ic! berlin – BERLIN’S ORIGINAL SCREWLESS EYEWEAR

4SEE FINE CRAFTSMANSHIP – ic! berlin along with its sister brand onono focus on creating unmistakable designs out of the very best materials. 4SEE visited ic! berlins production and talked to the owner Ralph Anderl.

Photography BERT SPANGEMACHER
Text DAGMAR SCHRAMM

 
With 180 employees, steady growth in Europe, and even faster growth in the USA and Asia – ever since the company was founded in 1996, ic! Berlin has been continuously expanding. “It took us a long time to really take off, though,” says CEO Ralph Anderl. “That’s why Berlin is the perfect place for us. You don’t have to be rich here, your company doesn’t have to skyrocket immediately.”

The inception of ic! berlin was more serendipitous than a meticulously mapped-out process: Ralph Anderl developed the signature spectacle frames without hinges together with friends from his Cultural Pedagogy program in college. They photographed unstable prototype and took them to an eyewear manufacturer who responded with a definitive ‘no’ and yet Ralph persevered, eventually leading the trio to produce eyewear on their own. “We approached it rather greenly but we were lucky,” Anderl explains. “Our adventurousness was the most important component, we didn’t have any notion of the market yet.”

a male German worker showcasing ic! berlin eyewear samples
4SEE Fine Craftsmanship – ic! berlin
4SEE Fine Craftsmanship - ic! berlin
4SEE Fine Craftsmanship – ic! berlin

Their unique concept succeeded in convincing customers who eventually became devotees of the brand. This success could be attributed to the fact that at ic! berlin, design and production are merged into one overall process. While other manufacturers let their partner companies produce their designs, ic! berlin prefers complete oversight over their in-house production. The unique screwless hinge is an important part of their designs, reinforced by their immense technical know-how. “The hinge works similar to origami,” says Anderl. “The close connection between design and function is the logical consequence.”

They use acetate from Italy while the stainless steel and colours come from Germany. Because the ambitious founders have been disappointed by third-party producers they do everything on their own. Their Berlin factory is the most effective advertisement for ic! berlin: they regularly give tours of the factory to international visitors and curious Berliners alike who spread the word about their experience of the entire eyewear manufacturing production. “Usually you’d have to travel to China for an experience like this,” says Anderl.

a female worker at ic! berlin in berlin
4SEE Fine Craftsmanship – ic! berlin

The typical ic! berlin customer is technologically adept – but that does not come as a surprise. Engineers, doctors, lawyers in their thirties or older rely on the exceptional quality and discreet style of ic! Berlin’s frames. “Our models are lightweight and easily adjustable. The screwless hinge makes them extremely stable,” says Ralph Anderl. “That’s why they’re also great for children, we’re working on stepping into this category as well.”

a picture of embossing a temple at ic! berlin
4SEE Fine Craftsmanship – ic! berlin

Making shareholders happy with quick expansion is the last thing Anderl wants to do. “To me, success means that our customers treat themselves with another model from our label because they are so convinced of our quality and comfort. The first pairs don’t need to be broken to have another pair. We focus more on longevity than lifestyle.” If you are looking for an extraordinary pair of glasses, you might find them at our sister brand called onono.

Their frames are made by hand from precious materials like buffalo horn and titanium. A production lot is small and they are produced both in-house as well as in cooperation with external partners. Looking ahead, onono says there will be 49 collections for the duration of 49 years, and each model will have exactly 49 pairs.

Ralph Anderl’s goal for the future: “We want to stay independent and continue producing in Berlin. Our eyewear joins the polar opposites of easiness and seriousness – we want to keep it that way.”

Photographer BERT SPANGEMACHER
Text DAGMAR SCHRAMM

An Eye for Detail – Robert La Roche

Looking back on Robert La Roche’s more than 40 years of history tells a story of how a brand’s reinvention led it to return to its roots.

Founded in Vienna by designer Robert La Roche back in 1973, the eponymous brand evolved over the past four decades leading it to success well into the nineties. Today the brand has refocused its commitment to producing quality eyewear by holding true to its foundations in heritage and craftsmanship. Last year, the new CEO Anthony Reid paired with creative director and designer Klaus Huber to lead the company forward. “We want to be authentic in everything we do. The quality of the products and materials, the people who work for us, the way we communicate and the product photography, which is intended to be raw and real and perpetuates the artistic origin of the label – all these elements define our brand.”

Editorial images produced and published in 4SEE Magazine DO NOT PUBLISH without permission. Any unauthorized usage is prohibited.

This philosophy is expressed in their exciting eyewear collection in which quality and craftsmanship, two defining qualities of the brand, are held to the highest standards. With their renewed emphasis on details, it made sense to work with a photographer like Michael Shindler whose artistic photographic process enables event the finest lines and details to stand out. He created a series of portraits inspired by Man Ray and Henri Cartier-Bresson that illustrate the exquisite detail in each of the Robert La Roche glasses.

At Robert La Roche the pursuit of the highest standard trumps a demand for high profits. The Austrians produce their glasses by hand in cooperation with the world’s best producers in Italy and Japan. These two production sites define Robert La Roche’s collections: The Italian site uses natural high-quality acetate, processed by experienced manufacturers. The material is cut into paper-thin layers, then stacked to produce the exceptional composite frame. The Japanese site then combines the acetate and titanium. Precise cutting technology allow both materials to remain visible, turning them into modern and striking statement glasses from these extraordinarily refined techniques. Anthony Reid leaves nothing to chance: he personally chooses the materials and colours together with Klaus Huber based on their shared design aesthetic that bucks the latest trends and fashion forecasts to stay true to the brand’s carefully crafted image.

Editorial images produced and published in 4SEE Magazine DO NOT PUBLISH without permission. Any unauthorized usage is prohibited.

Distribution is also carefully monitored and integral to the brand. “We don’t hand distribution over to just anyone. We want to make sure our glasses are being sold only by the best independent opticians around the world,” says Reid. Outsourcing distribution is completely out of the question for him, that is why salaried employees are responsible for the brand’s distribution. As for customers, there is no typical Robert La Roche customer – the 70-year-old lady as well as the young techie are both their target audience. “We design eyewear we would wear ourselves, that we are absolutely convinced of,” Reid summarises the basic principle of product design. “The people who buy our glasses have one demand in common: they want only the best quality, handcraft and exclusivity. I think our customers own a lot of things that last their whole life and bring out their own personality.”

Editorial images produced and published in 4SEE Magazine DO NOT PUBLISH without permission. Any unauthorized usage is prohibited.

Anthony Reid and his committed team are not short of ideas for the company’s future. “We want to keep improving, to offer the best service and expand our collection,” concludes Reid. “Hence opening our own office in New York is our next step, because we definitely feel that there is an increased demand from the USA and also from Japan.”

Editorial images produced and published in 4SEE Magazine DO NOT PUBLISH without permission. Any unauthorized usage is prohibited.

ROBERT LA ROCHE

Photographer  JORGEN AXELVALL
Fashion Editor  KEITH S. WASHINGTON
Writer  ANNEMARIE LUCK

Remember that time Brad Pitt designed his own furniture range and critics were full of praise for the surprise collection? Well, in Denmark, style icon Emil Thorup has pulled off a similar feat. The Danish public has come to know (and love) him primarily as a model and TV host on the country’s biggest national network, but the 32-year-old has been harbouring a passion for design that he’s finally found expression for in his new furniture brand called HANDVÄRK, which launched in August 2015.

While Thorup admits some people were reluctant to believe he could make a U-turn in his career and just begin designing furniture, he says he has actually been working on the side in design and architecture for several years. From his industry peers he has had nothing but praise, and says this is largely down to the fact that they are all ‘working for the same purpose – to promote Danish design to the rest of the world’.

We caught up with Thorup on his recent visit to Tokyo to chat more about HANDVÄRK, his inspirations and why he’s a huge fan of Japanese eyewear brand Frency & Mercury.

What’s your connection to Tokyo?
I have a great passion for Japan – the people, language, food and architecture. By heart, I’m an architect and residential architecture is amazing in Japan. I’d love for HANDVÄRK to open a flagship store in Tokyo. The style is international with a Danish flavor that – in my humble opinion – would go great with Japanese architecture.

What is it that you love about Japanese design and architecture?
It’s in many ways an organic version of the Bauhaus style, where function dictates form. In the Japanese “version” it’s more about the materials, the user and nature, but still, with excruciating detail, never adding any redundant design feature. Japanese minimalism seems to have some warmth to it – something that we, cold, Nordic minimalists could be inspired by.

emil.thorup_01Eyewear by Max Pittion Maestro in Black Tortoise
Grey sweater and white oxford with silver plated clip all by John Lawrence Sullivan

 

But with HANDVÄRK, you’ve said you want to stay true to Nordic DNA…
To me, the Nordic DNA is much more than just the design; it is based on passionate designers and skillful craftsmen. HANDVÄRK is one of the few brands left that produces all our furniture in Denmark. This means I have a day-to-day communication with the people crafting the steel frame to our tables and I probably see my upholsterer more than I see my own family. This gives us all a deep connection to the brand and all the know-how and skill possessed is not lost in translation.

Do you have any plans for a new collection yet?
I’m probably the most impatient designer you’ll ever meet – I’ve had the next two collections ready for several months. For now we have to focus on our first collection, the “Black/Brass”, but we have plans to release “The White Edition” in August 2016, which will feature powder white products with honed crystal white marbles and grey granites.

emil.thorup_02Eyewear by Max Pittion Shelby in Black Tortoise
Grey pinstriped suit and white oxford with silver plated clip all by John Lawrence Sullivan Leather cuff by John Lawrence Sullivan

 

You also work on other big design and architecture projects. Are you working on anything interesting at the moment?
I just finished designing a line of luxury pre-fab houses for building giant Kalmar-Huse. But my most interesting project at the moment is creating the HANDVÄRK Apartment. We have gotten our hands on a 300m2 historic apartment overlooking the royal park in Copenhagen – perfectly restored. Here, I’m decorating our showroom, primarily with our own furniture but mixed with the best of Danish and international design – and vintage items from around the world. A perfect place for a press brunch and it’s available to rent for shoots.

Your sense of style clearly crosses over from design to clothing. Do you have a favourite brand of eyewear?
I’m a huge fan of the Japanese brand Frency & Mercury, who make the most stunning eyewear. The brand is in many ways like my own brand – everything is produced locally, they use precious materials, titanium, silver and gold, and maintain a very high level of craftsmanship. And the young owner and designer, Eque, is a flamboyant and extroverted person – much like myself. [Laughs]

emil.thorup_03Eyewear by Max Pittion Shelby in Blue Tortoise
Black blazer and grey oxford all by John Lawrence Sullivan

4SEE Interview with will.i.am

4SEE INTERVIEW WITH WILL.I.AM

Will.i.am, hiphop sensation and style icon, shares his take on the worlds of fashion and music and tells us a little bit about the nature of collaborative projects such as his latest venture into eyewear with Ill.i Optics.

Photography BERT SPANGEMACHER
Text JUSTIN ROSS
Fashion LOR-E PHILLIPS

Graz Mulcahy, creative director of will.i.am’s new optical line, cleverly called ill.i, is leading the brand to new territories of innovation in materials and techniques, but he shares a deep-seated love for the past and an encyclopedic knowledge of style with the brand’s figurehead and style icon Will.i.am. The pair met some years ago while Graz was in Australia working as the lead designer for renowned label Ksubi. Willi.i.am fell in love with their eyewear collection and bought the entire series for his collection. So when, in 2014, he decided to turn his lifelong passion for eyewear into a business by creating his own line of signature eyewear Graz was the obvious choice to lead the creative product design and development.

4SEE Interview with will.i.am, at his LA studio, photographed by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Interview with will.i.am
Eyewear by ill.i OPTICS by will.i.am WA010V
Hat by MAISON MICHELE, Tan Shirt, Jacket, Pants, Shoes by ill.i, Smartwatch by PULS

Ill.i is an unconventional and edgy entry into the eyewear market that blends Willi.i.am’s love for music and the coolest retro shades with an authentic core of hip-hop. Graz, too, shares this passion for the best of the past remolded and reshaped by cutting edge materials and technology into the best of the future, or as he puts it “eyewear for all time”.

The brand combines high-quality classic materials and techniques such as cellulose acetate, steel, and titanium, refined by Graz’s more than 13 years of experience in eyewear design, but also isn’t afraid to experiment, always pushing the boundaries of what is possible by employing the latest technologies such as 3D printing. Ill.i is also unusual in its openness and willingness to gain inspiration from the work of other artists, having recently produced a collaboration with hip hop legend Slim Rick, and many more in the pipeline. The spirit of experimentation and collaboration is evident throughout the collections, and even as I jokingly asked Graz if he would ever consider rapping or appearing in music videos, he quite seriously replied that he had just completed a course in filmmaking and was in fact responsible for the music in some of Ill.i’s promotional videos.

will.i.am wearing his own eyewear, ill.i optics, photographed by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Interview with will.i.am
Eyewear by ill.i OPTICS by will.i.am WA524S SLICK RICK 03
Long sleeves turtleneck by ill.i

Ill.i is also just a starting point for Willi.i.am’s ever-expanding empire of fashion, music, art, and technology. We asked Will.i.am to explain to us a bit more about his ambitious approach to life and his shared love for music, fashion, and all things futuristic.

will.i.am. photographed by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Interview with will.i.am
Eyewear by ill.i OPTICS by will.i.am WA524S SLICK RICK 02
Hat by MAISON MICHELE, Tan Shirt, Jacket, Pants, Shoes by ill.i, Smartwatch by PULS

 

How would you describe your style?
Geek.street.couture

Where does inspiration come from?
I’ve had a passion for experimental eyewear since the beginning of my career; I’ve been collecting for over 20 years. I love the eyewear that 80s hip-hop groups and icons had, like how they would wear sunglass frames as glasses. We also looked at 80s graffiti characters and their oversize styles – but we made something contemporary, something modern.

In both music and fashion you seem to have a passion for the past, what does it tell you?
My passion is futurism with a retro approach. In terms of eyewear, I love looking at vintage shapes that inspire me, playing with them, twisting and reinterpreting them. We take the time to make each style a standout piece, looking at every detail and always asking, “How is this unique?”

4SEE Interview with will.i.am, at his LA studio, photographed by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Interview with will.i.am
Eyewear by ill.i OPTICS by will.i.am WA010V
Hat by MAISON MICHELE, Polka dot shirt, Strapped bomber Jacket, Pants and Shoes by ill.i

Now you’ve launched your own eyewear brand, ill.i optics, what three words describe it?
Super. Mega. Dope.

What can you say about fashion and music? How are they connected?
Fashion and music are like brother and sister. They are both forms of expression. One is a sonic expression and the other a visual expression through what you choose to wear.

You always seem to have a different pair of glasses on, in real life and in your videos, how do you choose?
I normally choose my glasses based on the hat or jacket I’m wearing. There are so many different and diverse options within each ill.i collection.

4SEE Interview with will.i.am
4SEE Interview with will.i.am
Eyewear by ill.i OPTICS by will.i.am WA517S
Hat by MAISON MICHELE, Strapped bomber Jacke von ill.i, Smartwatch by PULS, Ring – personal ring

Any favorites?
It would be impossible to isolate any. I love the entire ill.i collection.

Obviously, you are a big fan of eyewear, how many pairs do you own? // Can we see them all !?
I have been obsessed with glasses since I was 13. I used to dream about frames like the ones that Dwayne Wayans wore on ‘In Living Color’ and I have since been collecting experimental eyewear for 20 years.

4SEE Interview with will.i.am
4SEE Interview with will.i.am
Eyewear by ill.i OPTICS by will.i.am WA008V02
Long sleeves turtleneck by ill.i

This article originally appeared in the DESIGN & MATERIAL issue // published in September 2015.

4SEE Profile - Coco & Breezy, an eyewear design duo from NYC

COCO & BREEZY

Twin Sisters Coco and Breezy boldly proclaim that “eyewear is always your outfit”

Text JUSTIN ROSS
Photography LANCE CHESHIRE
Fashion Editor KEITH S. WASHINGTON
Makeup CHICHI SAITO@ Art Dept. for Mac Cosmetics
Hair MICHIKO YASHUDY

Coco was a couple of minutes late for our Skype interview, until she realized she was actually on Breezy’s account. She says this happens quite a lot since the twin sisters shared a single telephone and computer, with a joint e-mail account, until relatively recently.

Despite the obvious similarities, the sisters have discovered their individual strengths and struck a balance between being best friends and business partners. Breezy is creative and outspoken and takes care of most of the design process, while Coco, with her attention to detail and way with words, handles the business side of things.

4SEE Profile - Coco & Breezy, an eyewear design duo from NYC
4SEE Profile – COCO & BREEZY

Coco and Breezy started collecting vintage frames as teenagers as a way to ward off bullies. The glasses they wore offered a sense of security and eventually this notion became the basis for their brand which they launched in 2009 after moving to New York. From their home in Brooklyn, you can catch the pair enjoying a ride around the neighborhood on their matching bikes, but Coco will proudly let you in on a little secret, she rides a fixie, while her sister’s is free.

Today, Coco and Breezy, the brand they named after themselves, incorporates their distinctive styles and passion for geometry, art, and making a statement, and most of all, epitomizes their shared perspective that “eyewear is the outfit” and the rest of the clothing sort of falls into place after that.

 

4SEE Profile - Coco & Breezy, an eyewear design duo from NYC
4SEE Profile – COCO & BREEZY
Coco (l)
Eyewear by COCO AND BREEZY ZESIRO
Dress by LOEWE worn reverse, White shirt by EMPORIO ARMANI, Pants by NORMA KAMAIL
Breezy (r)
Eyewear by COCO AND BREEZY DYNAMIC
Leather coat by LOEWE, Top by OMO NORMA KAMALI

 

4SEE Profile - Coco & Breezy, an eyewear design duo from NYC
4SEE Profile – COCO & BREEZY
Coco (l)
Eyewear by COCO AND BREEZY ZESIRO
Dress by LOEWE worn reverse, White shirt by EMPORIO ARMANI, Pants by NORMA KAMAIL, Grey heels by LOEWE
Breezy (r)
Eyewear by COCO AND BREEZY DYNAMIC
Leather coat by LOEWE, Top by OMO NORMA KAMALI, Boots by LOEWE

This article originally appeared in the DESIGN & MATERIAL issue // published in September 2015.

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