Like a sleek, high-performance Mercedes or cutting-edge fashion from designer Karl Lagerfeld, German manufacturers pride themselves on combining technology with sophisticated design. These five frame companies are no exception.
WHEN IT STARTED 1996
THE ESSENCE ic! berlin produces luxury lightweight stainless steel (locally sourced) frames, as well as acetate, 3D-printed and rubber models, with a trademark interlocking fastening clip that uses no screws, soldering or welding.
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY All ic! berlin’s signature screwless spring-hinge insert system steel frames are “optician-proof,” meaning they can easily be taken apart and put back together by the eyecare professional, according to Katie Murphy, director of marketing and communication.
SELLING POINTS ic! berlin’s frames are lightweight and flexible with strong shape retention.
ABOVE AND BEYOND The hand-cut aluminum frames are made using a laser-sheet-metal-cutter and assembled by fitting a clasp around a slit on the right side of the hinge. Frames also have an s-curve, which protects against twisting or misalignment.
WHEN IT STARTED 1975
THE ESSENCE Established as the “it” eyewear accessory for big-name rappers back in the ‘80s, the brand today is just as popular with wearers who embrace bold, stand-out looks. Additionally, Cazal carries a full collection of sunwear and men’s and women’s optical frames, with most made of pure titanium, some with 24-carat gold plating.
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY The late Carl Zalloni created Cazal to reflect the concept of expressing individuality, always in a striking way. “When you sit in a luxury German car like a Mercedes or BMW, you then truly understand what makes it so special,” said Jason Shyer, Eastern States Eyewear managing director. “With Cazal, it is just like that, too: Wear the frame and you’ll feel the difference – the look, comfort and quality. You’ll feel like the master of the universe.”
SELLING POINTS Newer celebrity Cazal wearers such as Brad Pitt and lifelong fans such as Spike Lee prove that Zalloni’s mantra, “To be something that is a true vintage, it must first be a true original,” has passed the test of time.
ABOVE AND BEYOND The consumer phenomenon known as “Cazal Fever” developed as a result of these anti-mainstream styles; each pair makes a statement. The frames are also made with 50+ parts and 70+ processes.
(Optische Werke Passau)
WHEN IT STARTED 1947
THE ESSENCE Frames in OWP’s Mexx, Metropolitan and OWP lines are designed every step of the way in the company’s Passau offices, from the first sketch to the completed frame.
PHILOSOPHY For the OWP team, frame design is an artistic pursuit. “We get to know the spirit of a product,” said Dagmar Hagen, head of design. “Elaborate color development, carefully chosen materials and thorough development processes create a frame that isn’t merely the thing you wear because of poor eyesight. It’s a fashion accessory that becomes part of your character.”
SELLING POINTS OWP designers choose block titanium, lightweight aluminum or high-density acetate materials, but it’s the color development that stands out. The design team collaborates with Italy’s Mazzuchelli to design custom acetates in vibrant hues and exciting patterns exclusively for the OWP Ladies collection.
ABOVE AND BEYOND “Our team, comprised of wild youth and experienced experts, works to create spectacles of perfect proportions with well-balanced shapes and an exciting world of colors,” said CEO Werner Paletschek.
Wagner & Kuehner
WHEN IT STARTED 1945
THE ESSENCE This rapidly expanding company based in Bad Kreuznach is the parent of nine brands offering metropolitan, business and casual styles. It shipped out 650,000 frames in 2015. In 2017, the company introduced Emil “K,” with classic styles and playful patterns at a moderate price point, and DEEJAYS, value-priced urban frames for young adults.
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY Creativity, innovation and quality ingredients combine to form each Wagner & Kuehner line. Beta titanium, cotton fiber acetates, ultralight stainless steel, TR90 and ULTEM are all used. The MORE & MORE collection features several proprietary acetates.”
SELLING POINTS The 67-employee team has specialists at work on every stage of produc- tion. Quality control is paramount. “We use comprehensive quality management, with the latest measurement technology,” said Michael Spreyer, USA sales director. “In addition, we cooperate closely with an acknowledged external testing laboratory.”
ABOVE AND BEYOND This year, Wagner & Kuehner was voted Best Optical Suppler in a bi-annual survey of German opticians and optical professionals by Markt Intern.
WHEN IT STARTED 2003
THE ESSENCE Berlin-based Mykita is a high-style, tech-forward manufacturer whose first collection was made with a 3D printer (now the Mylon line). There are also collections using ultra-light 0.5mm thin stainless steel sheets and custom acetates from a family-owned Italian company.
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY Mykita uses advanced technology and handcrafting to create avant-garde frames with sophisticated color combinations and textures.
SELLING POINTS A spiral hinge, instead of adhesives or screws, holds the stainless steel frames together, enabling strength with a light appearance. The company partners with fashion designers including Bernhard Willhelm, Damir Doma and Maison Margiela.
ABOVE AND BEYOND The Mykita Mylon collection uses a 3D printing technology called Selective Laser Sintering, wherein a laser fuses polyamide powder into solid objects and gives the frames an organic-looking surface. “The technology was adopted from the automotive industry, where it was generally used to make small prototype parts for engines,” explained Victoria Ott, communications coordinator. “The frames are incredibly light, sturdy and thermally adaptable – a truly modern material.”
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AXEL S. has been run by the same family since 1974, and the team’s pride is as bold as its color-forward frames. “ “We love the presence of thoughtfully added, perceptible details,” said Alexander Uebele, designer and owner.
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Pretty much no idea is off limits at Funk, which Dieter Funk created in 1992 for men (Dieter Funk) and women (Sashee Schuster). Natural materials such as feathers, leaves, seeds, herbs and even, amazingly, ground coffee are used.