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Tuesday / June 25.
HomemifashionnewsHeroes of Eyewear Design

Heroes of Eyewear Design

W.EYE Rimless Eyewear

Australia’s rich multiculturalism and spectacular natural landscapes inspire artists and industrial designers to create designs that celebrate and embrace different cultures and styles.

For eyewear designers, that diversity also expands scope to create frames in shapes, sizes, and colours to suit the many different faces of our population.

While very few eyewear designers have their frames made in Australia, they all have their fingers on the pulse when it comes to manufacturing as they search to find the point of difference that will stand them ahead of a competitive international market.

Cheers to Australian eyewear designers. There’s no doubt that they’re operating in a competitive environment and, due to the perils of distance and a relatively small population that’s inundated with choice, they work hard to even survive, let alone thrive.

And yet they do.

Well-established designers like AM Eyewear, Sunshades Australia, Paul Taylor, and brands developed by Jono Ross-Hennessy Sceats have led the way and built a solid following locally and around the world.

The likes of VAANYARD and Otis are relatively new, pushing into the mainstream market; and then there’s Frank Seed, Niloca, and Peter Coombs working on the outskirts to push the boundaries of design.

It’s exciting. And the differences in their approaches to design are tangible.

For VANYAARD, a boutique eyewear company from Sydney’s inner west, the point of difference comes down to details like a thicker acetate, sharper bevelling, the style name on the top of the frame, and graphic details inspired by typography to appeal to its urban target market.

VANYAARD founders, Lee Kan (an architect) and Paul Gilligan (a brand and product specialist), have drawn on their complementary backgrounds to build their business, which now has an impressive list of international stockists, including high-end stores in South Korea, Hong Kong, Scandinavia, and Europe (as well as a growing client base in Australia).

Otis, hailing from Yallingup in Western Australia, is a confluence of influences. The brand captures the vibe of its intimate coastal hometown, while also reflecting the latest trends in fashion because, as lead designer Sally Kerr told mivision, when you live and work in a small town, “it’s important to get out and see what people are wearing, to look at the big fashion houses, Instagram, and celebrity profiles to work out the trends coming through”.

Since its inception, sustainability has been top-of-mind for Otis.

“We’ve always used mineral glass lenses in all our sunglasses; it beats the alternatives because it is sourced from natural elements like sand and soda ash, it’s non-toxic, endlessly recyclable, and far more environmentally friendly than plastic. It is also more scratch resistant and optically correct,” she said.

BOLD, COLOURFUL, AND SUSTAINABLE

Ethical, sustainable practices are also a stated priority for Paul Taylor and his eponymous brand.

“We are at the forefront of ethical and sustainable practices, embracing inclusivity and promoting diversity in our creations,” he said. “We are increasingly using eco-friendly materials, reducing waste, and ensuring fair labour practices.”

For Paul, being an Australian fashion designer is a matter of pride, innovation, and cultural expression. “Our commitment to storytelling and identity reflects the rich tapestries of Australian culture and heritage.”

Another icon of Australian eyewear design is Jono Ross Hennessy Sceats. Perhaps unsurprisingly given Jono’s success (and charisma) his long-term partner Louise Sceats and their son Teiger have followed in the same footsteps, creating the ODMA award-winning brand The Elusive Miss Lou.

Having worked alongside Jono for 15 years, Louise said it’s been a long apprenticeship, but something she always wanted to do.

Louise designs her frame shapes as well as fabrics. The fabrics are then printed and laminated within layers of acetate, in a process that enables the completed frames to be bent and moulded for comfort and fit.

Having taken a brief step back from eyewear design then seen Louise’s success, Jono has returned to the market with a new brand, Jack De Ross. It seems that once an Australian designer, you’re always a designer.

Jono is a fount of knowledge when it comes to Australian eyewear design and two talents he picks out are Sunshades, led by designer Hamish Tame and Frank Hwang from Frank Seed Eyewear / Green Infinity.

Sunshades has built up an enormous stable of brands including Le Specs, Oroton, Saint Laurent, and Karen Walker. As well as designing solo, the company has initiated “daring collaborations” with acclaimed designers Adam Selman, Jordan Askill, Henry Holland, Double Rainbouu, and Missoma. The resulting frames have attracted the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna, Gigi Hadid, and Justin Bieber.

Frank Hwang is a relative newcomer to eyewear design and according to Jono, he is technically brilliant (not to mention highly creative). Ninety per cent of the frames Frank Seed sells are bespoke, however practices that take on his brand don’t start out by customising frames for specific customers.

“With bespoke frames the possibilities are endless – you can have a left temple in one colour and shape and the right in another; the bridge can be narrower or wider, higher or lower, and of course the front can be whatever shape or colour you want, including with inset colours and shapes,” said Winston Leung, who manages customer service for Frank Seed.

“Because many practices and their customers can be challenged by the concept of designing their own eyewear, Frank Seed starts new clients off with a small selection of frames, that can be bought as is, or used as the base from which to mix and match colours, shapes, and materials.

COMING BACK WITH MORE

Colin Redmond from Niloca in Melbourne has a strong following from customers in the United States and Europe, as well as people from throughout Australia.

After a hiatus during which he’s been designing and building a new studio in country Victoria, Colin is preparing to launch a new collection affectionately called ‘The Mullet’.

Always one to swim against the tide by designing timeless frames that ignore the trends, he said one of the aspects of design he most enjoys is that he can create eyewear that “is completely different, because everyone is completely different”.

“In my view, if you’re not designing something different then you’re not working with integrity, and that means you’re not being authentic to yourself,” he told mivision.

When you’re designing your own eyewear there is often a story behind the it – the inspiration for shape and colour, the material selection, the manufacture, and story of the brand itself.

“Consumers love to hear that design-story connection, it creates a point of difference, especially with boutique brands. Telling the story behind a product can help customers engage with the brand on an emotional level,” he said.

JEWELLERY FOR THE EYES

Jeweller and eyewear designer Peter Coombs closed his Adelaide shopfront in early 2022 and is focussing on designing bespoke eyewear, mainly for an international clientele that discover him via word of mouth or searching for his frames online.

“I designed one frame for a preacher in New York City. One of his colleagues saw it and ordered the same frame in about eight different colour combinations.”

Peter, a former National Councillor of Design Institute of Australia, believes the Australian design industry is robust.

However, although he’s seeing a lot of innovation, he said that innovation is very much being used to produce what’s gone before. “What was made by hand is being made by machine, which means we’re losing some of those subtle differences that come with hand crafting.

“So we’re seeing a lot of round shapes right now, plastics are big and in metals, chunk is king.” He said colours are very much driven by geography with Melburnians preferring black and darker hues, in contrast to Adelaideans who are going for colour.

“People in their 20s particularly, are looking for the look. It’s fast fashion and if it breaks, they simply replace it.”

FINDING THE DISCONNECT

However, Peter said there is a small gap in the market that affords an opportunity for eyewear designers like him. “I’ve found a demand for petite frames for people with smaller heads – because they do exist, especially within certain cultural groups, and they are really appreciate finding a frame that sits well on their face.”

He is also bridging the gap between eyewear design and jewellery having recently designed a piece for a retired senior academic with monocular vision.

“What started as a single lens frame became a piece of jewellery on a chain – essentially a magnifying glass. I suggested making the piece from anodised aluminium and embedding boulder opals and Australian chocolate and white diamonds. She was thrilled. It’s something she said she will wear all the time.”

Australia has a growing number of Australian eyewear designers, appealing to all ages and demographics. You’ll see many of our local heroes on the following pages. We need them, please support them!

AM Eyewear

Founded in 2003, AM Eyewear established an artisan approach to crafting eyewear, quickly becoming a global wholesale company for leading optical and fashion stockists. Designed in-house in Australia, AM delivers frames that not only look good, but that also have all the attributes that ensure they are optically correct.

Visit: ameyewear.com

 

W.EYE Rimless Eyewear

Cairns, home to artists of every genre, is the perfect location for creating unique, Australian-made eyewear. Tropical North Queensland provides an unlimited colour palette of inspiration for W.EYE’s hand[1]crafted rimless collection.W.EYE Rimless Eyewear is proudly 100% Australian-made and exclusively available at Australian-owned optometry practices.

Visit: weyerimlesseyewear.com

 

Frank Seed

Frank Seed frames are designed and handcrafted in Sydney with a commitment to bespoke excellence. Using only premium Italian and Japanese acetate, this tailor-made eyewear ranges from simple elegance to unique, quirky designs. Each piece is a perfect fit for the individual’s style and vision needs.Pictured is the Coogera 7B, featuring a black front paired with yellow camouflage temples.

Visit: frankseed.com

 

Mako

Designed in Australia for extreme conditions, Mako polarised sunglasses were launched over 25 years ago and have been at the leading edge of high-quality polarised eyewear ever since. One of the first local brands to introduce polarised lens technology, these high-quality Italian and Japanese lenses with Mako’s proprietary high definition and infra-red filters deliver the ultimate in clarity and comfort.Australia has some of the harshest conditions anywhere in the world and Mako develops and sources materials to cope with those conditions.

Contact: Mondottica (AUS) 02 8436 6666

 

Ryan Adda

More than just an Australian titanium designer eyewear brand, Ryan Adda presents a seamless blend of Eastern and Western cultures. Collaborative collections reflect the rich tapestry of the founders’ global heritage with each piece narrating a unique story that transcends borders and celebrates unity in diversity.

Visit: ryanadda.com

 

Aikō Eyewear

Aikō Eyewear blends bold innovation with artistic flair, offering eyewear that resonates with the spirited individual. Born from a fusion of global aesthetics, each pair is a testament to daring style and unmatched quality, designed for those who view glasses not just as accessories, but as essential expressions of their identity.

Visit: optiqueline.com.au/brands/aiko-eyewear

 

Otis

Otis Eyewear has been designed in Yallingup, Western Australia since 2000. As a B Corp brand, sustainability is paramount. Frames are crafted from eco acetate, which is certified biodegradable. With timeless designs tailored to your patients’ lifestyle, now they can embrace sustainable style with substance.

Visit: au.otiseyewear.com

 

Paul Taylor

The new Paul Taylor release of gorgeous cats eye colours in the designs Audrey, M001, M002, Tigez, and Doris will have your clients in a frenzy. Women will want more than just one pair, so be prepared to execute. All these creations are timeless and have a cult following. Pictured is Doris.

Visit: paultaylor.com.au

 

SMEC Eyewear

SMEC Eyewear is an Australian eyewear company that produces locally designed and made titanium eyewear, featuring custom-made aluminium hinges. For SMEC, individuality is key, and this belief is apparent in the soft curves and the luxurious colour finishes of each frame.

Visit: smeceyewear.com.au

 

Camilla

With over 50 years of experience, Sunshades Eyewear designs sunglasses and optical frames for the Australian market across its portfolio of brands, including Oroton, Le Specs, and Camilla. This latest Camilla collection is inspired by Camilla Franks’ recent travels to Egypt and features intricately designed Egyptian hardware, bespoke acetates, and glistening gemstones. This modern, D-frame style with squared edges adds a splash of sartorial flair to the everyday.

Visit: sunshadesaustralia.com.au

 

The Elusive Miss Lou

The Sceats family has been in Australian eyewear since 1925 with three generations of Sceats having a go. The Runway in Austranostalgia is inspired by Lou’s Aussie childhood, from watching the powerlines out the back of the family Kingswood to living by the Great Barrier Reef. What’s more Aussie than that?

Visit: theelusivemisslou.com

 

Niloca

Designed in Melbourne, each Niloca frame tells a story that will resonate with the wearer. Designs are based on strong industrial design principals fused with an optical dispensers’ clout for frame fitting and colour selection. Sensational colours complement a mind-bending array of patterns, finishes, and materials. Frames are made in Hong Kong, France, and Japan, and all have an emphasis on skilled craftsmanship.

Visit: niloca.com

 

VAANYARD

VAANYARD encapsulates a uniquely urban aesthetic with a fashion-minded approach. Focussing on bold shapes and sleek lines while using unexpected details and high-quality branded materials, VAANYARD’s design principles are deeply rooted in the brand’s founders’ backgrounds, which includes contemporary architecture, graphic design, high end streetwear, and luxury fashion.

Visit: vaanyard.com

 

venEyes

venEyes is shaping the future of eyewear with its innovative approach to designing and printing three-dimensional eyewear in Australia.With a variety of colours and patterns to choose from, venEyes frames can be customised to suit your patients. Crafted from nylon PA12, a thermoplastic material known for its exceptional resistance and durability, they’re stylish and built to last.

Contact: [email protected]

 

Bill Bass

Bill Bass, one of Australia’s longest established local eyewear brands, has been designing frames in Australia, for Australians, for over 30 years. With a deep understanding of the Australian lifestyle, Bill Bass designs sunglasses and optical frames for style, functionality, and comfort, embodying the essence of our country and reflecting its unique environment and vibrant culture.

Contact: VMD Eyewear (AUS) 1800 449 845 or (NZ) 09 525 6601

 

Peter Coombs

Peter Coombs describes his eyewear as ‘jewellery for the face’. All pieces are limited and rare, if not one-off designs, and many have been the result of private commissions over the years.

Visit: petercoombseyewear.com