What’s In Your Glasses?

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.

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Eyewear Evolution

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.

Pince Nez from Rosenborg castle in Copenhagen, worn by royals in the Middle Ages. © Desiree Koh

Pince Nez from Rosenborg castle in Copenhagen, worn by royals in the Middle Ages. © Desiree Koh

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)

We've come a long way in eyewear design, baby - what a ride it's been. © Desiree Koh

We’ve come a long way in eyewear design, baby – what a ride it’s been. © Desiree Koh

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?

From Then To Eternity

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.

The Inuit of the Arctic fashioned the world's first sunglasses from bone more than 2,000 years ago. © Canadian Museum of Civilization

The Inuit of the Arctic fashioned the world’s first sunglasses from bone more than 2,000 years ago. © Canadian Museum of Civilization

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.

Umbra by Victor Hugo, in the style of "macabre-luxe". © Material Memorie

Umbra by Victor Hugo, in the style of “macabre-luxe”. © Material Memorie

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.

Return to bed at your regular time with the Retimer. © Retimer

Return to bed at your regular time with the Retimer. © Retimer

Prêt-à-Porter

On Monday, one of the truest and most important voices of the fashion industry on the business side, Women’s Wear Daily, published “Frames Through the Indie Lens“. It was a much-needed and long-delayed piece on how beautifully designed and handcrafted eyewear are gaining in appeal to a growing number of consumers who want boutique looks from independent brands. We’re always been strong supporters of such collections, and glad that someone is saying, in a very big way, that gorgeous eyewear is way beyond plain plastic or metal ware.

It’s a framer, says the fashion industry’s most important voice. © Women’s Wear Daily

While ingeniously designed optical frames and sunglasses (click on the links to see our favorites from Silmo 2012 earlier this month) show off a brand’s passion for breaking down conventions in style and artisanal production (typically custom-made or through complex, patented processes), ready-made eyewear that embrace a fun view of vision correction accessories can also be innovative and way out of the usual spectacle box.

Your kid can have his pacifier – and sunnies, too! © Lytot

Ready-made eyewear is a cost-effective way of answering some really important questions: How do I get my toddler to not yank U.V. protection off their faces because the discomfort irritates them? How do I not look like Methuselah’s grandma just because I need a little help doing the New York Times crossword in the morning? Lytot and eyebobs eyewear answered, “Right back atcha,” and that’s why they’re on our list of the best ready-made eyewear we saw at Silmo.

You can’t help but love a collection that has a frame to help you look like Spongebob. © eyebobs eyewear

Star Sighting

Oh, all the fun puns we can have with celebrities and eyewear… they are shady characters… they are always in the public’s eye… their performances were spectacular… people love seeing stars…

It’s true, though – in addition to the list of addictions you see everyone from Hollywood to rock & roll battling, you’re glad that eyewear isn’t something they need to check themselves into Betty Ford for. Here’s a few of our favorites who go gaga over glasses:

Nanette Lepore recently designed a pair of sunglasses for Emma Roberts, and it’s no surprise why. The embodiment of Hollywood’s young chic set tells the Associated Press, “I’ve always been a fan of sunglasses forever. I’m the kind of person who wears a new pair everyday.”

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/50788970″>Vogue Eyewear – CFDA – Sizzle</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/magicbulletmedia”>MagicBullet Media, Inc.</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

If you have an oval shape face like Emma, you’re in luck, because almost any style of eyewear frames you well!

What do you do if you’re Victoria Beckham and you can’t find a pair of prescription glasses you like? You create your own to add to your sunglass line, of course! Partnering with vaunted British designers Cutler & Gross, Beckham launched her optical collection in August, modeling off this rectangular pair that balances the pointy tip of her chin and softens the effect of her wider forehead. What other eyewear suits heart shape faces?

Spice up your heart shape face with Posh glasses. © Pamela Hanson

A-listers take to aviators like planes to a sky, and fortunately for Angelina Jolie, the bottom-rounded frame of her trademark shades balances out her angular jawline while maintaining maximum style impact. If you’ve got the same square shape face as she does, you don’t have to be square with your eyewear.

Angelina Jolie’s style soars with Dolce & Gabbana aviators. © People.com

À Bientôt, Paris!

We’re getting ready to attend Silmo – Mondial de l’Optique in Paris next week, which is the queen of all optical fairs, the most important event on the trade calendar where designers from luxury label to independent across the globe (and with out-of-this-world innovations every year, maybe even in the galaxy!) gather to strut their stuff.

There is always so much to see (pardon the pun) and everything is such a spectacle (oops, I did it again), and it’s always worth the 10-hour days traipsing down aisles, lanes and alleys, catching up with old friends, making new business partners for our stores The Lens Men and The Eye Site, and I always leave wishing I could take home with me most of the eyewear I’ve fallen in love with. You can definitely expect a full daily report on our home base eyeglasses.about.com, as well as on-the-go updates via Facebook and Twitter, so watch tune in to these spaces regularly and often.

In the meantime, because we couldn’t wait, we did some scouting and here’s what we’re thrilled to look out for:

Everybody do the Bellinger Bounce! Image © Bellinger

Leave it to the design-driven Danes to create their own acetate from cotton, acetone and alcohol, so that beautiful blends of color can be swirled and layered to produce these gorgeous plastic frames. Bellinger likens the process to that of old-fashioned candy-making – and that’s how you get eye candy.

Frost’s Burlesque (left) and Lolita (right) sunglasses embody the theatrical elegance the brand is known for. Image © Frost

What’s cool about Frost, a German brand, is that designer Marion Frost teases classical shapes with casual interpretations that add theatrical elegance to her bold pieces. She likens it to eyewear you’ve always wanted, but never knew existed.

There are two sides to every story on the Ginga. Image © Francis Klein

Francis Klein always puts on their best show on home ground – after all, their designs are conceived in the arrondissement that was the heart of the Belle Epoque. With different details on both sides of the same front, we’re reminded that style is multi-faceted, and should explore various aspects of our individual personalities.

Light + stainless steel + outsized x Bernhard Wilheim = Rosi. Image © Mykita

Mykita also has duality on their minds, as the boys from Berlin continue their collaboration with Bernhard Wilheim to introduce Rosi, described as a “schizophrenic sight” where one side represents au naturel and the other, “excessive make-up”.

Simplicity, minimalism and good design are the core of Jacob Kilsgaard and Henrik Bonnelycke’s philosophy. Image © Kilsgaard Eyewear

And finally, these aluminum-acetate combos from Kilsgaard Eyewear will lighten up the upcoming fall and winter seasons and make spirits bright through the shorter days and longer nights.

Oh boy. Where do we start? How about our guides to choosing frames for oval-shaped faces and square-shaped faces? While we never advocate limiting eyewear choices, this might just help you focus in on some choices instead of going crazy!

Metallica

Lookmatic, one of our top three favorite online opticians, takes flight with its new collection – also its very first foray into metal.

Fasten your seatbelts!

Utilizing innovative flexible materials, showcasing unique colors and flaunting solid construction, it’s no wonder these aviator designs really take off – the style sky’s the limit! Just a flight of fancy? We think not – these are so good-looking, they’re here to stay, the same way we don’t change the channel when Top Gun comes on. Speaking of which, here’s how we’d frame up those jet-setters: