Author: Clodagh Norton

October 20, 2020

Dedication to quality and new opportunities in technological innovation..with age-old techniques of traditional spectacle-making and an eye for design for the discerning modern glasses wearer

An Italian artisan label, born in the Dolomites

Kador was created in 1962 in Calalzo di Cadore: a small village in the heart of the spectacle-making region of Italy. Today – just as then – the label distinguishes itself with the same know-how of that time in the past – creating frames by hand in acetate and other high-quality materials produced exclusively in Italy. Each frame by Kador is the result of careful research to produce frames of quality: creativity and attention to detail are key features of these designs which are made through the expertise of the craftsmen and women dedicated to their small-scale production.


Artisan spectacles and sunglasses: a fusion of old-fashioned ways + notions of quality design which continue through time

Quality, fine materials, authenticity and design: the attraction of a handmade frame comes down to more than meets the eye

From New York to Los Angeles, Florence to Naples, London to Paris, Tokyo to Hong Kong, the number of artisan producers of fine frames around the world continues to hold firm. Their specialisms range from vintage-inspired frame designs, beloved by most fashion-focused eyewear enthusiasts, produced in small workshops or traditional factories and created in small batches or to order, in establishments that have been handcrafting eyewear for generations, to avant-garde frames, handmade by innovators: designers like Ti Kwa of Rigards, or LA’s rising stars of bespoke eyewear, Dom Vetro by Ashley Bézamat.

Rigards: leading the way in avant-garde design. the Rigards atelier is in Hong Kong

The traditional artisanal workshop is based on the same principles of traditional craftsmanship, using small-scale and hand-powered spectacle-making machinery, tools and devices passed down through generations, and “specialist” techniques of polishing and finishing – some that have hardly changed, through decades of production. Centered around specific regions – the Jura in France, Cadore in Italy and Fukui in Japan being the most famous, the areas continue to be centres for handmade artisan production, even if the flood of cheaper imported mass-produced frames impacted the output of these areas in the 90s and beyond. Elsewhere, and across the world, individual creative designers are also working in studios and workshops to produce frames by hand, and the phenomena is growing with new ones popping up frequently with dedication to old-fashioned customer orders and made-to-measure “tailored” designs.

Savile Row Eyewear: Panto Beaufort

At Algha Works where the metal Savile Row collection is produced in London, the classically designed “rolled” spectacles are made using techniques and equipment that have hardly changed since the 1930s. The production of one metal frame at Algha London involves over 100 operations to press, bend, notch, crimp and fold the individual parts. The frames have been worn by celebrities through decades including John Lennon, Harrison Ford and Harry Potter.

Labels to discover

New York City: LOWERCASE

Built out of a love for eyewear and true craftsmanship, Lowercase is new artisan producer, established in 2016. “We founded the company with a mission: to once again localize the trade of eyewear to the US, while creating a product that is second to none in quality and design. The value in our unique approach can be seen in the designs and felt in the construction”. Every pair of Lowercase frames is made in the label’s Brooklyn workshop from start to finish, by combining modern technology with traditional methods. The label claims to use only the best materials crafted by the some of the finest craftspeople New York has to offer - people who take pride in their craft and refuse to produce anything less than the best. Each pair goes through a 30 step process that takes 2 weeks to complete.

Model Rose by Lowercase NYC

The Lowercase workshop is located in the Brooklyn Army Terminal. The brand opens its doors to show customers how the frames are made, and how the brand emphasizes sustainability - you can meet the people who designed and built every millimeter of your frame.


The Alps, Austria:

Famous for its handmade frames in wood, stone and buffalo horn (Monoceros), Rolf Spectacles continues to focus on innovation in the context of handmade and artisan-produced design. The award-winning sustainable brand is located in the Tyrolian Alps (Austria) and has placed importance on their design capabilities and technical know-how in crafting frames from natural materials from the very beginning. The latest addition to the collections is substance: a 3d printed plant-based line which recognises the current demand for more climate-considerate products. “The plants are grown in tropical climates without any kind of genetic engineering, they don’t compete with food crops, and they can grow very tall, very quickly: where a spruce or a beech will only grow a few centimetres taller every year, this remarkable plant will shoot up six meters in just four months, and it comes back every year”, explains company founder and visionary Roland Wolf. “This makes the new material more sustainable and kinder to the environment than ever–and the perfect foundation upon which to build a new collection of glasses”.


Designed in Toulouse,
made in the Jura:
KLEY’S Lunettes Françaises

Newcomer and optician Simon Bousquet is based in Toulouse. His unique collection is 100% made in the Jura and expresses a personal passion for good design, artisan finesse and comfortable, well-made eyewear. Working previously as the designer for the iconic French label Amor/Sol-Amor, Bousquet is not new to designing and his collection fuses innovation and fashion, with an unpretentious, easy-to-wear design style. A signature feature of the collection, the Kley’s models can be recognised by their adjustable acetate nose fitting which can be adjusted to provide a pleasant and comfortable ideal fit. Currently, this family of chic elegant ‘neo-retro’ styled frames includes 7 optical and 5 sunglass styles in acetate with stainless steel temples.


Hong Kong’s
artisan designers: RIGARDS

Made by hand at Rigards

Eyewear’s avant-garde artisan label, Rigards, led by Ti Kwa, was founded in 2012 and has developed into one of the most unique and desirable natural, handmade collections in the business today with collaborations that have also set them apart with designers who include Uma Wang, Royal Selangor and Ziggy Chen. From natural horn to sterling silver, Rigards frames have an instantly recognizable style that combines offbeat aesthetics with a quiet elegance, much of which pertains to the spirited craftsmanship and unique use of traditional materials – only achievable through the high-levels of expertise in craftsmanship and focus on innovating and doing things differently. The emphasis is on handmade craftsmanship applied to simple products using natural materials. The designs are original and nonconformist, intended for discerning individuals who appreciate ingenuity and an independent spirit. Every pair of frames is handcrafted with tremendous attention using time-honored methods of production and hand-finished with signature surface treatments, combining virtues of the past with modern sensibility.


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