Setting out on a mission to create the most beautiful eyewear in the world is a vast undertaking – but for Silhouette eyewear, a mainstay in the eyewear space, the brand has stayed true to its roots as it leads in the eyewear segment with its precision-focused, contemporary designs.
Since its beginnings nearly six decades ago, Silhouette eyewear, a third-generation family-owned premium eyewear company based in Austria, creates more than 3,000 designs throughout the year. The brand said it “helps shape fashion trends in the eyewear market” as it sticks to a minimalist aesthetic that keeps customers coming back.
Here, Fairchild Studio talks to and a third generation leader in his family’s owned business, about the company’s heritage, differentiation in design and its distinctive product offerings in eyewear.
Fairchild Studio: Tell us about the genesis of Silhouette eyewear. What’s the story behind the brand?
Michael Schmied: We have been creating innovative eyewear of the utmost precision and quality for 57 years. Since then, Silhouette become a global leader in the premium rimless eyewear segment. Nevertheless, the company started in 1964 from humble beginnings, when my grandparents, Anneliese, and Arnold Schmied, founded the Silhouette brand armed with nothing but their vision and passion. Silhouette launched with just five employees and our original designer, Dora Demmel.
The initial vision was clear: To create the most beautiful eyewear in the world and establish a brand that was the benchmark for quality. My grandparents complemented each other’s skillsets perfectly. My grandfather was a perfectionist with an eye for quality, while my grandmother was very business-savvy. Together, they revolutionized the eyewear industry. And today, Silhouette remains a family company through and through, with the baton having passed down to me two generations later.
Fairchild Studio: As a heritage brand, how does Silhouette eyewear modernize its designs? Who is the Silhouette eyewear consumer?
M.S.: Silhouette stands for timeless design with an eye for modern aesthetics. Our approach is based on staying true to our DNA – iconic minimalism – while creating customer-centric designs. This clarity of purpose allows the personality of our customers to shine through in all facets. With minimalist, classic designs combined with bold, eye-catching shapes, our eyewear tends to become a wardrobe staple for years, or even decades. Like a piece of jewelry, you can pass it on to the next generation.
Fairchild Studio: How is Silhouette eyewear differentiated in the eyewear market? Does the brand specialize in a particular niche within the eyewear segment?
M.S.: Every day, we strive to develop cutting-edge eyewear designs and technologies that set us apart from our competitors. Through our passion for perfection, extreme precision and, above all, our dedication to craftsmanship, we ensure that our glasses consistently exceed the high standards of quality demanded by our customers.
The best example of this is our iconic Titan Minimal Art (TMA), which revolutionized the eyewear market in 1999. Weighing only 1.8 grams, the Titan Minimal Art was the world’s first titanium frame made without hinges or screws. In 2000, the TMA was certified for astronauts and space travel. It has been on 37 space missions, spending a total of 11,243 minutes orbiting the Earth. The TMA provides astronauts with a perfect fit and an unrestricted field of vision – due to the rimless design – which is crucial in space. The design of our Titan Minimal Art is matched only by the precision of its manufacturing, resulting in truly unprecedented comfort, lightness, and style.
Silhouette has also reinvented the way lenses and frames are combined. The Silhouette Vision Sensation® Lab – which was founded in 2017 – is another milestone that we have achieved. Lenses and frames are developed side by side and perfectly aligned so that each pair of eyewear is custom-made. Over 400 different shapes make it possible to create a completely individual look for our customers.
Fairchild Studio: What is unique about Silhouette eyewear’s product offerings? How would you describe the brand’s take on style?
M.S.: As a family-owned company, our “Made in Austria” promise means a great deal because our company has been based in Austria since the very beginning. Our unwavering commitment to our roots and high-quality handcraftsmanship are reflected in our products: instead of pursuing short-lived fashion trends, our design philosophy focuses on quality, superior vision, longevity, and timeless style.
Building on this foundation, we help shape fashion trends in the eyewear market. One example is the groundbreaking design of our Accent Rings collection which launched in 2018. In this rimless collection, the frames are fused directly to the lenses. This allows customers to enjoy the best of both worlds: they can personalize their rimless glasses to create a unique full-rim look. With this worldwide innovation, we’ve won prestigious international prizes, including the Red Dot Award.
Fairchild Studio: How would you describe the brand’s design process?
M.S.: Every Silhouette collection starts off as an idea on a blank piece of paper, with more than 3,000 designs being created throughout the year. However, only a few make it into initial production and testing, and only the very best of these will end up sitting on the faces of our customers.
Our design department draws inspiration from various sources, such as architecture, art, technology, and jewelry. Every Silhouette design aims for unparalleled lightness through inner strength. We always remain true to our own vision while also setting new trends.
Fairchild Studio: What’s next for Silhouette eyewear?
M.S.: Since Silhouette’s initial launch, we have always been on the lookout for new solutions and innovations to stay ahead of the curve. In the future, we will continue to champion this innovation in differnet areas. From a style perspective, we are going bold in 2022. In January, we’ll be launching our newest special edition – the Futura Dot. It is an hommage to our successful 70’s model.
The Futura Dot is a limited edition and only 1964 pieces – symbolizing the birth year of Silhouette – will be available around the world. Another strong focus is on digitalization. We have made it our mission to embrace digital transformation and have already seen great success with our Virtual Try-on and Silhouette Digital Showroom, which are pioneering solutions in the optical industry. As a global technology leader, we want to offer unique shopping experiences to users all around the world. So, our focus for the next few years will be to continue expanding our e-commerce business and building up our digital presence internationally.
Silhouette walks Fairchild Studio through its latest lineup for fall, fleshing out eyewear trends that align with the brand’s matchless take on minimalism.
Silhouette’s rimless optical collection, Identity, is inspired by the clean simplicity of modern architecture that relies on subtly for style. Its uniquely combined rimless lenses and adjustable statement temples available in an array of colors from a nature-inspired palette embody fall hues, which provide a “sense of dimension,” the brand said. Its two signature color palettes – a modern, matte, and monochrome finish with a clean feel for men that come in three shapes, and elegant handmade marble patterns for women available in three feminine shapes and various styles and colors, are paired with angular geometric lenses and high-tech titanium.
Considering the mechanical precision of the striking SPX®+ temple-end, as well as new disc-hinge that effortlessly integrates along the length of the temple, it’s no wonder the Identity collection took home the 2021 iF design award this year – and Silhouette’s rimless glasses weigh as much as a paper clip.
Taking on a more contemporary feel is the Lite Arcs collection, a nylor/half-rim optical design family featuring the latest eyewear technology. Arches of modern bridges gave way to the clean lines and transitions seen in Lite Arcs, a collection focused on “flowing transitions and an exceptionally precise finish,” according to the brand.
Lite Arcs ultra-thin look and feel is seen in its temple transitions and refined metal surfaces – consumers can peruse rectangular and minimalistic men’s styles and retro cat-eye shapes for women’s models, which feature an airbrushing technique that allows for precise lines to be drawn directly onto the frames. Its two men’s and two women’s’ models come in warm and cool metallic tones such as Deep Ocean, Tech Grey, Dusty Gold and Pure Black.
Maintenance-free snap hinges, adjustable and trimmable temples, and an intricate bending process to construct each piece from an ultra-thin, laser-cut titanium plate that stretches from the front to the hinge are some of the features that make the Lite Arcs collection wholly unique.
Winner of the 2020 RedDot Award, the Momentum Select collection “combines the best of two worlds,” according to Silhouette – and that takes form in a rimless frame with the look of a full-rim model.
Momentum, a limited release, is distinguished by its premium craftsmanship and “harmonious proportions” that allow the glasses to look as light as they feel through ultralight Accent Rings – a hallmark in-house design for the brand – which accentuate the wearer’s chosen lens shape. Available in two women’s models, 1 unisex model and 1 men’s model, the collection combines an exclusive black and gold color palette with a range of lens shapes such as cat-eye, butterfly, panto, and oversized rectangular.
The collection’s adjustable and trimmable temples are crafted with a matte metal finish and glossy edges for a bit of contrast, while its Pin-Cision hinge lends itself to the craft of luxury watchmaking to create an intricate, sophisticated design.
Infinity View was already an ultra-popular collection before its revamp. And now, newly inspired by the light, translucent materials used in furniture design and architecture, its retrofitted collection offers a clear, modern design of full-rim prescription glasses made from a polyamide shield, which gives its wearer a “sense of infinite vision,” according to Silhouette.
Its translucent ultralight shield frames are coated with a special finish and with prescription lenses, show no visible tangible transitions throughout. What’s unique is the color balance of the glasses, which offers a shining, mirrored surface from the front to the hinges, and down the temples – another Silhouette design hallmark.
This model’s reinforced center prevents the frame from warping, and is conveniently hypoallergenic, UV-resistant, and ultra-durable, alongside adjustable, trimmable temples and a modeled flex-zone in its titanium temple that allows the glasses “to take shape to the wearer.”
The collection’s four model shapes include 1 cat-eye, 1 panto and two rectangular. Men’s are available in cool-toned, understated colors and its women’s models are available in a range of feminine, opaque hues.