ØRGREEN LAUNCHES A NEW LINE, CELEBRATING TWENTY YEARS OF INNOVATIONS IN EYEWEAR
Interview JUSTIN ROSS
4SEE had the chance to sit down with Henrik Ørgreen, one of the founders of the much loved and highly acclaimed Danish eyewear brand which takes his name Ørgreen, to talk about the company, its past, and its exciting future, twenty years since its founding in 1997.
4SEE: What inspired you to start Ørgreen and what were the founding principles that launched the brand twenty years ago?
Henrik: I think everybody has a dream about creating their own brand. It’s key to mention that we were also a team. I had two partners who were founders from the beginning, Tobias Wandrup, who was and still is the head of design, and Gregers Fastrup who is our sales manager and has been in charge of all the sales. So, it was also the dream about us three creating a project together that inspired us. To have our own thing going on.
I think what inspired us to start Ørgreen was that we felt that we could do something different than what we saw in the market, we felt that it was time to have our own brand, that we were the ones who made the decisions. That also means that if you make a wrong decision it’s your fault, but we were willing to take that on. We also were trying to, at the beginning especially, to push the boundaries. At the beginning maybe we were a little bit more extreme—that was kind of our style—but you will always see that no matter how extreme we were in our taste, we always had that eye for design or for detail.
4SEE: Who are some of your design heroes? Do you feel connected to the tradition of impeccable Danish design?
Henrik: It’s funny you ask that. Normally I would give you some fashion designers, but actually what I want to talk about are architects and furniture designers. When you ask me who are my designer heroes, there is no doubt about it that they come from furniture and architecture. Here you have a very famous guy called Poul Kjaerholm. Poul Kjaerholm was, in my opinion, one of the greatest architects and furniture designers of our time. He is a Danish guy, and he did exactly what we are talking about. He made the right choices in terms of materials, the right choice of design and lines, but he combined it with a little bit of a twist and edge.
The Danish design DNA is about being clean, with attitude. It’s about playing with material. It’s about going new ways, but not just crazy new ways, but making it cool and making it wearable. Of course there is a difference between a building, a stool, and eyewear, because eyewear you put on your face. You can have that crazy stool in your house and you are not wearing it around all day. For eyewear it is a bit of a trick, it is not just about making crazy designs or unique designs, it is also about creating something that makes you look good or gives you what I call a little attitude.
We are very much a part of the Danish tradition and we are proud of it—with a little bit of a twist and attitude.
4SEE: Twenty years is really a big milestone. How does Ørgreen feel to you twenty years later?
Henrik: I’m extremely proud. It was great to be able to start Ørgreen twenty years ago. We are still the three partners in the company. We are still very happy and very proud. Today we are a company that employs many people around the world, and we have a responsibility to those people and to our customers. I feel that when we put something on the market, with our company’s name on it, we have to do high quality and something that is suitable. It is a little bit like growing up, but still 100% true to our roots.
So I think that part of being professional—listening a little bit more, that this is a question of function and ergonomics—the frame needs to fit, you need to mount the lens, you need to have the right base grip, the length of the temple, you need to have all these small details. Growing up means you become more professional. It feels fantastic after twenty years to be a part of the industry. I would say detail, design, balance, quality and finish, that is what we are proud about twenty years later.
4SEE: Tell me about what is new at Ørgreen. You are coming out with a new tech-driven line called the Quantum collection?
Henrik: Over the past five or six years at Ørgreen we have been developing internally a lot of new collections, but we never brought them to market. We’ve been experimenting again and again and again. If I start counting what the design department did we have maybe developed a minimum of twenty concepts that never made it to market—with special features, special hinges, special mechanisms, where we tried to combine things with floating hinges. All of this we have been experimenting with over the past six years.
Approximately one-and-a-half to two years ago, Tobias came up with this idea of having a hidden hinge, combining titanium with polyamide material. And somehow it was the idea that Ørgreen wanted to have for a technical hinge concept. We wanted to go that direction and we were looking and searching for that. And that is how we arrived at the Quantum collection.
When we talk about Danish design, or Ørgreen, it is very minimal, and so the whole idea was to hide the hinge. We wanted it to be clean and simple. And I think that is the whole definition of Quantum, we use minimal space. We wanted to take it one step further than just making a cool technical hinge: we wanted to do a cool technical hinge that was minimal and that was hidden.
That’s when we came up with what we call the hidden hinge, which is in the Quantum collection. It is a very simple concept: you have a temple in titanium, but you have some very unique, patented bends, which have a temple that has been milled down on the ends. After that you have what we call the hidden hinge, and then you have a front which is made of polyamide, which has been constructed in a way so that it fits seamlessly together.
4SEE: And why did you decide to work with a new material, polyamide?
Henrik: It is a combination of titanium—which is a material that we have worked with for fifteen years, a high-end material—and the combination with the polyamide material. What’s so interesting about polyamide is that you can construct it extremely thin, so it has many advantages over acetate for example: it is much more flexible, it is much stronger, and it is lighter.
So what we did is we took the polyamide and took it to the next version. You’ve seen other people use polyamide, but you’ve never seen anybody do it the way we do it. When you see our material you will see that the surface is different, the color is different, the structure is different. Instead of just taking polyamide and saying that looks good, we really took it to the next step. When we come out and we use it, we can really stand behind it with the Ørgreen name. It is on a higher level than you have ever seen before. Then we combine it with titanium, and we combine it with our tech-hinge, and in that way we create the Quantum with a hidden hinge, with the Polyamide 2.0, and the high-end titanium.
4SEE: Who is the new Quantum collection designed for?
Henrik: When we look at the target group, it is always a combination of men, female, and unisex. We also try to categorize into the urban customer, the classic customer, and you will also have what we call the noise category, which are the ones with a bit more attitude. It is a very nice collection targeting design-conscious customers and ones that can also understand tech.
4SEE: Color also plays a significant role in developing Ørgreen’s singular aesthetic. How will this work with the Quantum collection, and what are some of the first color stories we can expect?
Henrik: Ørgreen is known for colors, it is not just because of our design or our quality, it is also because our customers like our color play and our color combinations. So, of course for us, it was key to have that also in the Quantum collection. We had Sarah Lysell, our color designer, play for a long time with that. She probably developed 30, 40, 50 different colors for the front and 20 or 30 for the temples, and at the end of the day we settled on 17 different colors for the front, and 7 different colors for the temples.
We were trying to find that perfect look, also in terms of colors, for that urban, design-conscious customer that we talked about. We are doing 23 different designs, so it is quite a large collection we are coming out with, so you will see a lot of different color combinations as well.
4SEE: When will consumers be able to get the first pairs of the Quantum collection?
Henrik: We are introducing the new collection publicly at SILMO, and then the launch into stores will be at the beginning of November, so you will have the frames on the market the 1st of November this year.
Photo Credit: Ørgreen