While preparing for our upcoming vintage event, our very own Davida Hall has (maybe a little too much?) fun with some of the frames in our vintage collection, frames that Dan has collected over the years from around the globe.
The video features vintage eyewear by Royal Ritz, Emmanuelle Khanh, Yohji Yamamoto, ABC France, Optical Affairs-Christian Roth, Aldo Navarro, Junior Gaultier, Robert La Roche, Claude Montana, Cazal, Krizia, and Laura Biagiotti.
Recently we caught up with Tom Cody at Vision Expo West, and lucky for us, we had our iphone at the ready! Cody is responsible for (among great things in eyewear) bringing the Masunaga Optical brand, Japan’s the oldest eyewear company, to the United States.
Cody tells us the story of how, over 100 years ago, Gozaemon Masunaga, a politician, started with eyewear as a way to bring more work to the people in Fukui, Japan, then a farming community that needed more jobs during the cold winter. Masunaga allowed his best craftsmen to start factories of their own, eventually populating Fukui with a bunch of high-quality workshops, all with roots at Masunaga. They believed that if the quality was the best, then profit would eventually follow. We get a look at some of the details that make Masunaga so extraordinary as well as a sneak peak of what’s to come, including a solid gold classic revisited.
Masunaga Optical was started in 1905 by Mr. Masunaga who was actually working as a politician and he was on the board in the city of Fukui, Japan. And during the early 1900s – it was a farming community – and what happened was, there was not work to be had in the wintertime when it was really cold. So the farmers didn’t really have any way to make an income.
So what happened was, he wound up hiring all these engineers from all over Japan and he told them to come to Fukui to pitch him on what industries they could start to develop so they could create an income for the community.
So what happened was after the meeting with several different engineers from different fields, he felt like eyewear was the best industry to get into.
So he started the first eyewear factory in Fukui, Japan, in the whole country of Japan. He told all of his employees if they did the best work with handmade acetate, if they made hinges that were the best quality in the world, that they could leave the factory and start another factory nearby, which no other company would ever do, because they wanted their best employees to stay there. But he really wanted to promote eyewear for the community and build an industry, and he knew that if he had multiple factories in that community, that it would make the community better overall. So every single factory that is in Fukui, Japan, is a direct descendant from Masunaga, which is pretty cool. And there’s a lot of high end factories there, but they all have roots from Masunaga.
And what they’re doing is: they don’t care about profit, it’s all about quality. And they figure that profit will come if the quality is the best.
In the early 1900’s, in the 30’s and 40’s and they used to custom make handmade frames for the emperor in solid gold, like I was showing you earlier. And in 1970 they had the world’s fair in Fukui, Japan. And what happened was they had a frame that was so popular at the time it was iconic. They put it in a time capsule. And it’s the only eyewear brand that has ever been put in a time capsule, because they wanted something that spoke to the time period and also that’s classy and iconic to represent the eyewear industry.
So with this handmade acetate, it’s a seven-barrel hinge, and it’s pretty much built like a tank. They’re polished 2-3 times longer than most high-end brands. They’re hand-polished and also polished with clay, which gets out all the fine lines and little scratches and impurities, so it gives it that a really rich luster. I don’t know if you can tell with the camera but it’s a really deep, deep navy. It just looks really rich. And underneath the plastic…is a core of titanium. Now, we talk talk about the attention to detail with endpieces, etc. The [metal] that’s typically used underneath the acetate is a Monel or a nickel. It’s a softer metal and it’s cheap and inexpensive to use. But what happens is that when you have a heavy frame and you use the Monel or nickel it makes the frame that much heavier. When you use titanium, it makes the frame lighter, but it also holds the adjustment a little bit longer, and it keeps a tight fit so that state doesn’t go back to its original form, which is flat.
And then what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to brand Masunaga since 1905. So we etch it out. We do the old-school printing where it’s like an inlay, and we’re trying to show the history of the brand, because it’s truly one of the richest.
Everybody’s been coming out with black and tortoise, and it’s nice and everyone wants black and tortoise, but we wanted to create something richer, something with luster, something with personality, something unique, so we’re doing a lot of laminates and gradients that just kind of make things pop. We made this flesh tone, so it almost looks like on the skin it’s semi-rimless so it fades in, so it’s a nice contrast between the red, I would call that like a candy apple red, and the flesh tone of the underwire. This one is a beautiful, beautiful like a blue tort, nice laminate, and it’s actually laminated together to give it that depth and little rich texture.
This piece here is one of the first combinations of the p3 shape and it’s made with the old school way they put rivets. A lot of the companies these days cut corners, which Masunaga never does. They’re actually using the true rivets, so it holds together better. And all the acetate is a combination of the titanium. And the titanium is a really hard material that’s really hard to etch. Most companies use Monel or nickel. And this is like the first, the one-of-a-kind, the original. And now all the companies are taking inspiration from this over the years. Everyone thinks, oh well it’s a copy of this, a copy of that. Well, this is the original right here. It’s going to be featured at Dan Deutsch Optical on 3rd Street in Los Angeles and hopefully you can go by and check out the full collection.
I don’t look good in round, but I’ll amuse you just to show you. It’s a really clean fit. Most of the frames that are this thin feel flimsy. Since it’s a beta titanium it has a nice flex to it, but also, titanium, it’s hypoallergenic, it’s anti-corrosive, the advantage also is that it’s the lightest, strongest material in the world.
There’s not many companies that can make solid gold frames. These frames are solid gold. These are going to retail for $3500.
Dan sat down with Thierry Lasry recently in Westwood, CA to talk shop.
Lasry confides to Dan that he aspires to be to sunglasses what Christian Louboutin is to shoes. He tells how, with an optician father and fashion-designer mother, he was destined to design eyewear, and reveals how the mystery of keeping a low profile brand, with no visible logos or brand advertising has helped cultivate a loyal following of fans and celebrities including Rihanna, Madonna, Eva Mendez, Nicole Richie and Jessica Alba.
DD: Hi, I’m Dan Deutsch and I’m here to introduce you to Thierry Lasry, one of the best designers of fashion eyewear available today.
TL: Thanks, Dan for this introduction.
DD: I personally see it as one of the lines today that when you look at a frame, you just say “wow.” It’s like when Columbus came to America. What else can you discover? And once again we discovered his line because it is so exciting. The colors are very unique and definitely, unmistakably his.
DD: So my understanding is that your father is an optician in Paris for a long, long time and your mother is a fashion designer. So it must have been like growing up in school?
TL: Exactly. It’s actually…it’s all DNA. There’s not much more to explain. My father always used to travel worldwide and go pick out the most amazing and most unique collections for his store and my mother always taught me to be unique in style, so yeah it’s very natural.
DD: So, I find this collection to be incredible. I think you say in French, it’s magnifique. But in your opinion as a designer, what makes it stand apart from the other collections on the market?
TL: I think first of all they are very unique. They don’t look like anything else on the market. They have this mix of elegance and chic and creativity, which is something very kind of difficult to mix. They are all handmade in France. One thing that is noticeable on all the sunglasses: there is no logo, there is no name on the outside. And also, most of the designer’s frames right now on the market are all made in China and I thought it was time to bring quality to the market.
TL: Part of the collection is all about black and tortoise and very classy and elegant and also we came out with exclusive colors that we develop in house. We bring out a few limited editions using vintage materials from the 80’s.
DD: Just kind of sitting here looking at things. I would love to show the camera this particular treatment where you have a lamination of a beautiful tortoise on the front part and a fascinating pink lamination on the inside.
TL: Well, I was born in the late 70’s so I used to play with Legos.
DD: Oh, I was going to say that!
TL: That was the inspiration for those. We really wanted to use neon colors, neon blocks. And I thought instead of using them on the front, it’s going to make them very hard to sell and kind of funny looking, so we should play with this and layer this in the back and sculpt this as if it were a Lego.
DD: So, not only am I impressed with the design itself, I’m impressed with the uniqueness of the names.
DD: So this has got to be a little sense of humor going into this.
TL: …Yeah, there’s a real story where basically my last name ends with a “Y”. My first name ends with a “Y”. And I will give all my energy to all those frames. They’re like my babies basically. So, that’s why I decided to name all of them with a name that ends with a “Y”. So it goes in all kinds of directions from Sexxxy, Angely, Orgasmy, Adultery, Anorexxxy, Lively. So it goes in all kinds of directions but there’s always, yes…. Some people after some time they’re kind of addicted to it and so they really want to know, “Oh what am I getting this time?” I mean, they really pay attention now to the names. Like Adultery, everybody was like “Oh, I’m getting Adultery” It’s like so much fun…
TL: …One of the last ones called Virginity so, girls are like “I lost my virginity, it’s terrible! Can I have it back?” So cute. Really funny.
DD: [laughs] I like that.
DD: So, Thierry one of the reasons I invited you to this location is because I’ve had so many requests for your frames. And I thought it was totally amazing that you should have such world fame. And my further understanding is that you don’t do any advertising yourself…
DD: So how did you manage? Can I learn from you?
TL: That’s exactly against our policy. We do not do and never will do any advertising. And as for celebrities, we do not do product placement. Never. We do not send frames. We do not solicit anybody. Or sometimes we work directly with their stylist. Like that was the case recently with lady Gaga, with Rihanna. And sometimes we work with Rachel Zoe. And sometimes they also, like Madonna, directly contacted me, so that’s how she got sunglasses, too. There’s always a story.
DD: So, share with me. Give me some detail. What’s next?
TL: There’s one thing I can tell you: we’re not going to go into anything else besides sunglasses. The whole idea is that we need to create the quality brand for sunglasses. I would say, like any woman will think, “Louboutin for shoes,” I want women to think “Thierry Lasry for sunglasses.”
DD: So Thierry now that we are good friends, may I call you TL?
TL: Oh you totally can, Dan.
DD: OK, and thank you very much for coming down to LA
TL: And now that we are homies, we can do like that. [clasp hands]
Lucky for us, it’s the season for videos, and many of our designers are producing incredible fashion films. Take a look at Barton Perreira’s Spring/Summer 2012 offering that features a truly inspirational hot-air balloon ride.
We’re loving all the videos that eyewear designers are putting out these days. This high-energy entry from Etnia of Barcelona, directed by Mawashi Geri with music by Goiko Martínez, that really captures the eyewear company’s playfulness and alegría de vivir.