True to its Scandinavian heritage, Denmark-born luxury eyewear brand LINDBERG is all about minimalism – and in Danish design, that means simplifying the whole by removing superfluous parts to achieve a utilitarian, sleek aesthetic.
Established in 1984, the privately owned company was founded by architect Henrik Lindberg and his optometrist father, Poul-Jørn, in their family optical shop in Aarhus, Denmark. LINDBERG made a name for itself in the eyewear industry through a series of “firsts” in product engineering that stemmed from a thirst for innovation and a penchant for pushing the limits. For LINDBERG, that meant removing screws, rivets, and welding from its eyewear to make a long-lasting, durable frame.
One of the brand’s most innovative ventures was the launch of its LINDBERG træ+buffalo titanium collection that harnessed new technology to create its slimmest and lightest combination of exquisite wood and horn-rimmed glasses yet. The brand’s latest endeavor is the release of its thintanium collection, which lends itself well to LINDBERG’S persistence in technical innovation and development.
The family-owned business manages its production facilities in Denmark – and interestingly, the brand uses the term “insourcing” instead of outsourcing because all of its designing and manufacturing is done in-house by a creative clan that includes designers, engineers and toolmakers.
Here, Nikolaj Schnoor, chief commercial officer at LINDBERG, talks to WWD about the brand’s distinguishing devotion to innovation and the intersection of fashion, form, and function in its eyewear.
WWD Studios: Tell us the story behind LINDBERG. What was the problem in the eyewear industry, and why is LINDBERG the solution?
Nikolaj Schnoor: LINDBERG has been and is probably still the most innovative eyewear brand that exists in the world. When I say that, it’s because so many new things have been done by LINDBERG over the years that have set standards for the industry. When you set standards for an industry, it makes you the most innovative brand among comparable eyewear companies.
It all started back in the mid-’80s when Henrik’s father Poul-Jørn couldn’t find any lightweight glasses that he liked for himself. The market was saturated with thick frames that were clumsy and didn’t fit faces properly. Eyewear was the same for the previous 100 years – lenses, materials, shapes – all very basic and badly fitted. It was not very design-forward. There were a few brands around, but it was very technical. Eyewear was more of a medical device, really.
There on, Henrik and Poul-Jørn partnered together and it was their ambition to invent the best durable eyewear to fit perfectly on any individual. Henrik’s background as a Danish design architect formed a significant identity to the LINDBERG way of thinking. As an architect, his mindset is to problem solve, turn things upside down and continuously come up with unique solutions.
They came with the idea to make the eyewear fit the face, instead of the face fitting the eyewear. It sounds very simple, but for over 100 years it was the face, basically, that had to be reconstructed to carry the glasses. And our frames are adjustable, so they fit every face shape. Eventually, the color scheme broadened out, and our frames are now available in 35 colors with vast combinations.
WWD Studios: How is LINDBERG differentiated in the eyewear market? What unique attributes are woven throughout its product lines?
N.S.: It is an ongoing innovation. We have been able to push innovation every single year of the life of this company. We just launched the LINDBERG thintanium collection last month – a brand-new eyewear concept, an engineering milestone which has once again made an impact on innovation. Taking lightness to a new level, the designers and engineers of LINDBERG have pushed the possibilities of titanium to the extreme by most seemingly creating the thinnest full-plate titanium eyewear collection in the world. The new patented hinge system is again elevated more strongly because machinery and technology can achieve things that weren’t possible 10 years ago.
Henrik and Poul-Jørn Lindberg wanted to find a material that was comfortable on the skin and discovered titanium. Titanium turned out to be this hypoallergic material that at the time had just been released for use in the medical and the aerospace industry. They tried many different kinds of metals, including stainless steel. The thing is, again, you need to be able to adjust these frames to each face, each nose, and each ear, and stainless steel is not very easy to adjust. We were the first to make titanium frames with the dimensions of 1.1mm wire and without weldings. LINDBERG was the first to introduce a titanium collection that had a comprehensive building system.
Titanium gives flexibility, and you can change the shape. Your ear and my ear are not the same. You need to be able to adjust that, so titanium has these advantages. We utilize the natural components of titanium where we have specially educated staff who hand color our frames though a very controlled process. This technique is a demanding skill that depends on the precise eyes of our craftsmen to achieve a beautiful result. We were the first company to do this back in the mid-’80s, in which the color durability is long-lasting.
Henrik has a brilliant way of seeing things. With his architect mind, he has the ability to refine the design of the very technical product. It also meant that the product became a design piece. Not just an eyewear product – but also a design piece.
WWD Studios: How would you describe modern Danish design, and how is it reflected in LINDBERG’s collections?
N.S.: With our heritage in Danish design, functionality and minimalism are combined into our aesthetic. Danish architectural design took off in the 1980s but really started back in the 1950s. What we had then was a handful of very famous Danish designers. Arne Jacobsen, Poul Henningsen and Børge Mogensen, to name a few among the inner circles.
A lot of these Danish products have a function, but also have a high level of craftsmanship and quality. Things here are made to last. Maybe coming from an old farming culture, you make things to last long – the craftsmanship is a natural aspect of it, and then you must also have functionality.
WWD Studios: Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected or evolved LINDBERG’s operations?
N.S.: We have been extremely lucky that we are in so many different markets. When COVID-19 hit exactly a year ago here in China, China basically closed down. It was around the Chinese New Year, so it was very quiet for our partners. Asia then became the epicenter by February, and everybody was scared. The rest of the world was just looking over to Asia and said nothing was going to happen to them.
China opened up last summer because the country was able to contain it with strict methods. We have been basically free since June to do anything here. Restaurants, bars – there are absolutely no restrictions.
We have to remember that the eyewear industry is considered essential. The shops have been allowed to stay open in many countries, and of course, that gives us an advantage over other brands that sell eyewear within the luxury sector. We sell eyewear to optical stores, and they’ve been allowed to stay open.
WWD Studios: How would you describe the LINDBERG customer?
N.S.: We increasingly have customers who want alternative products. They’re looking for high quality and good design. Things with good function. Things with original ideas. We see that growing worldwide, taking a step away from only designer brands, where it’s a famous handbag company doing a sunglass collection. Shoppers are looking more into an original eyewear manufacturer or brand.
We will only survive if we do great eyewear. We hope to be like the Patek Philippe of the timepiece industry. They have to manufacture the best watch – that’s how they survive. What we really see increasing is a part of our customer base that is looking for this kind of category, who wants something more unique – and they understand the advantage of having good eyewear.