a new era

Author: Clodagh Norton

Interview of the Month
September 28, 2021

Kamilia Kusz, Managing Director

Since September 2019, a new, international team has been charged with carrying the Robert La Roche brand into a new era, through a combination of reflection on the designer’s historic path as a creative fused with ideas for the future. Managing Director Kamilia Kusz explained the latest steps at the Austrian brand, owned by Michael Pachleitner Group (MPG) and based out of Graz.

Q: Robert La Roche is an iconic name in eyewear – the label has come a long way. Please can you explain the developments of the last years, and particularly since 2019 when you took over as Managing Director.

A: We all have tremendous respect for Robert’s work and his legacy. The name of Robert La Roche is in the same league as Oliver Peoples and Alain Mikli, for example. These big labels excel at retaining their signature identity while adapting it to the zeitgeist. Our current collection takes inspiration from some classic heritage pieces, but it’s not a replica. We propelled these iconic designs into the current moment. What’s most important to me is that the joy and the passion we have for our work is reflected in every single piece of every single collection.

Q: Tell us about your vision for the brand today. Does the iconic Austrian designer who first launched an eyewear collection in 1973 remain an inspiration in the collections?

A: We’re determined to return the brand to its glory days and re-establish its typical design language. The focus is to revive the house’s heritage – its golden era, really – and to build its future. A modernized classic, with a clever twist. In 2021, that’s quite the undertaking as eyewear brands are sprouting from every corner, but we’re more than ready and up for the challenge.

\\ Robert La Roche 'mugshot' campaign style

Q: "What drives us is the courage to take unconventional approaches and the willingness to merge contradictions. Explain this concept which is fundamental t

A: I think our collaboration with Christoph Rumpf, a phenomenal young Austrian designer, illustrates this best. Two of the frames we created together – Godfather and Moonstruck – are the perfect examples of this harmonious juxtaposition of elements. They both have a very strong, edgy shape but the finish on the French pearl acetate is so soft and sophisticated, it creates the perfect balance.

Q:   In the collections launching this month, explain the design approach and significant details that characterise the new models.

A: The new collection is made up of frames that highlight character. They’re not too heavy but they’re striking. We went a bigger and bolder, but in a very smart and sophisticated way. Christoph had a very specific vision for what the aesthetic should be. Think gallerists or Edward Enninful, someone whose eyewear is a significant part of their look. The most classic shapes are Santino and Donnie, but they’re incredibly defined. A new addition is Theodore, for which we drew inspiration from old wooden frames. Its shape is very carved, but it’s got that signature Robert La Roche finish and it’s very special, one of my favorites, really. With Guardian, we added a funkier shape to our limited edition that’s made with a colorful French acetate, just stunning. Our new colorways include a translucent champagne color that gives the frames a very grounded, calm aesthetic. Overall, this collection is instantly recognizable as Robert La Roche, a real return to form.

\\ Robert La Roche model Gene

Q: Should we expect to see new collaborations, following the capsule collections with Christoph Rumpf and les deux h?

A: I think you should always expect the unexpected.

Q: As it’s the focus of this special edition, may I ask what is your approach to design specifically for women?

A: In our latest collection we have two sun frames, Onassis and Callas and an optical one, Grace, that pay tribute to some truly iconic women. And of course we have Brigitte and Bacall that are highly feminine. However, we’re increasingly moving away from traditionally gendered styles. The gender binary is becoming a thing of the past and some of the most stylish people out there are non-binary individuals that defy any fashion norms. I believe that if you design eyewear with the absence of gender, the result is far more interesting and versatile, which is why most of our current models are genderless, to be worn by individuals. To be honest, my top priority is the quality of our product – the shapes, colors and haptics have to be impeccable – and that people can see the love and the craftsmanship that goes into it. If those people happen to be women, that’s great, but they don’t have to be. 

\\ Robert La Roche 'mugshot' campaign featuring model Harry

Q: Now, as we gradually begin to come out of the global pandemic, what are your hopes and aspirations for Robert La Roche as a brand and what will be your key focus?  

A: We’re working on expanding e-commerce and our online presence (Business Partner Portal). Since we’re very active on an international scale, for example in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, a lot of our distribution currently happens via Zoom, etc. But we’re planning to get back on the road, see people in person and bring Robert La Roche to new places. Once again, we’ll be present at trade fairs like SILMO. We’re excited to move forward and come out of the pandemic with a stronger focus and better than ever.

Q: Give details about how you will proceed with the RLR campaign and your roll out of the collections in new markets.  

A: We’re continuing the Mugshot campaign for our classic collection that’s very sexy, devious and puts a strong focus on the product, as well as the Ava & Oscar campaign for our collaboration with Christoph Rumpf, which tells the everlasting story of true love between two puppets who come to life. As for new markets, we’re planning on expanding our presence in the UK and Ireland, Poland, Switzerland, Denmark, as well as EEU and UAE. You can look forward to seeing more stylish people wearing our iconic frames all over the world.  

\\ Robert La Roche Onassis sunglasses

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