When Jean Francois Rey visited Australia recently to launch his new collection mivision was lucky enough to steal him away for an exclusive interview his collection and to ask about his inspirations.
Jean Francois has been designing eyewear since the 80s. Initially for high-end Japanese brands before setting up his eponymously named company 14 years ago.
“I’ve been involved in this type of design now for over 30 years. I started to design optical frames and sunglasses a long time ago, but this started officially with J.F. Rey 14 years ago when I set up this new idea and business.
The most important thing is to have the right design, quality of the product, finishing and inspiration… if you get this right, where the frames are manufactured is not important.
Before that, I was designing sunglasses in the 80s and I was working with a Japanese company to design a lot of different high-end Japanese brands. While I worked for these companies, essentially I was always designing frames in my mind, so you could say I was designing my own collection since the beginning.”
He says it has taken some time to build his J.F. Rey brand but now it is very successful in both Asia and Europe, and having these two markets has helped the company do well, particularly in the tough economic times.
“Asia is where I first got a foothold for my product. In Asia there is a good market for high-end products mainly in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore… While everyone was affected by the economy last year, we have more or less always had a good market in Asia. We have divided our market throughout many parts of the world so post-GFC, we are okay.”
J.F. Rey frames are still mainly manufactured in France in the Jura Mountains just near the border of France and Switzerland.
“This is a traditional part of France with a lot of small factories and we still like to manufacture there. Of course, for some of the particular concepts we use Japanese factories because some their materials are superior to ours or they have better technology to manufacture some materials (like titanium).
“We try to keep as much as we can to our tradition (manufacturing in France)… but it depends on what we need. It is good though to mix the Japanese manufacturing capacity with the clean French design…The most important thing is to have the right design, quality of the product, finishing and inspiration… if you get this right, where the frames are manufactured is not important.”
Jean Francois says he loves going to work every day because he’s supported by a great team in many places around the world,
“I am very proud of my team. Today we have 45 people who work in our head office in Marseilles, and in each of our factories, about 25 people. We also have sales offices and subsidiaries throughout Europe and the United States.”
“It is very rewarding when I travel to see that now, almost any time I fly in a plane, I will see at least one person wearing J.F. Rey frames!”
In the past Jean Francois was very much inspired by the big cities – buildings and general life of the city – but his latest collection is a bit different as it is more feminine and decorative.
“The decorative inspiration came, in part, from Constantinople or Turkish influence and then things like Japanese flowers or Chinese ribbon.
“I will see something that I think is really nice and I will put that into my designs. Because eyewear is a small object, it is also technically rather difficult to make. Eyewear must be comfortable for the wearer, particularly in optical frames.
“Sometimes for sunglasses a little bit of excess is okay because it is more fashion-focused and people will wear it anyway but in optics the customer wears it every day so it has to feel okay. So, for me, whilst the inspiration is the first thing the technical aspects to the design are the second so it is important we get this balance right.
J.F. Rey is a favourite son of Silmo winning four Silmo d’Or awards for his eyewear. Whilst this award is given for a particular style or model Jean Francois says it is a “positive reflection of the whole range.
“Each year I try and provide a unique piece that also reflects my collection.”
When he speaks about his current collection Jean Francois becomes very animated.
“Last year’s collection had about 22 models and each one had different colours – up to seven colours in each range! This year we have come up with a concept which makes use of stones inside the temples, such as tiger eyes and mother of pearl. We are very conscious when mixing these different materials and putting the stones in, that we do so in a careful way so that they work with the products and don’t affect them, don’t bog them down.
“There are at least two materials in each of the temples… so there is a contrast… It is like having two different temples mixed together.
“We also have styles with two front frames mixed together… and there is a style made with five sheets of titanium in the temple. Our frames are always light, even if they have stones in the temples or lots of detail. Comfort is one of the most important things for us.
“The upcoming inspiration for J.F. Rey glasses is a little bit different. For example, we will be using more flower imagery. But then we will also be doing some conceptual follow-ups of some of our existing ranges, further developing the concept of mixing the stones and metals insides the temples.”
J.F. Rey is distributed in Australia by MyOptics.