EINSTOFFEN: the vision behind the frames
From the beginnings of bamboo sunglasses, Einstoffen has come a long way, embracing a trial-and-error process to perfect its craftsmanship while staying true to its values. As the Swiss brand gears up for OPTI, co-founder Ramon Studer shares the journey that led Einstoffen to venture into eyewear, the evolution that has shaped its identity and what its upcoming collection will bring.
Q: What prompted Einstoffen to venture into producing eyewear? How does the eyewear line align with the brand’s philosophy?
A: Well, we actually came to eyewear via a fashion fair. We saw a pair of plastic sunglasses with a wooden look at Bread and Butter in Berlin. We thought that this should also be possible with real wood and started looking for someone with whom we could produce them. The whole thing hit like a bomb and suddenly lots of opticians wanted to buy these glasses. That opened the door to the optical market for us. But the whole thing was a boomerang. The quality wasn’t good enough and most of them came back to us. I still remember the first phone call from an optician. He said something about a propeller and I had no idea what he was talking about.
Q: Einstoffen has come a long way from producing bamboo sunglasses. Can you describe the trial-and-error process or challenges faced while experimenting with different materials for eyewear frames?
A: As I already mentioned, the quality was not good at the beginning. It took countless tests and improvements to bring the glasses up to today’s standard. By the time the glasses were really good, the hype about wooden glasses was already over. But we probably had the toughest school when it came to customer service. We’ve really become professionals. The fact that we are still on the market is also a result of our hard work and constant improvements. But we also started producing acetate glasses very early on. Today, this is clearly our core competence and accounts for 80% of our sales. I would say quite boldly that we now work with the very best producers and suppliers in the industry. Anyone who picks up our glasses is always impressed by the feel. This is also the result of years of research and constant visits to the production facilities.
Q: How does the brand attempt to capture or mirror the qualities or characteristics found in nature through the materials used?
A: The fascination for wood and its processing possibilities has accompanied us since the beginning, even if wood is now only a niche for us. Sometimes only very small elements made of wood are incorporated into the design. However, it is still a great challenge to process this material in such a way that it meets the high quality standards of the industry. Nevertheless, we do not want to do without it. Even though we are constantly developing and working with new materials, wood remains an important component of Einstoffen. The structures in the frames and the uniqueness of each pair of glasses fascinate us. As with people, no two pairs of glasses are the same and no one is perfect. It is precisely this aspect that reflects nature perfectly, as do all the natural materials we work with.
Q: Einstoffen initially gained recognition for its use of natural materials in eyewear. What motivated the shift towards incorporating acetate and titanium into the line?
A: We simply didn’t want to limit ourselves. Personally, I just love acetate. Anything is possible with it and I particularly love vintage glasses from the 50s. Turtle Shell, amber, Pantos. I love all this! We value freedom and versatility and want to appeal to a wide range of customers with our eyewear. That’s why we are constantly on the lookout for new ideas and inspiration. Standing still is out of the question for us; we want to follow current trends and, ideally, even help shape them. The use of natural materials such as wood or stone would restrict us too much. The success of our acetate collection has encouraged us to follow our instincts and not limit ourselves to doing what is expected of us.
Q: How has the exclusive partnership decision with independent retailers furthered Einstoffen’s vision for the brand? How does this commitment to supporting independent opticians align with the company’s values?
A: We see independence as our most important driver. We are 100% self-financed and have grown very organically. But that is precisely why we can make all our decisions today in a way that makes sense for us. We are not accountable to anyone and profit is not our driving force. Of course we want to earn money, but it’s not our only priority. We also take a very skeptical view of the big players in our industry, without naming them. Buying and homogenizing everything. We want to be an alternative to that. The internal structure of Einstoffen is very familiar. We are still a small team and work closely together. This close cooperation is also reflected in our partnership with retailers. Many of our current customers have been with us from the very beginning and have experienced ups and downs with us. Personal contact with specialist retailers is important to us, and it fills us with joy to see the enthusiasm with which they wear and sell our frames themselves. This makes all the difference for us.
Q: Can you offer a sneak peek or hint at what attendees can expect from Einstoffen’s showcase at the OPTI fair in January? Any insights into the theme or inspiration behind the upcoming collection?
A: The new collection will be called “Raw & Noble”. This is also our new claim. Raw refers to our roots. We come from Switzerland and our mountain world is sometimes very raw with its valleys, rivers and rocks. Noble refers to art and the beautiful things we humans can create. Music, culture, good food and nice glasses, of course. And, in the best case, to a noble character. Smile. We will definitely stand out, even from a distance! Our latest products will be presented in the best possible light and, of course, cold drinks will be provided. We are looking forward to three great days full of interesting conversations, new acquaintances and hopefully many enthusiastic customers.
Q: Are there any specific innovations or features in the new collection that set it apart from previous releases?
A: In collaboration with OBE, we have once again created innovative inlays that integrate perfectly into the new eyewear shapes and give the models a special touch. In addition, we have worked with special cutting techniques to give each pair of glasses an individual look. The attention to detail is also reflected in this collection.
Q: How does Einstoffen foresee adapting to changing market trends or consumer preferences in the upcoming years? Where do you see the brand’s eyewear line evolving in the next five years?
A: First and foremost, we enjoy and love our work and eyewear. As long as this continues and the passion is alive, the result will be good. We set high standards for ourselves and strive to always be at the cutting edge. This requires a lot of work and a willingness to innovate. The fashion world is developing rapidly and it remains a constant challenge to know the trends of the coming year today. Nevertheless, we do our best and remain true to our values. In the coming years, we want to continue to create eyewear for our customers that inspires both in terms of design and quality. We are excited about the coming developments and look forward to continuing to enrich the market with innovative models.