30th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: THEN & NOW

Author: Clodagh Norton

Feature Story
February 22, 2019

20/20 Europe: My personal experience

I first started working on 20/20 Europe in 1999. During those years, I have visited a huge variety of optical fairs – attended 19 Silmo’s as well as optical events in Las Vegas, South Korea, Tokyo, Sweden and Dubai, to highlight just a few. But as well as exciting travels, I have also had an ongoing opportunity to interview designers and innovators at different moments in their careers, and to follow their creative paths or technological achievements, with a closeness that I truly value. Among my very first experiences as a journalist, I remember a phone interview with Paloma Picasso from our Richmond office, where she talked about her dad, her design path and her now iconic eyewear collection, a press launch with Alexander McQueen in his London flagship when he was launching an eyewear collection with acclaimed designer Tord Boontje and a lovely chat at Silmo with the very approachable Anna Sui. I always felt inspired by the diversity of my work each day, much for the people I met along the way, as well as their commitment to their work, their company and – more often than not – their extraordinarily infectious enthusiasm for whatever they were launching or working on.
Factory visits have also been a part of my journey as an optical journalist. I visited the Jura (France) and Cadore (Northern Italy) in my early years with the then international sales director Cecilia Zanasi, and have been back on different occasions, most recently with Matilde, to Belluno, Borgo Prà and the local area where we had a memorable visit to the Museo dell’Occhiale, Pieve di Cadore as well as delightful Italian lunches or espressos with clients. More recently, I’ve been welcomed at Silhouette and neubau in Austria, Gold & Wood in Luxembourg and Blackfin in Italy, and learnt about state-of-the-art eyewear production and different artisan techniques for producing eyewear first hand, as well as actually meeting the expert craftsmen and women who work in this profession. It has been a particular privilege to meet at least two craftsmen working into their 70s, still offering their expertise, and training young people to do the work, as they have done, by hand.
These and all the other opportunities during my career so far I do not take for granted - they have offered me a true insight into the special and historic world of eyewear + optics and all that goes behind the making of a single frame or lens.
While fashions change, consumer desires evolve and technology impacts the production of frames and lenses for the future, the story of eyewear design is always moving ahead, offering the optical retailer – whatever their specialism or particular passion - new optical avenues and innovations with which to run their business and improve the everyday lives of their customers.

Clodagh Norton
Editor in Chief, 20/20 Europe
 

The Jobson + 2020US team, in Milan, celebrating 1 year



“...the story of eyewear design is always moving ahead, offering the optical retailer – whatever their specialism or particular passion - new optical avenues and innovations...”
 

BLACKFIN


Neo Made in Italy is Blackfin’s raison d’etre. This fast- paced company specialising in Italian design in state- of-the-art titanium, is run by Nicola Del Din, the son of the original founder of the family company, Maria Pramaor.

Maria Pramaor and Primo del Din - Maria founded the company in 1971.

“A woman who decides to do business in Agordo, at the beginning of the 70s, I still have difficulty imagining it – honestly. When, in the wake of this, we created Blackfin, more than ten years ago, nothing was certain. Apart from the fact that we had a certain level of expertise and know-how to be able to take the very first steps, its something within us like a condition, a way of working, a value. We continue on this path today. We are a design company, with a strong link to the land where we work, and we look beyond. Always.”

Nicola Del Din, CEO.
 

\\ Blackfin’s new campaign : Looking beyond. Always.

Model 0276

CUTLER AND GROSS

Founded by Tony Gross and Graham Cutler, the UK brand goes from strength to strength. Their latest collaborative collection with fashion designer Paul Smith launches at Mido this month. The company is 50 years old.

“At Cutler and Gross we have always been about handmade eyewear, throughout our rich 50-year history we have always strived to improve the quality and fit of our frames.
From bespoke frames constructed above our first store in Knightsbridge London, to up-scaling into the wholesale business, one thing remains central to our beliefs. We stress the importance of the connection between the wearer and the process of design and manufacture. In the last ten years, since the purchase of our own factory in Cadore in 2007, we have incorporated many new materials into our range including titanium, ceramics, bio acetate and also new lens technologies including photochromic lenses, A/R coatings, polycarbonates and CR39. Our aim is to marry these new technologies and materials with traditional, manual, frame construction processes - to create frames that last the test of time, yet are at the forefront of innovation and performance.”

Marie Wilkinson, Design Director

 

\\ Model 0233, Model 1305

MOREL


An historic French company dating back to 1880, Morel’s HQ is located at the heart of the famous Jura region of France.

Above all, Morel is the story of our family: we have been creating frames since 1880! Each generation has learnt from those before it, while also providing its own entrepreneurial vision. Jérôme, Francis, and I are the fourth generation to manage the business. We took the helm of the company 30 years ago. Design and creativity are at the forefront and centre of our strategy.
The reaction to this new strategy was very positive - to the point that we began to think about Morel’s brand identity. At the time, our company was known mostly for its collections. From the 2010s, we began working on the positioning of the Morel brand, finally resulting in this stunning campaign unveiled last October! Our goal for the next decade is clear: to become the worldwide benchmark for French eyewear!”

Amélie Morel, Head of Communications
 

\\ In 2019, MOREL has added 3D printed eyewear in its Lightec collection / The first Flight frames in 1996

Advertising image by Look in 2019

LOOK

Traditional values of Italian production as well as an innovative spirit at the heart of the company, LOOK continues to grow its focus on quality and product development with a portfolio of brands that are well-recognised in the eyewear sector.

“From the beginning, LOOK has consistently evolved to be able to offer high-quality eyewear with a strong avant-garde direction. Over the years, it emerged that the LOOK brand was well recognized by a large audience and, above all, by an increasingly demanding and refined eyewear consumer. It has always been the case in our view that in Italy we have unique capabilities to create an ongoing history of eyewear excellence in terms of our production. Our headquarters have been here for 40 years. The people who work on the LOOK project, from the design to the development and production are always motivated by the ‘ethical ideal’ of getting the most out of their work. Even in our visual communication we always propose something different in terms of idea and always starting from our avantgarde DNA.”

Vittore Tormen, LOOK Ambassador

\\ Advertising image by Look in 1989.

IC! BERLIN

Located in Berlin, the company created by Ralph Anderl – one of the biggest characters in the creative eyewear sector – was founded in 1996. While Ralph has taken a step back from everyday duties, the company continues to design and produce eyewear in the city of its origin. ic! berlin produces eyewear from 0.5mm thick stainless spring steel sheet metal, using a patented hinge design which avoids the use of any screws, welds, or glue in the construction of their frames. The combination of materials and techniques allows their products to be light and flexible.
 

Recent advertising campaign for the ic! berlin SILK collection

“The very first ic! berlin frames were handmade in a small 2-room apartment in Berlin. More than 20 years later we still make our glasses by hand using an innovative screwless hinge.
While our collection started with pure stainless steel, we’ve since added a variety of materials including rubber, acetate, 3D Plotic, and hybrids. So while we’ve grown a lot in the last 20 years, ic! berlin still stands for quality, technical excellence, and innovation.”

Ralph Anderl, Founder
 

\\ The early years: Ralph Anderl

Model Esme from the Centena Collection

KIRK & KIRK


The well –known eyewear couple from the UK, Jason and Karen Kirk, continue to fly the flag for British independent eyewear.
Their frames offer individuality, originality in colours and materials, and statement style.

“When we started in the independent eyewear sector in the early 90s the market was keen to evolve. Thirty years later we have seen evolution at different speeds across Europe with some countries being more receptive to change. One thing is clear, the independent optical atmosphere in 2019 is highly competitive with new players, efficient optical chains and online commerce changing the game. Opticians need to have a clearly defined, unique offer to give the consumer a reason to purchase from them and not their competitors.
Around the world, the leading stores carry fewer and fewer brands but they go deeper into each collection to offer a clear brand story, making the market even more competitive for independent eyewear brands. We need to all work together if we want the independent sector to flourish.”

Jason Kirk, Kirk & Kirk



Kirk & Kirk Eyewear – Esme from the Centena Collection – a line which celebrates the Kirk’s family history.
The Kirk family have been pioneers in optics since ancestors Sidney and Percy Kirk opened their first London workshops in 1919.
They were innovators, not only in frame design but also in the way they ran their business. Their couriers were the first to deliver by motorbike, roaring through the streets of 1920’s London.
 

\\ Kirk & Kirk

SEAPORT:
FAÇONNABLE EYEWEAR

For more than 30 years with the brand Façonnable Eyewear, the company ODLM has worked to design a complete wardrobe of eyewear for men.
The Façonnable collections define a classic vintage retro style.
 

Campaign image, present

“Today, the company is able to provide to opticians a coherent and complete general offer for men with a wide range of products dedicated to different categories of consumers with several price positioning
Whether it is considered classical or not, the Façonnable style is still there, the latest fashion trends is completely in the Façonnable spirit, which combines the pantos shapes and the trendy tortoises colours. As proof, the collector’s model REGIMENTAL3 with its legendary shape is revisited and slightly twisted to find its place in 2019 in the new vintage line as the model NV254.

Thanks to the different segments of the brand: Jeans, New Vintage and Progress Design, the Façonnable Eyewear collection can meet the needs of all men nowadays in France as well as internationally.”

Guillaume Kessous, COO

\\ Campaign image, past

Campaign from 1990

FLEXON / MARCHON

Since its launch in 1988, Flexon has changed the world of eyewear with its unique attributes, utilizing Japanese materials and technology. Built with incomparable technical features and superior quality to meet the demanding needs of an active lifestyle, Flexon frames are designed to be flexed, bent or twisted and return to their original shape, making them extremely durable.

“With years of design and construction experience, Flexon has evolved into a collection with no limitations, creating a varied collection filled with color, advanced durability, lightweight construction, and a comfortable fit.
The brand’s latest styles embody the best of the brand, emphasizing modern looks that integrate cutting- edge technology and precision. Feather light, flexible, andtitaniumstrong, Flexon fits, feels and forgives like no other conventional metal frame on the market.”

Francesco Di Carlo, Director of PR EMEA

\\ The image today

MARCOLIN

The origins of Marcolin Group date back to 1961 in Italy when Giovanni Marcolin, starting from an innovative idea, founded the “Fabbrica Artigiana” in the eyewear district of the Cadore area (Veneto).

Today, GUESS x J BALVIN

Almost 60 years have passed, and the structure of the company has evolved, becoming a worldwide leader in the eyewear industry standing out for the pursuit of excellence, the continuous innovation and the unique ability to faithfully combine design and Italian craftsmanship with the core values of each brand. Thanks to the mid-long term approach of PAI Partners (the leading European private equity firm that acquired a majority stake of the company in 2012), Marcolin Group strengthened its ability to deal with brands in the different international markets.
“During the last 5 years the company further increased and balanced its brand portfolio with the acquisition of Viva International Group (2013), doubled its Made in Italy in-house capacity through the acquisition of a new facility in Fortogna for the production of acetate bridges and temples (2014), and also consolidated its global presence. In 2017, Massimo Renon was appointed Marcolin Group’s CEO, while Giovanni Zoppas was appointed Marcolin Group’s Executive Vice Chairman after leading the group from January 2012 as CEO. Concurrently, Zoppas was nominated CEO of Thélios, the joint venture between LVMH and Marcolin Group.
"During the years, global brands like Emilio Pucci (2014), Ermenegildo Zegna (2014), Moncler (2015), Atelier Swarovski (2017), Bally (2018), Victoria’s Secret and Victoria’s Secret PINK (2018) entered into the Marcolin Group brand portfolio. Barton Perreira signed an exclusive multi-year global distribution agreement in January 2019. In terms of geo coverage, the company strengthened its presence through joint ventures agreements in China (2014), Russia (2014), Middle East (2107), Mexico (2018), while developing a plan for strong growth and organizational strengthening, as well as distribution strategies and commercial logistics in the Asian market (2018).
Today, the ultimate challenge for an international company like ours is to effect digital transformation in every aspect of the organization, merging online and offline channels, closing the gaps between customer expectations and the service and experience they receive. Marcolin Group is a dynamic company, focused on the fast market changes and needs, and developing innovative collaborations.”

Massimo Renon, CEO
 

\\ From the past: the GUESS heritage print features on the inside temple

 

ØRGREEN OPTICS

One of Scandinavia’s most highly regarded design labels based in Copenhagen celebrated 20 years in 2017. The company, known as a specialist in titanium frames, designed in Denmark and produced in Japan, has recently added a wider range of materials to their collection including the state-of-the-art Quantum collection in polyamide and titanium and featuring a unique spherical hinge.

‘We started with a clear objective in mind: we wanted to be the first sunglasses brand coming out of Scandinavia. The challenging part was that none of us had any experience with eyewear so we had to learn quite a lot about how to design and produce a frame. Fast-forward twenty years, and we’ve grown to be a globally renowned design eyewear brand, an authority in the industry. During these years we have maintained the same attitude, constantly developing new designs, new materials combinations and new colours; even though we reached a high level of standards with our products and a high positioning in the market, we never rest on our laurels. We are always striving to grow and constantly on the lookout for a new direction or concept. What make our designs so unique are our Danish heritage and our approach to combining the old with the new; it all comes down to how we look at the design, reinterpret the lines and evolve the finishing, to finally merge them into a perfect, contemporary balance.’

Henrik Ørgreen, CEO

\\ Ørgreen

VANNI


VANNI was born in Turin in 1990.
Owned by Nico Design, the brand is synonymous with colour, pattern and individual design - made in Italy.
 

VANNI advertising 1990 / VANNI Eyewear - optical frame from 1990

“To mix and create unique combinations: that is our challenge, and colour is our second name. VANNI is limited-edition industry.
Nothing we do is obvious: today our collections are a distillation of 30 years’ research and experimentation, and we distribute in over 40 countries around the world.
Dreaming up the VANNI collections is left to our in-house style centre responsible for designing all product lines. VANNI glasses are entirely made in Italy: without compromise: just as we have always done, for 30 years.
In the past 10 years, creativity has meant working on exclusive materials. Personalized acetates make a pair of VANNI frames inimitable, yet recognizable. Our metal frames are created using the latest technology: laser cut, ultra-thin milled steel with delicate Windsor acetate rims or surface colour treatments.”

Giovanni Vitaloni, President and CEO

\\ VANNI Eyewear - sunglass design, 2019

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