January 23, 2019
Anna Malstad, Creative Manager at OPO Scandinavia
Anna Malstad says eyewear was her destiny. Today she is the creative manager for KunoQvist, the colourful Swedish brand produced by OPO Scandinavia.
She talked to us about Scandinavian design and new developments in the KunoQvist collection for 2020.
Q: Why did you decide to become a designer?
A: I grew up in a home where paper, watercolours and pencils were at hand if it was raining or there was nothing else to do.
In those times, grownups did not provide entertainment so you had to be creative. I saw a documentary about YSL when I was perhaps twelve and was so inspired. That evening, I designed my own collection and realized that being a designer could be an actual job. After school I studied other subjects in fine arts and discovered my passion for design and design processes.
Industrial design was the core subject of my studies at the Royal Academy of fine arts in Copenhagen. Regarding eyewear, it was my destiny. My teacher told me at design school that eyewear would really suit me. Quite sceptical, I went to Aarhus to take part in a project at the architect school. There I managed to lose my own glasses, so I drew them on some posters and put them up in town. After a few days I got my glasses back. A year later Prodesign Denmark in Aarhus searched for a designer and I landed the job. I had no idea how big the industry was, but I got hooked.
Q: What do you think of Scandinavian design?
A: Scandinavia is a small part of the world, with very individualistic societies. We stand out from the rest of the world in many ways. Our design is well known for its simplicity, its clean lines and sometimes also its closeness to usefulness. If you look at IKEA, their design is interconnected with the purpose of the design. We are individualistic, yet we want to do good, make useful things and create meaning with our designs. I think this is very attractive for many people, as a contrast to very lavish, vivid but also less optimized design from other parts of the world. Our frames are no exception. I design beautiful frames - I want to make people happy when wearing them, but the features are often created with a purpose in mind.
Q: What has been your career path before working in Opo Scandinavia?
A: I was educated as an industrial designer. I then worked with eyewear for Prodesign Denmark, Scandinavian Eyewear and FrameWorks before taking the opportunity as Creative Manager at OPO Scandinavia.
\\ Receiving prototypes
Q: What previous experiences have you been able to bring to KunoQvist, the brand you now focus on?
A: As a manager of the design team at OPO I am responsible for the design and development of around 10 different brands for both adults and children, where KunoQvist is our biggest success so far. I would say that my experience of developing eyewear for the Scandinavian market for many years is very important here. The saying “the devil is in the details” works both ways! It takes a lot of experience to know your audience; they are individuals but also a group with some common features for whom I adjust my designs. Call me a responsive designer.
Q: What is the evolution of KunoQvist?
A: The brand KunoQvist was first shown at SILMO in 2004 and got a very positive response. It was viewed as a new, exciting Scandinavian brand with daring colours. It grew very fast in those first years. The brand has been shaped over the years by my predecessors, by its wearers and also our clients, the independent opticians, and has seen a very healthy, steady development.
My aim is to take that legacy further.
Q: What differentiates it in your opinion?
A: Colour combinations, elaborate details and a focus on metal. When it arrived on the market in 2005, it was extraordinary. Today it has found its own niche. We don’t follow trends if they don't fit in with the brand’s universe. KunoQvist stands for timeless quality where the colours and the details stand out.
\\ The design concept starts with drawing by hand
Q: Does KunoQvist adopt Scandinavian design parameters?
A: Yes definitely. All our brands do. We combine our vast knowledge of eyewear design with the Scandinavian heritage of user-friendly product design. To this we add our mission to make the world a more beautiful place to be. You can spot a KunoQvist frame by its feminine decorations or patterns that enhance a look. It Ìs always a challenge to combine beauty with utility but I love challenges. It is always interesting to benchmark other product areas and to get ideas that can be applicable to eyewear. Fashion and consumer behaviour are also good sources of inspiration when you develop collections. I love the moment when you get samples home to try out on a test group. The process of designing and developing eyewear is very established, and with every brand you have to take the brand values into consideration. Part of my job is to add the magic to get the “feeling” we are aiming for. There is always a subjective reaction to the product. When the wearer meets the frame: that can be the most thrilling part of the process.
Q: Who wears KunoQvist?
A: The main target group are individuals who want to express their character in a KunoQvist frame.
Since the development time for eyewear is at least a year, I am looking forward to the day I will see a model I've designed for KunoQvist on a real person. I've experienced this many times before, and it is always so interesting to see WHO chooses that frame!
Q: Does KunoQvist have a defined age and male/female target?
A: 70% of our KunoQvist frames are women’s frames - women tend to buy more glasses then men. They want to have different glasses for different occasions or outfits and our mission is of course to answer that need. Since we create frames mainly for the progressive wearer.
\\ Designer Ibolya Vass, working on the new selection of colours
Q: Do you have any “best-selling” models?
A: Yes, I do have several. One of the frames I designed, a discrete brown ladies frame, became extremely popular. My aim here at OPO is to design many bestsellers and also some really outstanding ones. My goal is to create frames that make people happy.
Q: What are your plans for 2020?
A: 2020 will be an exciting year. We have a new design team. We are keeping the core values but injecting a new energy. Also, our big news for 2020 is that we will start to use a new material for KunoQvist. Acetate combination frames will add colour to the collection. OPO is on a roll now, an upward spiral. I intend to keep things “spinning” in that direction.
Q: Will you participate in the international trade fairs?
A: OPTI is an important fair for us and we always participate.
We have a lot of clients in the German speaking parts of Europe and this is a perfect chance to meet our clients from these regions as well as from Scandinavia.
\\ Collection planning at OPO Sweden