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SILHOUETTE: pushing the limits of eyewear design

With the introduction of its inaugural sustainable collection and a futuristic revamp of its iconic Titan Minimal Art line, Austrian eyewear powerhouse Silhouette is expecting a vibrant 2024. Speaking to 20/20 Europe, chief marketing officer Michael Schmied sheds light on the brand’s continuous search for innovation, environmental commitments and ambitions for the years ahead.

Q: Can you reflect on Silhouette’s journey over the past 60 years? What are the key milestones that have shaped the brand?

Michael Schmied_SILHOUETTE
Michael Schmied, chief marketing officer, Silhouette

A: Since the founding of Silhouette in 1964, we’ve experienced so many brand milestones that today, are part of our brand DNA. It already started shortly after the founding of our house that Silhouette frames were worn on catwalks all over the world celebrating outstanding new shapes. One of our first ground-breaking technical innovations was in 1983 when Silhouette introduced our patented high-tech polyamide material known as SPX®+. This super light, ultra-durable material opened up a whole new realm of capabilities in lightweight eyewear design that Silhouette is renowned for. One of Silhouette’s most celebrated achievements is the 1999 launch of the Titan Minimal Art (TMA) rimless eyewear collection. 

The featherweight champion (mere 2 grams), crafted from high-tech titanium without the use of hinges or screws is a minimalist masterpiece worn by earthly visionaries and space explorers alike. The design revolutionized the entire eyewear market. In 2017 we opened our own lens lab and launched 100% Silhouette with the aim to provide our partner accounts with a one-stop shop for their consumers’ eyewear needs. With 100% Silhouette, our frames and lenses are developed side by side, with the wearer’s optical needs fully incorporated into the lenses. The innovative lenses and flexible, lightweight frames are skilfully handcrafted in Austria in perfect harmony, providing a seamless fit and all-day wearing comfort with tailor-made eyewear. To enhance Silhouette’s rimless collections and add another option for consumers to customize their eyewear, we launched our signature Accent Rings in 2018 which were truly the first of its kind in the market. Crafted from thin-yet-durable SPX®+, Silhouette Accent Rings allow for a colourful contour to the rimless lenses, giving the look of full-rim eyewear without sacrificing the comfort and lightness of rimless glasses. Over the years, Silhouette has won quite a few prestigious international design awards – 125 in fact – in recognition of our tireless commitment to innovation, our pioneering spirit, the extraordinary quality of our glasses, and our exceptional craftsmanship.

Titan Minimal Art_SILHOUETTE

Q: After six decades, how do you continue evolving and pushing boundaries of eyewear design while remaining true to Silhouette’s clear, minimalistic design language?

A: What’s unique about Silhouette, is even nearly six decades after launching, our original values are still at the core of our DNA. Our brand’s claim is “empowered by lightness”. At Silhouette we embrace lightness, from the physicality of our lesser-framed, ultra-light eyewear designs to the philosophy behind our brand, ever-searching, ever-curious, ever-visionary. To Silhouette lightness is a state of mind that we apply to everything we create. It can guide our decisions and allows us to view things in an ever-evolving way. Lightness elevates our thinking and enables us to create, grow and achieve in ways that without lightness would be impossible. Lightness casts aside traditional notions of ambition and achievement and allows us to make our own rules: Whether it’s shaking up an entire industry or solving a problem that’s left others stuck. Minimalism, reduction to the essential, and a passion for details are also a given. We refer to our design approach as ‘sensual simplicity’, which combines the philosophy of ‘less is more’ with the wearer’s desire for utmost comfort and a tactile excellence. In our designs, we avoid using screws and aim for a certain level of flexibility in the temple area. Functional elements like hinges are seamlessly integrated, but our primary focus is always on the face and the person wearing our designs. At Silhouette we create eyewear that goes beyond trends or fashion but instead sits in the realms of iconic style.

Q: Designing eyewear involves a blend of style and functionality. What are some of the design challenges that Silhouette has faced, and how were they overcome in the latest collections?

A: Pushing the limits of injection moulding to achieve thinnest wall thickness was a main aim when developing our Urban Lite family. But we face that obstacle of lightness and precision in almost all collections. When we are talking about tolerances, we often go down to 0,02mm and that is a challenge for our production teams. As designers we challenge our engineers to get things lighter, thinner, and smaller. It’s always a hand in hand process like e.g., in our Infinity View collection it took us several steps to get the right surface quality by programming the milling machines the right way. Another example is our special laser etched surface in the Momentum Aurum FR collection. It took us quite a time to figure out the right amount of power and pattern to get this unique look.

Titan Minimal Art

Q: What can consumers look forward to in new collections set to be released for MIDO and 2024 more generally? Are there specific styles, features, or technological innovations that will characterise these upcoming releases?

A: Celebrating 25 years of our iconic Titan Minimal Art, the next generation returns at the beginning of January 2024 with a dynamic, rimless look tailored for visionaries who demand precision-premium eyewear. In honour of this special anniversary, we are launching a unique collection that not only reflects creative confidence but also showcases an evolutionary design of the Titan Minimal Art, especially in terms of shapes and innovative lens treatments. In spring, the highly anticipated Titan Minimal Art Cosmic collection, drawing inspiration from the allure of science-fiction movies, will enter the market. This collection embodies a perfect fusion of futuristic aesthetics and cutting-edge design. Alongside this, 2024 marks a ground-breaking moment with the launch of our first sustainable eyewear collection. This milestone not only underscores our dedication to innovation but also empowers customers to make a style statement with a profound impact on environmental responsibility.

Interview with Silhouette: Titan Minimal Art line

Q: Can you share insights into the Color Groove feature in the Purist collection? What inspired the introduction of this feature and how does it enhance the overall design and customization options for consumers?

A: The latest drop in the core range comprises a dazzling array of shapes and colours offering a fresh spin on the brand’s famous rimless designs. Wearers can select from expressive oversize and cat-eye styles or two sophisticated but subtly different geometric designs. Silhouette has set the benchmark for sophisticated eyewear since 1964, but the Purist with Color Groove collection adds a personalized twist with a sprinkle of subtle eccentricity. Taking design cues from optical illusions, contrasting elements change depending on where they are viewed from. Featuring vibrant tones applied by hand for the very first time, the Purist with Color Groove collection offers the freedom to create unique styles as. Expressive shapes and a spellbinding spectrum inspired by light art channel the spirit of individualism in a minimalist and modern line-up. Each style can also be specified with unique 100% Silhouette lenses made to measure by lens lab glass specialists. Mapped to meet the individual needs of the wearer and optimize their peripheral vision, the process is perfectly coordinated and calculated to deliver the ultimate viewing experience.

Q: Given the brand’s rich heritage, does the designer draw inspiration from previous collections? How are these designs reinterpreted to appeal to today’s trend-conscious consumer?

Titan Minimal Art

A: Designers draw inspiration from a variety of fields, including architecture, art, fashion, and product design. However, it can also come from a simple pebble, or a piece of wood discovered during a casual jog. Designers always keep their eyes open, and curiosity serves as one of the most important tools. The more you observe, read, explore, and experience, the greater the opportunity to generate something fresh. We also think about what is missing in our collection and how we can add the latest trends. One of the most rewarding parts of designing eyewear for a heritage brand like Silhouette, is building upon past iconic collections and reimagining them for today’s consumer. In 1973, Silhouette’s Futura sunglasses first debuted and became an instant icon, having been worn and loved by some of the biggest names in music and entertainment.

Today, Futura sunglasses are a highly sought-after collector’s item, and we proudly reinterpret this special eyewear every few years as part of the Silhouette Heritage Collection. We’re also always thinking of new ways to present our hallmark TMA collection, whether that’s creating an offering of uniquely modern shapes or statement-worthy tints to appeal to today’s trend-conscious consumer, we’re constantly evolving while remaining true to Silhouette’s clear, minimalistic design language.

Q: Silhouette has expressed a commitment to sustainability. Can you share some specific initiatives the company is undertaking to become more environmentally responsible and to inspire others to follow this path?

A: Our mission is zero emissions. At our corporate headquarters and at our production site, we already use 100 percent CO2-free, sustainable and environmentally friendly electricity. Our energy is generated from natural, renewable sources such as wind, solar, small sourced power, and biofuels and is free of CO2 and nuclear power. We are committed to investing in clean energy for the future. Our own solar energy panels generate around 15 % of the electricity we consume each year. And our green energy mission is only just getting started. As a family-owned business, the Silhouette Group has always been mindful of the future of the planet. For many years now, we’ve been pursuing a goal to reduce our CO2 emissions to zero. So far, we’ve managed to halve our CO2 emissions within the space of seven years. Back in September 2022, we reached an important milestone: our eyewear production achieved the status of carbon-neutral with offsetting. The remaining tons are offset by acquiring certificates from international Gold Standard projects. Deriving from this, we cemented our key objective by adding a timeline, and we’re now working hard to ensure that our eyewear production is carbon-neutral without external offsetting by 2027.

Titan Minimal Art_SILHOUETTE

Q: Looking ahead, what are Silhouette’s key goals and priorities for the next few years? How does the brand plan to stay innovative and competitive in an ever-changing industry landscape?

A: In the years to come we want to keep setting the benchmark for premium eyewear. We don’t want to create just any eyewear – we want to create the world’s finest. At Silhouette we believe that quality is the crucial factor that separates our impressive design from the rest. Our focus on quality is what makes our glasses so reliable, comfortable and durable. We are continually looking for ways to improve our quality even further. Finding the right solutions calls for meticulous attention to detail. Even if you don’t always notice our innovative technologies at first glance, they are the secret to making our eyewear so enjoyable to wear. Constant innovation is also a top priority. We don’t just rest on our laurels. Just because something seems set in stone doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way of doing it. This constant curiosity, creativity and passion is what keeps us searching for new, innovative solutions. We will also continue to invest in our headquarters in Linz. This is our home, this is the place where it all started. We are proud of our Austrian heritage and the fact that our products bear the “Made in Austria” promise. Sustainability has always been a focus and will continue to be one in the coming years. We are emphasizing premium quality, and we also want to ensure that our customers feel great about wearing it. Our commitment extends to environmentally responsible practices in materials sourcing and manufacturing. Focused on both present and future preferences, we offer eyewear that not only looks good but aligns with a sustainable future.

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