line in Italy’s Veneto region (incidentally, where many believe the first prescription eyeglasses to have been invented), adamant that every step in bringing his beautiful mostly-acetate frames takes place in his home country (“Handmade With Love In Italy” is its proud tagline). It’s also why designer Coco Tsuji spent two years researching in Japan before engaging her birthplace’s top artisans to craft her LOTHO collection, using the finest acetates available there. Tsuji produced some parts of her latest series, Transit, in France, to widen the possibilities of innovation and flair in her eyewear.
And the difference is, well, visible for the stunning array of colors these designers have been able to dream up and incorporate into their eyewear, not to mention fittings so perfect you hardly even know there are glasses on your face.
Well, not until you just can’t stop receiving compliments from everyone else.
Yesterday, we talked about how the very first sunglass sighting was a piece of bone with a slit carved lengthwise through it, cobbled up by an Arctic Eskimo tired of glaring sun rays bouncing up from the snow on a bright day. That was more than two thousand years ago, and we didn’t go from a shapeless clunker on our faces (Lady Gaga might disagree!) to sleek chic from great shade collections such as Mykita, Dita, and Thom Browne.
Along the way, eyeglasses took on the form of bone-framed rivet spectacles to be dextrously balanced on one’s nose bridge, outer rims with leather straps strung through to be attached to the ears, and lorgnettes, foldable eyewear that could be tucked into their handles. Some were even part of accessories such as fans and gentlemen’s fob chains! It wasn’t until the 20th century that the functionality of eyewear was fully explored, as well as the ergonomics for wearing it throughout the day and night. That is, in a very quick nutshell, is how frames and sunglasses that we know so well today evolved from that Eskimo’s ingenuity – here is a great blueprint for the basic structure of a pair of eyeglasses. Sure, you recognize the structure, but how many parts could you actually name? 8)
From this physiognomy, eyewear is manufactured from machines in countries as far-ranging as China, Taiwan, and South Korea to handcrafted by artisans in France, Japan, and Germany. No matter what shape they take on, this structure is exactly why the astounding varieties of designs and styles are in existence. Which ones work best for your face shape?
In prehistoric times, during a particularly sunny day on which daylight bounced off snow and into an Eskimo’s eyes, he inventively carved a slit into a piece of bone and strapped the contraption across his face, effectively fashioning the world’s first pair of sunglasses. Prescription spectacles came later. In 1287, a monk named Salvino degli Armati properly invented reading glasses, not coincidentally at the start of the Renaissance period where larger numbers of intelligent classes and professionals meant a greater need to pore over the written word.
These days, optical sightings are much more common, although many visionaries are making extraordinary eyewear that goes beyond helping us see better. Visual artist Victor Hugo, through his Material Memorie collection, transforms sunglasses into costume pieces, flamboyant shades that look at home as part of urban street fashion, but really steal the scene at nightclubs, galas, haute couture runway shows, and other extravaganzas of life. Although he’s creating artifacts few have before, using ethically sourced tribal materials such as animal skulls, bones, and leathers and Swarovski crystals in what he calls a “macabre-luxe” style, his work harkens back to the days of theatrical pomp and flair, where grand entrances were characteristic of larger-than-life actors and life was just a cabaret. Like a traditional artisan, Hugo embellishes and decorates eyewear by hand, with production made to order and taking up to two weeks.
On the other hand, two sleep health researchers from Down Under have invented a solution to help those suffering from interrupted snooze patterns from staying up when we should be in bed. The Retimer looks like part of an Avenger’s superhero costume, and is the Kryptonite to ailments such as jet lag, insomnia, and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Put it on when you need to be awake, and an adjustable green glow mimicking natural sunlight coaxes your brain to keep working instead of shutting down for the day, so circadian rhythms can be regulated back to normalcy. Forget melatonin pills and other drug therapies – all you have to do is don this ergonomic contraption, which can fit over regular eyeglasses, and keep functioning.