Photography BERT SPANGEMACHER
Text JUSTIN ROSS
The name SALT. itself stands for the key ingredients of the brand: Sea, Air, Land—and Timelessness. This passionate admiration of the power of nature guides SALT. on its clearly defined mission to create “simple things made well”—beautifully constructed eyewear with consistently great fit and purely modern designs. Doing so requires an unerring attention to detail and careful oversight of elements of the design, fabrication, and assembly process.
With headquarters in the historic Southern California town of Costa Mesa, just minutes away from the majestic Pacific Ocean at Newport Beach, it is no wonder that SALT.’s timeless designs are inspired by the beauty of nature in all its many forms. SALT. CEO Aaron Behle and lead designer David Rose explained to us their secrets to success during a brief break from whale watching in a small bay just up the coast from their offices.
The carefully selected team of eyewear experts that work at SALT. has been steered by Aaron since joining SALT. four years ago. For him, SALT. is first and foremost an eyewear company that prides itself on fit, and not just creating that perfectly balanced frame that rests comfortably on your face, but being able to reproduce it time and again, “At SALT., the notion of fit is so important. People don’t talk about that, it’s assumed, but it’s not happening. That’s why a lot of what is happening in eyewear is mass produced and it doesn’t fit – it’s not designed to fit and it is not run through a factory where they can execute consistent fit – and that consistency is a really really big part of why our brand is so successful.”
This unwavering commitment to fit is also what compels lead designer David Rose to seek out the highest quality materials including Japanese beta-titanium, Japanese and Italian acetate, and top-notch lenses for their eyewear. SALT. makes a concerted effort to source from the same suppliers and work with single batches, ensuring that each of their frames attains the high bar for consistent quality and fit that SALT. sets. It is crucial to David that “quality is there from day one, and not only day one, but the second year, five years, even ten years down the road.”
When it comes down to their lenses for their sunglasses range, David spends a lot of time finding the best lenses from German and Japanese suppliers, even paying extra to get a hold of custom lenses that perfectly combine performance, design, and color. “What has been true, and true with David as a designer, is that we don’t compromise,” says Aaron, justifiably proud of David as a designer and the great results that this uncompromising approach has led to.
David, who joined SALT. ten years ago, has carefully cultivated relationships with the best factories in the world, allowing SALT. to create their frames in a precision-driven, seamlessly integrated manufacturing process that can only be achieved in Japan. He has been working with the factory in Japan that produces all of SALT.’s frames for nearly twenty years. And according to Aaron, this loyalty has paid off: “the Japanese equation is still very very unique in eyewear. No one does fit better than the Japanese. From raw materials to finished product, every single step of the process is reviewed, evaluated, controlled. In 2008, after the recession, a lot of companies were pressured, and they left Japan, but we said no, we were going to stick with our partners, this is the best place in the world to make it—there is real loyalty to the factories there with our manufacturers.” By maintaining these hard-won relationships with the most reputable manufacturers in the world, SALT. retains its ability to lead the industry in quality, consistency, and fit.
SALT.’s frames are available worldwide, and even in their global strategy fit comes into focus as the brand works with their local distributors to select and modify frames to make sure that the best fits are reaching different face shapes in Asia, Europe, and North America. This level of awareness in design, and the courage to make brave business choices that maintain relationships with suppliers, build loyalty, and inspire confidence in the brand by guaranteeing always the highest quality materials makes SALT. a truly timeless brand and an undeniable example of fine craftsmanship.