UNLIKE A HOT NEW BAG, A PAIR OF DESIGNER FRAMES MUST MAINTAIN ITS COOL edge while respecting a number of key requisites, like protection, weight, hypoallergenic materials, comfort and fit.
"Making a pair of glasses is a very complex process, it's not like making a bracelet," said Giancarla Agnoli, chief executive of Marchon Italia and senior vice president of design at Marchon Eyewear. "Sunglasses complement a total look, exude a mood, a style and an emotion."
Based in northern Italy, Marchon Italia employs 220 people to produce and distribute its frames. In addition to the production facilities, the headquarters houses a state-of-the-art design center.
From sketch to finished product, a new style can be in the works for up to 18 months, though the average is 12. The final products are the well-balanced result of punctilious artisans, high-precision machinery and a synergy between the manufacturer and the fashion house.
"A pair of designer frames should reflect the brand's identity, even without a logo," said Agnoli.
It takes up to 30 pieces, often of Lilliputian dimension, to make a pair of glasses. The number of steps involved, according to Agnoli, is high, but hard to quantify.
First and foremost, eyewear designers tap into fashion trends and toss around ideas and inspirations, which are then sketched on paper.
Once the drawing is approved, the lineup of materials — plastics, acetate, metals, rubbers and blends, at times injected with silicon for extra flexibility — are selected.
"Women normally prefer plastic because it doesn't leave marks on their faces and it doesn't pull their hair when they push the frames back on their head," Agnoli said.
The style is then computerized on a one-to-one scale and further refined, placing the focus on the logo, the arms, the zips and the angles.
Once everything fits, artisans create a metal stamp into which they insert the material that will form the glasses and, as soon as the frame is ready and colored, the lenses are applied.
The eyewear then goes into production. Final stages include the finishing touches and polishing, followed by quality control and various certifications.The whole process becomes even more labor-intensive in the case of special crystal applications or when Fendi, for example, requested hand-painted decorations that mirrored the mood of its ready-to-wear collection.
All the production takes place in Italy, and while certain processes may be outsourced, it's done only to offer even higher-quality standards.
"The Japanese, for example, are the best at working titanium, so we turn to them for these frames," said Agnoli.
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Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
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