”If you find a technical solution, then often the form is very appealing as well”

Tell me about your background?

— I’ve been at Silhouette for eight years. I started with industrial design, at a smaller agency. I’ve been working with consumer electronics, and a lot of products around your head, when I was approached by Silhouette. It was a happy occasion since I could move back to my home town Linz where I grew up.

What was it about Silhouette that you connected with?

— The minimalistic approach that Silhouette stands for, the lightness, the reduced elements. They really have a cult status. But it’s also a real challenge to design rimless frames. You have so little to design around! 

How do you balance being a functional brand and a lifestyle brand? 

— It’s interesting that we’re known for being this minimal and technical brand. If you look at our history, we actually started as a company that wanted to create something more fashionable and move away from the medical necessity of eyewear. If you look at the 70s it was actually quite crazy! 

— A big part of what we do is to look at how functionality fits into what we want to express. Frames have to underline the character of the wearer, but it’s easy to create something that’s just a statement in your face. We look very carefully at how the frames feel, how they support the wearer. That’s essential.

”Frames have to underline the character of the wearer, but it’s easy to create something that’s just a statement in your face.”

How does your design process start?

— It’s different for different projects. Some pieces start from a fashion aspect, with interesting forms that appeal to trends. In that case, technology comes in second. With the core collection its the opposite. We have a nice piece of technology, and it’s all about making it better. Can we make the hinges smoother and more durable? Personally, I’m more from the technology side. If you find a simple technical solution, then often the form is very appealing as well. 

You have the pursuit of innovation as part of your core values, how does that manifest itself in your work?

—It’s sort of a ping-pong match between the design and r%d departments. Sometimes the design department has an idea that they need help realising. But many times its the other way around, when r%d have sourced new materials and production methods that we designers can work with. But the hardest part is to bring it into production. The closer you work with all three departments, the smoother the process goes. 

Your TMA line has been in space over 30 times and is a true icon. What’s it been like to have worked on that?

— One of my first projects was to update the tma collection. You have to be very careful, since it’s a very timeless design classic. I always compare it to a car model. There are many versions of the bmw3, but they are iterations of the same design.

The TMA design has been worn on 37 space missions.

What’s the most important thing to focus on right now as a designer? 

— Definitely sustainability. How do we make sure to develop a product that has value and will last over time. The consumer is more curious about how things are made, where are they made, and their ecological footprint. We get a lot of things right. We have our own production in Austria that generates very little waste. The product is very timeless, uses very little materials, and people wear them for 5–10 years. That’s very sustainable from my point of view. The next round is the afterlife. How easy is it to recycle? We are now researing ways to detach the materials and parts easily.

Has the role of the designer changed?

— I think its our duty to make sure to always have the value of sustainability with us. Designers should be generating ideas so that society can move forward. Somebody has to start, and as designers we are at the forefront of generating those ideas.

What are you inspired by right now? 

— What I really love. When I’m lying at home in my hammock, looking into the skies, seeing the clouds fly by. That’s how I work out my problems in my brain. 


Oscar Magnuson and Kame ManNen inject Japandi to eyewear

Stockholm based Oscar Magnuson Spectactels has acquired design inspiration and craftsmanship expertise from the far east in its latest release, and the sensei is a significant one — KameManNen is described as Japan’s oldest manufacturer of eyewear, dating back to 1917. The name comes from the Japanese proverb Tsuru wa sennen, Kame wa mannen (a crane lives a thousand years, a turtle ten thousand years) that depicts longevity and patience.

The collaboration between the two has resulted in a design influenced by 1920s mountaineering. The collaboration’s first release is called KMN X OM P1 and comes in colour options of matte black/urban green, brushed silver/crystal grey and gunmetal/deep Ink. Oscar Magnuson kept KameManNen’s iconic and unique nose temple parts but added a modern touch on the frame with an egg-shaped front. It gives the frame a more sporty and modern feel, and at the same time respecting the century-old Japanese craft.

How did the collaboration come about? Why specifically KameManNen?

— We first came to know Kame Mannen about 10 years ago. I immediately fell in love with the pureness of the design and the perfection in craftsmanship in titanium that only Japan is able to produce. We have since then had a conversation ongoing between us.
Oscar Magnuson specializes in acetate frames and has invested many years in the perfection of this material. Titanium frames are something completely different and we always wanted to investigate it. We have immense respect for the knowledge you need to perfect it so if we were going to do it we wanted to work with the best in the industry. Therefore when the idea came up 2 years ago to start a collaboration project with Kame Mannen we directly said yes. Who would say no to over a hundred years of knowledge?

What are the similarities between your craftsmanship and KameManNen’s?

— In terms of craftsmanship, we are working with two completely different materials and frames. I think the similarities lie more in the approach we have to our jobs. We both work with pure lines and we both work in the high end of the market.  The KMN x OM P1 project combines our knowledge in our crafts. KMN made the titanium frame in Japan and we did the acetate parts and the final assembly of the frame in our factory in Italy. So the project combines the best of two worlds. 

Why do you think that Japanese and Scandinavian design work so well together?

— I think we have a similar way of looking at design. Both the Scandinavian and the Japanese modern design is focused on function, pure and natural materials and minimal expression. Neither Japan nor Scandinavian design is about ornamentation; we are both strongly rooted in modernism. 


An eye for innovation