Ogi’s David Spencer likes to keep frames slightly edgy without getting too trendy (Evolution Style No. 3067 shown here).

American eyewear designers are expanding their outreach to include more creative additions in their collections.

Traditionally, Europe has been the center of eyewear design with Italy and France especially dominating the market. But in the last decade, American designers have become more prominent, creating popular collections that stand alongside their overseas counterparts. The following are a few examples of this trend.

A pioneer in luxury American eye-wear, New York designer Robert Marc launched his namesake collection in 1999. Each handcrafted frame features the brand’s trademarked hinge, constructed with premium ruthenium and inspired by an antique eyewear design.

Working mainly with acetate, Marc begins his creative process by developing custom materials in a cohesive color palette inspired by a visual concept. Once the completed materials are in front of him, Marc takes a sculptural approach to de-signing each frame shape. His layering of acetate in different colors, patterns, and textures contributes to the richness of his creations.

Few fashion figures could be considered as American as menswear designer John Varvatos. He is heavily inspired by rock ‘n’ roll (bands ZZ Top and Franz Ferdinand, among others, have appeared in ads for his clothing) and vintage American styling. For his eyewear line, Varvatos

Sunglass Style No. V759 from REM’s John Varvatos collection is based on a
Varvatos belt buckle.

collaborates with Nicolas Roseillier, creative director of REM Eyewear. They meet every two months and talk about their inspirations—everything from architecture to music to fashion.

The eyewear line takes its cues from the details of Varvatos’ other designs. A sunglass from the most recent collection, for example, is based on a Varvatos belt buckle that has a thin wire wrapped around a chunky piece of metal. For the eyeglass iteration (Style No. V759), the same type of wire is wrapped around the temple of an aviator frame, adding an intricate and modern touch to an otherwise classic style.

GETTING INSIDE THE BRAND Those who create eyewear designs under a designer’s license are charged with an interesting project—take clothing and accessories styles and bring them to frames. Amy Moore, who designs Lilly Pulitzer, kensie, and Thalia for Kenmark Group, starts this process by meeting with the fashion houses to review the collections. “Once I’m inside the mind of the brand,” she says, “I am able to take industry trends and adapt them to fit each specific brand. The exciting challenge is to take their concepts of the season, such as layering of fabrics, lace detailing, or even herringbone, and turn it into eyewear.”

Minnesota may not be considered a hotbed of high fashion, but that hasn’t stopped Minneapolis-based Ogi Eyewear from becoming a big player. Creator David Spencer, the son of a St. Paul optician, opened his own high-end shop in 1984, but noticed younger people coming in wanting more moderately priced frames. Unable to find exactly what he wanted, he started designing them himself.

The resulting line is known for simple, angular designs with bold color highlights. Spencer likes to keep frames slightly edgy without getting too trendy. Ogi has grown into four different ophthalmic lines, plus sun and children’s eyewear, expanding the small company’s reach to everyone.

So what is American style? According to Robert Marc, it’s all about “comfort, ease, practicality, and modernity.” But as proven here, it depends who you ask. It’s clear that, if nothing else, American style is impossible to encapsulate.

Kate Jacobs is an optician at the optical shop at Scheie Eye Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.

Kenmark Group
800-627-2898 •

Ogi Eyewear
888-560-1060 •

REM Eyewear
800-423-3023 •

Robert Marc
212-675-5200 •


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