UNIQUE FOR THE BOUTIQUE

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Exuding individuality in their eyewear and their personalities, the members of edCFDA share their stories.

The edCFDA (Eyewear Designers of the Council of Fashion Designers of America) formed in 2014 when four eyewear designers (Gai Gherardi, Blake Kuwahara, Christian Roth and Selima Salaun), who were also members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, joined to create the subcommittee. This working group aims to inspire, empower and promote the eyewear industry as a whole.

Members of the edCFDA gathered at Selima Optique Soho in New York City during Vision Expo East to celebrate Frames for a Cause, a capsule collection that they created to benefit Fashion Targets Breast Cancer. From left: Shane Baum, Steve Kolb (CFDA president/CEO), Jeff Press, Blake Kuwahara, Selima Salaun, Gai Gherardi and Christian Roth. PHOTO BY GRIFFIN LIPSON

While together they form a collective, one composed of what might be called “friendpetitors” as each member of the edCFDA is a competitor of the others while also carrying each other’s product in their boutiques and engaging together in special collaborations, each one has a unique story.

Discover the backgrounds of some members of this dynamic group of eyewear designers, peruse their collections, ponder their predictions and learn what makes them tick in their profiles on the following pages.

BLAKE KUWAHARA
YEAR FOUNDED: KATA Eyewear (1992); BLAKE KUWAHARA Eyewear (2015)

BEGINNINGS: I was in my third year as an optometrist and met Dick Haft, president of Liz Claiborne Optics. As it happened, I was looking for a more creative outlet, and he was looking for someone with an optical background and an interest in fashion. It was kismet! He took a huge chance and offered me the position of creative director even though I had no experience. He then gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to design my own collection, KATA Eyewear. KATA became so much more than any of us ever expected. When KATA was sold, I became the creative director at REM Eyewear before branching out on my own and forming the design collective Focus Group West nine years ago.
The creation of my signature collection happened as organically. I ran some initial ideas by my friends from Bevel. They loved the concept and had a sales and operational infrastructure already in place: critical components.

FRAME LINE: My eponymous collection is an expression of my affinity for combining opposing aesthetics in unexpected ways — whether in the context of fashion or interior design. The fusion of two separate frames and the juxtaposition of contrasting forms and colors create a design tension that is unexpected and modern. My overarching aesthetic is minimal with particular attention paid to the tactile sensibility of each piece. To me, it’s not just how a frame looks on the face but how it feels in the hand.

COLLABORATIONS: With my fellow edCFDA members Gai Gheradi and Barbara McReynolds of LA Eyeworks (2016) and Jeff Press of Morgenthal Frederics (2018) as well as Behnaz Sarapfour, John Varvatos, Carolina Herrera, Isaac Mizrahi, Hanae Mori and Creatures of the Wind.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Creating something from nothing.

WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? Our current political leadership and how numb we are all becoming to bad behavior and incivility.

WHAT GETS YOU UP IN THE MORNING? The sun. I have no window coverings in my bedroom.

WHERE DO YOU SEE EYEWEAR HEADING? Consolidation at every level of our industry is occurring at a rapid pace. This may be good economics, but to me, it is killing the spirit of our industry. Eyewear has become commoditized by both the traditional behemoths and by the digitally native newcomers. It’s not about the product anymore; it’s about marketing and the bottom line.

Fortunately, that’s also created a backlash and appreciation for product that has an artisanal sensibility with a specific point of view. It’s one reason why the independent boutique category is growing while the middle market is now scrambling to find its way.

And, is why, in short, we formed the edCFDA in the first place. #designmatters


KREWE/STIRLING BARRETT
YEAR FOUNDED: 2013

BEGINNINGS: I returned to New Orleans after college, drawn to the city and the rich culture here. KREWE happened very organically — I was a photographer who felt the itch to create something tangible, and I wanted to do something from somewhere no one would expect. I had always had an affinity for eyewear and decided to dive in. Five years later, we’re still living by that mission: to do something from somewhere no one would expect.

FRAME LINE: KREWE is a New Orleans-based and culturally inspired eyewear brand that creates sunglasses as well as optical frames that allow you to “do you.”

BOUTIQUE:  KREWE’s Flagship store is located in the heart of the French Quarter at 809 Royal St. Designed in-house, the store was created as a concept retail experience. The flagship is known for its hospitality program, which features frozé and other seasonal offerings, such as our current Hibiscus Arnold Palmer. At the heart of the space is the Sun Room, which displays KREWE’s signature modern iconic eyewear. Frames can be individually fitted for optimum comfort and style in the custom fitting area. Our flagship store, 809 Royal is about a mix of the old and the new, the iconic and the modern — all centered on a feeling of community. Recently we’ve expanded our in-person experiences to include new stores in SoHo in New York City, the Lower Garden District of New Orleans and two mobile retail projects utilizing tiny houses. Each of these in-person experiences are opportunities for people to interact with the values we live by.

COLLABORATIONS: We are thrilled to announce a collaboration launching this summer with Reformation. Both KREWE and Ref are focused on sustainability, and this small collection will be completely biodegradable.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Building and sustaining a fashion brand from the city of New Orleans and staying true to our mission since day one.

WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? Nothing. I sleep really well.

WHAT GETS YOU UP IN THE MORNING? Doing something unexpected from a place that no one would expect. Sometimes I have to meditate in order to do that.

WHERE DO YOU SEE EYEWEAR HEADED? Consumers are caring more about sourcing, supply chain and ethical practices. Frame shapes and eyewear design in general are slight iterations on what has been designed in the past. As construction and production capabilities grow, so too will those iterations on classic designs.


L.A. EYEWORKS/GAI GHERARDI
+ BARBARA MCREYNOLDS
BEGINNINGS: Best friends since high school, l.a.Eyeworks founders/designers Barbara McReynolds and Gai Gherardi trained as opticians with the finest optical boutiques and craftspeople in southern California before opening their original Melrose Avenue storefront on September 9, 1979.

FRAME LINE: Original, often iconoclastic, and always invigorating, l.a.Eyeworks glasses are recognized for their bold shapes, imaginative handling of materials, and expressive use of color.

BOUTIQUE: l.a.Eyeworks is a privately owned house of optical imagination, encompassing two namesake retail stores in Los Angeles and a wholesale company that channels its designs to a global network of independent opticians and retailers.

COLLABORATIONS: l.a.Eyeworks most recently collaborated with fellow edCFDA designer Blake Kuwahara on a limited edition, eight-piece capsule collection in 2016. Previous partnerships have covered a broad creative spectrum from the Los Angeles Opera to the eclectic creations of Canadian shoe designer John Fluevog.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: We began l.a.Eyeworks with a mission to change the conversation about eyewear and to transform the idea of what an optical brand can be. As we prepared to open our first store, we put huge lettering in the windows that read “Changing the face. Facing the change.” What we discovered is that there are always people, lots of them in fact, who are hungry for new ways of looking at things. Hard work aside, we have been fortunate that we could accomplish our dream of making l.a.Eyeworks a platform for the intersection of eyewear design, artists’ visions, social advocacy, absurdly humorous gestures, political provocation, and most importantly, to be a place where all faces are welcomed because each one is deserving of celebration.

WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? The excitement of exploring something new. We are not worriers!

WHAT GETS YOU UP IN THE MORNING? The excitement of exploring something new. One of our catchphrases “Keep Fishing” is our encouragement to ourselves and others to be curious and to revel in the pleasure of discovery.

WHERE DO YOU SEE EYEWEAR HEADED? We know that these are challenging times for independent retailers and voices of design. The path has never been easy, but the challenge has always been rewarding. We still have so much more we want to say — frame designs to be realized, along with concepts that run beneath the surface of l.a.Eyeworks that we want to bring to light. We know that there will always be creative spirits who will never stop re-imagining eyewear, and bold individuals will continue to innovate the retail sphere. Our dream is that they can all have a seat at the table.


CHRISTIAN ROTH
YEAR FOUNDED: 1983

BEGINNINGS: We were in our early 20s in 1982, and I was very fortunate to assist a well known fashion photographer in New York City. One day on this multi-task job, because I was known to be a sunwear aficionado, I was asked to find the most extravagant sunglasses for a shoot to hide possible fatigue of a famous model. We searched all of Manhattan for an entire day, but we couldn’t find anything worthy to be photographed on this beauty. It was all too conservative and dull. While I was afraid of losing my job, on the contrary, when I came back to the studio to face the entire team about it, they proposed that Eric [Domege] and I start our own eyewear brand, which we did the following year.

FRAME LINE: Recurring themes that have consistently informed our work include the muscular proportions of Brutalist architecture, embodying the defiant aesthetic of the 1960s with an elegant sportsman’s flair. We also have long looked to the Bauhaus movement, which transformed once-disparate fields such as architecture, sculpture, photography and typography into a unified cultural current a century ago, as a primary source of influence. The collections explore a concept we have coined “Deconstructed Bauhaus,” an attempt to reconcile modernist design with a contemporary design philosophy informed at turns by irony, nostalgia and subversion.

COLLABORATIONS: We were privileged to collaborate with some of the biggest names in fashion.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Having a unique and harmonious work/life relationship with Eric for 35 years. On another note, with the support of American Vogue and godfathered by two influential American designers, I was invited to join the CFDA in 1990 — a first for an eyewear designer. Until then, the CFDA did not consider the eyewear category as fashion.

WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? A nice dinner party with friends, TV Series binge-watching, reading, reflecting and other exciting moments we won’t divulge.

WHAT GETS YOU UP IN THE MORNING? We are very fortunate, for the moment, to live on the ocean with full eastern exposure. Each sunrise is a spectacle by nature one doesn’t want to miss.

WHERE DO YOU SEE EYEWEAR HEADED? In an era of unprecedented disruption, the rapid pace of technological advancement has forever altered our social interactions and enhanced our ability to devise methods of self-representation that are unencumbered by traditional gender or social roles. For a designer, this creates an exciting opportunity to challenge outmoded concepts of beauty and function, to empower people to find new uses for durable ideas. Modernist notions of clarity and logic can be turned on their head and used — or not used — in an emotive way.


SELIMA SALAUN/SELIMA OPTIQUE
YEAR FOUNDED: SelimaOptique (1993); first collection (1996)

BEGINNINGS: New York made me do it! I opened my first store in Soho in September 1993, the current flagship store of Selima Optique. My first custom frame was the now classic red, round-rimmed Hubert, made for my friend Hubert Kriegel to wear on his 10+-year motorcycle trip around the world. In 1996, the first full collection of frames debuted and was picked up in its entirety by Barneys New York, becoming its first shop-in-shop. Today, I have six shops between the U.S. and Paris.

FRAME LINE: Selima Optique combines high fashion with everyday function, blending tradition and modernity to create genuinely timeless and eclectic eyewear. The collection is designed in New York and handmade in France and Italy.

BOUTIQUE: The interior designs of all my boutiques are very different from each other. I love vintage pieces, and a lot of my inspiration comes from traveling and from my all-time favorite city Paris. When traveling, I like to discover different stores, and I always find it to be an exceptional experience when stores offer a unique atmosphere and are not precisely alike around the world.

I love finding interesting spaces and creating projects specific to that place; combining another component with my eyewear. The thread that ties all my boutiques together is actually that they are all different! And while each one has its personality, an eclectic and colorful sensibility ties them all together.

COLLABORATIONS: Some collaborations include Iris Apfel, June Ambrose, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Vik Muniz, Neue Galerie, Paola Pivi and Russell Westbrook. I’m as comfortable in the fashion world as I am in the art or sports world. The Sugimoto project was unique and extremely interesting; it’s not every day that one can make wearable eyewear retailing for $40,000 and selling at the famed Gagosian Gallery.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Besides my family and pets, definitely Selima Optique.

WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? Theater, music and good friends. Now that my kids are independent I’m barely home at nights. I’m very involved with art and support a few organizations, like the National Sawdust Company in Brooklyn. I also have many creative ideas and inspirations at night. I think about future projects and what will be next. I always read before I go to bed, which is an excellent way of taking my mind off completely.

WHAT GETS YOU UP IN THE MORNING? Usually, my pets get me up followed by a few cups of coffee. Then I start responding to all my emails.

WHERE DO YOU SEE EYEWEAR HEADED? Fashion is having a moment where buying eyewear is more than buying a beautiful bag or a pair of shoes.  Eyewear is not only a fashion accessory; it’s a medical device. I believe the technical advances in eyewear will allow us to blend the fashion world and medical world even more.


BARTON PERREIRA/PATTY PERREIRA
YEAR FOUNDED: 2007

BEGINNINGS: I am a self-taught designer. I honed my design skills during an 18-year tenure at Oliver Peoples. After the sale of the company in 2006, I joined forces with Bill Barton, and together we founded Barton Perreira in 2007.

FRAME LINE: With this anniversary collection, there is a nod to the past with refreshingly modern results. For me, they represent a bit of fantasy, romance and nostalgia. Throughout our ten years, we have continued to focus on our commitment to innovation, design and impeccable craftsmanship as all frames and lenses are handcrafted in Japan. From a design/product perspective, Barton Perreira has introduced design engineering and several techniques that are firsts in the industry — for example, snake and leopard pattern inlays on metal, 3D printing on sunglass lenses and a patented screwless hinge system.

BOUTIQUE: Since launching in 2007, the brand has expanded domestically and internationally. We are now available in 47 U.S. states, 56 countries, as well as having four brick-and-mortar shops in New York, Aspen, Nashville and Kansas City.

COLLABORATIONS: Barton Perreira x Chloe Sevigny for Opening Ceremony, Barton Perreira x Albert Maysles for Barney’s New York, Barton Perreira x Goodman’s for Bergdorf Goodman Men’s 25th Anniversary, Barton Perreira x Tuff Gong, Barton Perreira x Mister Cartoon, Barton Perreira x Giovanni Ribisi, Barton Perreira x Christian Roth.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: It was scary for me to leave my job that taught me most everything I knew up to that point. Taking that knowledge along with encouragement from family and friends, I decided to join forces with Bill to create our own brand. We knew we had the talent and are fueled by the same passion, so we decided to take the gamble and Barton Perreira was born. It has been ten years and we haven’t looked back.

WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? Timelines . . . they are the enemy of creativity, but they keep me on track. Also, reinventing myself to remain relevant is one of the most difficult things one can do . . . particularly while trying to remain true to myself, my art and what inspires me as a designer. You have to work incredibly hard to gain success, but you have to work twice as hard to maintain it.

WHAT GETS YOU UP IN THE MORNING? Family, doing what I love for a living and my relentless determination.

WHERE DO YOU SEE EYEWEAR HEADED? I feel we are in a transition period. I think the athleisure trend in fashion is finding its way into eyewear. However, with that said, my design process is quite instinctual. I prefer not to follow trends. When you go against the grain, it usually stands the test of time.


LEISURE SOCIETY/SHANE BAUM
YEAR FOUNDED: 2011

BEGINNINGS: I founded Leisure Society in 2011 when my mentors encouraged me to design my own collection after my tenure at Louis Vuitton.

FRAME LINE: Every piece we make is 12, 18 and 24 karat gold-plated titanium, best-in-class polarized lenses delivered in a 100% genuine leather tri-fold case in collaboration with Hook & Albert. As I put it simply, “the world’s finest with a lifetime warranty.”

COLLABORATIONS: I did a collaboration with Mark Mothersbaugh (of DEVO fame) and have several in the works.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Creating a brand that is an extension of my personal lifestyle and beliefs. Every frame we make has a small key on it as a constant reminder to make efforts toward spending time with family and friends, achieving your life dreams, one day at a time. Whenever I’m able to spend the weekend on the polo fields or fly fishing in the mountains and call it “work,” I feel as though I created that kind of career path.

WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? Running a small but growing company is not without inherent challenges. As the founder, designer and CEO, I have my hands on nearly everything that can become an overwhelming responsibility. Oftentimes I find myself up at night, making a few notes of things that need to be done or could improve the company (or myself).

WHAT GETS YOU UP IN THE MORNING? I love to wake up in the morning with a strong cup of coffee, the opening of the U.S. stock market and reading overnight emails from our European team. Then into the office for the marketing, sales and design side of things. It’s a true privilege to head into the office and work with a bunch of fun and talented people who I’ve handpicked to help grow the company.

WHERE DO YOU SEE EYEWEAR HEADED? I think eyewear is going in a direction with materials and metals that we haven’t seen before. The “intake redone” phase has been going on for over a decade, and now I believe times they are a-changing. Technology is being creatively applied to new materials such as titanium, carbon fiber and aluminum alloys. Shapes will always be shapes, though, and will simply vary in size until there is a vast evolution in the composition of the human face. 🙂


MORGENTHAL
FREDERICS/JEFF PRESS
YEAR FOUNDED: Frederics Opticians (1913); Morgenthal Frederics (1986)

BEGINNINGS: I began in the industry in 1996 and was fortunate to work for a wonderful mentor, Richard Morgenthal, who really enabled me to understand the business from the sales floor to the design room. I became designer and creative director for Morgenthal Frederics in 2006.

FRAME LINE: Morgenthal Frederics is best known for our use of specialty materials. We utilize buffalo horn in unique ways and have developed the largest horn collection in the industry. I truly love horn as a material and felt that we could create a collection in our stores that was not a novelty but a product assortment that would be our centerpiece.

COLLABORATIONS: Morgenthal Frederics currently creates eyewear collaborations with Oscar de la Renta, Monse and Rosie Assoulin.  We began with Rosie in spring of 2017 and with ODLR and Monse for spring 2018. Working with such talented people is truly energizing, and we look forward to growing together. When working together, we love to find paths that really pair both brands’ DNA seamlessly.
We also were excited to do a collaboration with Blake Kuwahara this season and have upcoming collaborations with Mykita, Maybach and Matsuda. It’s an honor to work with some of our favorite people and brands in the industry.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Creating the largest buffalo horn collection as our centerpiece product.

WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT? I try not to let too much keep me up at night, but you always want to be sure you are remaining vital and innovative. The industry is filled with great talents who work hard to create beautiful product, which is very exciting but means you need to keep growing.

WHAT GETS YOU UP IN THE MORNING? What gets me up each morning is the gift of being able to create for a living. I love eyewear and love creating pieces that are so intimate to our clients’ life. The entire process excites me as much today as it ever has, and I love the days when samples arrive, when production arrives, and most of all, when I walk down the street and see our eyewear on clients’ faces. I never lose sight of the fact that these clients could choose any eyewear, and when they choose ours we are truly a part of their lives.

WHERE DO YOU SEE EYEWEAR HEADING? I think eyewear’s future is so bright, and that really excites me. Eyewear has broken into being a respected accessory and fashion staple. I think it’s the most important, considering its presence on the face. The industry has never had more talented individuals doing more interesting things, and the use of special materials, paired with technology, and beautiful design work from around the world make me think the future has never looked better for the industry.

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