Eyewear has risen from the realm of “unsightly” to proudly sitting front and- centre on this year’s autumn/winter catwalks for Gucci and Max Mara. Glasses graced the faces of Gemma Ward and Kristen Stewart in recent Prada and Chanel campaigns, and have seen the likes of Anne Hathaway, Jared Leto and Meryl Streep safely down many a red carpet.
It’s official: specs are in. And with the premium fashion eyewear sector estimated to be worth just shy of US$13 billion, and Luxottica, the world’s largest eyewear company and owner of brands including Ray-Ban, Oakley and Arnette, enjoying an 18 per cent profit increase last year, people are buying more than ever.
One independent Danish eyewear company, LINDBERG, has been basking in this most fickle of industry’s attention of late (partnering with British designer Zoë Jordan for her SS14 collection at London Fashion Week) – in fact, LINDBERG has been fluent in fashion for the past 30 years.
“Haute couture means high fashion and made to measure,” says Peter Warrer, global sales and marketing director of the brand that is now sold in 134 countries. “And that’s pretty much what LINDBERG collections are all about.”
They’ve recently launched a new collection, Precious, with obscure elements like 18 carat gold imported from Greenland, and even buffalo horn.
“The Financial Times recently acknowledged our project by writing an editorial in their quarterly supplement ‘Watches and Jewellery’ – the first time ever that glasses appeared there.”
Indeed, as journalist Elizabeth Paton observes: “A growing consumer appetite for technologically advanced, expertly constructed eyewear – often out of the world’s most precious materials – suggests that spectacles may have more in common with the world of watches and jewellery than initially meets the eye.”
“After all,” says Peter, “a watch is often behind your sleeve. The frame – the glasses – they are right in front of your face, in front of your eyes – your prime communicators. “Many people that are sharp-looking, we look at them and say, ‘Wow, what a nice Prada suit, what a nice Dior tie, but look at the frame! It’s fitted ridiculously,’” he laughs, adding that almost half of those with glasses have the wrong length frame. “Funnily enough, after some years with very geeky, nerdy frames that are heavy and big, there’s a trend now amongst young ‘cool’ people – they’re suddenly wearing very minimalistic, rimless frames. Almost invisible…”
Barely-there fads aside, once an obligatory accessory for the optically challenged, Peter says eyewear is increasingly a fashion discipline. “A frame is a piece of fashion personal equipment, like a watch, a tie, a shoe or a bag. So you could go the other direction and say, ‘Let me make it visible that I wear a frame – a fashionable one – and it fits my personality.’ Maybe it almost extends your personality, and in that way I think we’ve done a few things to help constitute a new fashion category – frames.
“We go to many lengths to do things the designers want to do,” says Peter. “We don’t let the engineers intervene, because they tend to say, ‘No, it’s not possible.’ We want the designers to have freedom – to say to the engineers, ‘We have a beautiful design, make it come true. Make it.’ “We try to encourage curiosity and unconventional thinking. Once, a picture of a woman’s set of teeth became the inspiration for an award-winning frame of ours.”
The award was a gold Silmo d’Or for Innovation and Technology at the 2011 Silmo exhibition in Paris – one of 59 international design accolades the label has bagged. But even in its infancy, New York’s MoMA was quick to recognise the optical revolution LINDBERG had started with their 1986 Air Titanium rimless collection, a look that has recently seen a resurgence. LINDBERG is inherently Scandinavian – understated, classically elegant and impossibly simple – certainly according to the laws of physics.
“We do something that’s against the laws of materials or physics. It’s like the bumble bee. It’s not supposed to fly, but it does.”