SILMO PARIS Captivating AttentionStruktur. Over four vibrant days, the expansive halls of Parc des Expositions de Villepinte transformed into a melting pot of creativity and innovation as the optical industry’s most on-trend designers, opticians, and brand representatives from around the world met for Silmo Paris. Alive with the buzz of long overdue conversations between excited attendees – many of whom have been unable to travel to Paris since 2019 – Silmo felt like a happy reunion where past met present for a sneak peek into the future of eyewear. mivision was among the nearly 27,000 visitors from 147 countries who dipped in and out the 750 exhibitions. MONOCHROME NO MOREBetween the cheerleading acts at Vinyl Factory Eyewear, the tin-foiled walls of Odette Lunettes, and the many DJ booths playing music, there wasn’t a canvas left blank at this year’s Silmo. While it may be difficult to pinpoint one distinctive theme, it is fair to say that a large proportion of brands favoured the bold and the colourful, presenting avant-garde designs that encourage consumers to take a leap of faith. Under a glimmering shower of silver tinsel, Diego Kim, who is reluctant to think of himself as a designer, despite being the mastermind behind each of Albert I’mStein’s quirky frames, epitomised this with his brand’s showcase. “I’m not into the toned-down monochrome frames, I like something fun and colourful,” Angry Angel, one of the 15 collections Mr Kim developed during Poland’s lockdown, launched at Silmo. The unique design, which Mr Kim says makes him “the happiest”, features two thick zigzag panels positioned at the top of the frame. They distinctly resemble eyebrows, a facial feature Mr Kim lacks. “I originally made this model for myself to see what it would be like to have nice, strong black eyebrows. Then I transformed the idea so the frame would work for everyone,” said Mr Kim. For both Mr Kim and Jürgen Pomberger, CEO of Johann von Goisern, colour equals happiness. “Especially in current times, after the worst of COVID, people love to wear colourful frames because it’s some tiny piece of positivity that can bring them happiness,” said Mr Pomberger. “We’ve done colours for the last 30 years and we’ll do colours for the next 100 years. It’s forever.” With Johann von Goisern’s unique laminating process, which Mr Pomberger likened to the making of a complex sandwich, a frame can combine up to 20 colours to create original ‘uni-colours’. “After sourcing the raw material, the production process takes four weeks with over 80 handwork steps to make the frames. The technique itself is an artform,” said Mr Pomberger. Thierry Bonhomme, the designer behind Struktur’s colourful creations, is inspired by “everything except eyewear” and says, “a good design is not too complicated, not seen elsewhere, detailed, and well balanced”. His frames, which are handmade in Normandy, France, are always bright, though the Diamond model, in the Sun Icecream collection, really takes the cake. Combining nine colours, this rainbow frame took a year of research and development to perfect and is one of the designs of which Mr Bonhomme is most proud. “Sometimes the frames that seem to be ‘too much’ are the best sellers, because people like the colours. It’s hard to be sure with colour, and I rarely am sure. In fact, not being sure is a real asset because if you’re sure, you’re dead.” Caroline Abram – both the eyewear brand and the designer herself – is the embodiment of bold beauty. She is confident and sure of herself, which is exactly how she wants women to feel when they wear her frames. Inspired by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma’s redesign of the Saint-Maurice d'Angers cathedral in France, Karma – her latest collection – presents a mix of antique and futuristic, or the ‘fifth element’, as Ms Abram describes it. “The frames have a very futuristic, sharp, and angular shape, but of course, are very colourful. The colours, when you look at them from a catalogue perspective, look like stained glass.” Wearing a pair herself, Ms Abram noted how, while very bold in design, you can’t see the frame because “it’s so much a part of me”. “Most of the time when women choose a frame, they are surprised by themselves. They think they would rather have something discreet, but suddenly they try something bold and it really fits, and they think ‘wow, I feel like this is me’.” UNDERSTATED ELEGANCEThey say opposites attract, and when it comes to design tastes, that couldn’t be more true for Ms Abram and her husband, Gianluca Gualandi. Positioned in the booth next to his wife, Mr Gualandi’s brand, Talla Eyewear, presented understated frames guided by the Italian principle of ‘la sprezzatura’ – whereby, at first glance, art is concealed, appearing effortless.When I spoke to Mr Gualandi, he articulated how his frames are a seamless extension of himself – an insight into the mind of their creator. His dedication to craft and design authenticity is perhaps best evident in his Arabesco collection, inspired by the work of designer Carlo Mollino, who would ask artisans to create his furniture designs exactly how he’d hand-drawn them. With pencil and paper of his own, Mr Gualandi did the same for his eyewear, creating frames reminiscent of 1950s furniture. Albert I’mStein. Mykita. Thor by Kirk & Kirk. Gianluca Gualandi, Talla Eyewear (below). His love for Italy in the 50s continues in his latest collection, Americani. “I wanted to design a vintage collection and I thought about the stories where the Hollywood actor lands in Rome and you have two different styles – Hollywood glamour and Italian fashion – meeting,” said Mr Gualandi. The product of this inspiration is sophisticated frames that are the “ultimate accessory of masculine elegance”. Renowned for slim and discreet frames, Götti Switzerland’s collections of titanium and acetate eyewear are as light to wear on your face as they look to be. Interestingly, even for a brand that “doesn’t do colours”, Götti is experimenting with the incorporation of colours across its new collections – aclear indication of the general move into new territory for many consumers. “Swiss people aren’t super colourful,” said Stéphanie Kallen, Götti Communication and Marketing Manager. “We wanted to introduce colourful eyewear for men with soft colours, but it had to be subtle. At first look you can’t see, but then you realise the violet to apricot gradient.” SUSTAINABILITY PREVAILSWhether the design itself is bold or discreet, colourful or monochrome, quirky or simple, the importance of sustainability rang true across most brands. Very rarely did I come across an exhibitor who hadn’t taken this important factor into consideration. It’s a promising sign for the future of what is a very waste-creating industry. Undoubtably the standout example is Sea2see, a brand entirely centred around the sustainable solution of giving value to waste to reduce discarded marine plastic in our oceans. But the concept of sustainability did not catch on quickly. “When I started five years ago, I was at a small booth on my own and people were thinking ‘what is this guy doing here?’. Initially people didn’t understand the concept of recycling marine plastic, they didn’t know what sustainability was about,” said François van den Abeele, Sea2see Founder and CEO. From 18 frames at his first Silmo, to 370 this year, Mr van den Abeele has an impressive collection to show for his work. Behind the beautiful eyewear is the 300,000kg of waste material the Sea2see Foundation collects each year. Five-thousand kilograms is used for making frames; the rest is sold. In Ghana, West Africa, there are five main collection points, where local fishing communities can make money from the marine plastic they collect. “We weigh, we pay,” says Mr van den Abeele. “The key is, if you tell communities that waste has value, they keep it, they don’t throw it into the ocean.” Not only does this positively impact the environment, it also helps to alleviate poverty, increase employment, and provide better education for those in low-income fishing communities. Meanwhile, over at the Mykita booth, a screening of the brand’s latest campaign video displayed a cinematic insight into Mykita’s collaboration with Eastman to switch 100% of their frames to Acetate Renew. “When Eastman asked us if we would like to partner with them, since we’re known for making quite bold moves and decisions, we actually then decided to go the full way and switch 100%,” said Lisa Thamm, Head of Brand Communications for Mykita. Eastman’s Acetate Renew is made from difficult-to-use materials, such as carpet and PVC, which are broken down to the molecules, as opposed to the smaller pieces used in with typical recycling. “The great thing about molecular recycling is when you break it down to the molecule it’s identical, in the end, to conventional acetate, but reduces the carbon footprint up to a third,” said Ms Thamm. Land Rover Eyewear, a popular range in the Australian market, is leading the way for Eyespace’s sustainability focus, something that makes Nick Wiltshire, Marketing Manager, proud. Currently, 20% of the products across the portfolio are fully sustainable, with the goal of reaching 80% within the next five years. “With Land Rover Eyewear we have materials like G850 Rnew, which is a brilliant renewable and biodegradable material derived from castor oil. We also have bioacetate materials and some of Land Rover’s premium models have very high-grade recycled stainless steel.”Caroline Abram with Sean Rosenberg, Frames Etcetera (below).Johann von Goisern. Caroline Abram, Karma collection. The motor-vehicle side of Land Rover is also transitioning to a sustainable operation, with all UK factories now carbon neutral. It is inside one such factory that the design magic happens. Careful to protect the details, Mr Wiltshire said, “There’s a top-secret, kind of FBI-style, head office for Land Rover where you get a shuttle bus into this complex. They take your phone, you go behind this crazy white wall, and you see the vehicles being developed. “Our design team goes in there and works with the vehicle designers on the line, the form, the shapes, the colours, the details - every single aspect of the eyewear to transfer the Land Rover design DNA .” Further in the realm of sustainability, Adi Abramov, a design student at the Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art in Ramat Gan, Israel, presented his green modular concept frame – Unfoldable X – as part of the Silmo Optical Design Contest, an award that seeks to reveal the future generation of optical talents. Mr Abramov said environmental sustainability was an “intense point of consideration” when designing this contemporary, entirely 3D-printed frame. The frame’s minimalistic design allows for a simple manufacturing process which negates the excessive use of materials and reduces the industrial line process. There are no hinges or screws, and the glasses are made using recycled plastic. The award, as a Silmo first, was presented to Mr Abramov after members of a jury unanimously chose his project – apromising sign of for the future of sustainable eyewear. EYEWEAR EXCELLENCEThe Silmo D’Or, regarded as one of the most prestigious recognitions in the industry, was presented on the Saturday evening to an audience of finalists holding their collective breath in anticipation, alongside attendees enjoying the fanfare. The presentations started off with a win for Australia, with Grant Hannaford receiving the International Optician of the Year Award. Taken aback by the significance of the recognition, he said, “It’s a very strange feeling, all the mistakes and successes and everything that we’ve learnt has all culminated in this one moment. But it’s not just me, it’s my wife, it’s my family, it’s my teachers.” After taking a punt on an opportunity that arose in 2001, Mr Hannaford found himself involved in the delivery of eye care, both in Nepal and Mongolia where he and his wife Thao have since delivered free eye testing and spectacles to thousands of patients. In recognition of quality design, Kirk & Kirk received the Silmo D’Or in the Eyewear Designer category, for its frame Thor, in citrus, a stand-out model in the new Centiles collection. Jason Kirk, CEO at Kirk & Kirk, referred to the frame as his favourite of the collection. “It has a sense of retro to it, without being a classic copy of an old frame. You could describe it as post-modern. It’s new, it’s fresh but, at the same time, there are hints of the past in there,” Mr Kirk told mivision. CHEERS! The grandeur of Silmo Paris cannot be understated. From the Friday morning onwards, the fair was a blur of colour, music, champagne, and conversation, as attendees soaked in every opportunity to re-connect, share, and appreciate the quality design and innovation behind the industry ’s best in frames and equipment. Announced as the ‘recovery edition’, the 2022 instalment exceeded all expectation, with a 107% increase in international and 12% increase in French attendance, since the COVID-inflicted lull of 2021. “These figures demonstrate the appeal of Silmo Paris, a leading trade fair that remains an international platform for business and a hub of interaction for all the professionals in the optical and eyewear industry,” said Amélie Morel, chairwoman of Silmo Paris. Silmo returns to Paris from 29 September to 2 October 2023. Adi Abramov (holding award) . Cocoa Mint. Odette Lunettes (above), Morel (right). Silmo D’Or winners.
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