If you choose eyewear from regular luxury brands, chances are you are paying big bucks just for the brand name imprinted on the sunglasses. Because most luxury labels simply outsource designing and manufacturing of their eyewear. Discover the eyewear brands that the truly “arrived” are wearing in their quest to hedge far from the madding crowd. Exclusive designs, intricate craft, technical innovations and exotic materials are what set these brands apart – not some marketing gimmick.
Image Source: All images are sourced from the respective brand websites.
1. MYKITA –
Set up in 2004 by 4 friends with background in industrial design, Mykita is a Berlin-based label. Their frames have graced the faces of Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, and have been worn on stage by Lady Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas and Lenny Kravitz – more famously by SJP in Sex & The City movie poster. This cool label has collaborated with many design houses including Damir Doma, Bernhard Willhelm and Maison Margiela.
USP: Known for the super-sleek, literally paper-thin, feather-light, futuristic design, Patented two innovations – 1) a hingeless design with no screws or welded joints 2) MYLON – a new material which was a first in the eyewear industry – does away with any design form-related restrictions, makes the entire production process zero-waste, with any unused powder being recycled for subsequent use.
In India, Mykita is available at Dayal Opticals in Khan Market
2. MATSUDA –
Holding a pair of Matsudas in hand is like holding an exclusive necklace from Bvlgari. Founded in 1967 by Mitsuhiro Matsuda in Tokyo, Matsuda became one of the most coveted eyewear brand across the world – also made famous to the western world by the movie Terminator 2.
USP: Each pair is a work of art – completely handcrafted in artisinal eyewear workshops of Japan – hand engraved filigree on temples and eye wires lend a subtle and intricate distinction. There are more than 250 steps necessary to complete each pair, and all are made in small batches of 100 or less. Only the finest materials, including celluloid acetate, titanium, sterling silver, 18K solid gold, and 22.5K gold plating are used in each creation. Proprietary 5-barrel pin hinges, and unique pince-nez style nose pads keep each pair in place effortlessly. Lenses feature 8-layer polarized or gradient colors in both mineral glass and CR39, along with scratch resistant, anti reflective coatings. Watch a video of making of Matsuda eyewear.
Available in India at Drishti Opticals, Khan Market
3. KUBORAUM –
Firstly, this Berlin- brand refers to their eyewear as “masks”, because like masks, eywear have the power to change perception of self and perception of others towards the wearer. Kuboraum’s (KOOB-RAW-UM) fierce designs live up to this terminology. Very different than anything you have seen, the designs are dreamed in Berlin and handmade in Italy.
USP: Besides conceptual designs, Kuboraum also represents innovation in technique and materials. Their burned acetate range is a patent-pending series in which the acetate is burned to give a very garage-grunge distressed look. Recently they karlsson unveiled the Kuboraum LTD Gold, in which during the burning process, 24 karat gold accessories, designed by Venetian artists is inserted in the frames one-by-one. In their pure Horn series, they make each piece of eyewear from one piece of African Buffalo Horn. Usually horn glasses are made from many layers of horn laminated together. The Kuboraum natural horn masks are cut from the tip of the horn, the most precious part and the only part that is thick enough for this method. (Of course this horn is ethically sourced from free range farms where no buffaloes are killed for the raw material).
4. ANNE ET VALENTIN –
Noticeably different from others from the very first glance, this French label sums up the word chic perfectly. Quirky and whimsical, Anne et Valentin is an exceptional brand that was founded in Toulouse in 1980 by the couple Anne & Valentin.
USP: Pop yellow, pastel pink, mint green, beaming orange – colours you never associate with eyewear – make this label stand out. Each pair uses 2-3 unconventional colours brought together aesthetically with unique geometrical shapes. And no – this is not a brand for punks. Like all things French, the outcome of this unique approach is chic, quirky yet sophisticated little pieces of art that arrest the eye. Even your basic tee + jeans will get a whole new meaning with a a pair of Anne et Valentins. On an aside, their glasses remind me of my two fav graphic artists – Malika Favre & Olimpia Zagnoli
Prices range upward of 0
5. LINDBERG –
Set up in 19983 by Poul-Jorn Lindberg, the iconic AIR titanium was the brand’s first design. Since then Lindberg has become famous for their ultra-light, minimalist eyewear and their technical design. Lindberg has won 73 prestigious design awards for its technical innovations. Lindberg eyewear has also received a Warrant of Appointment, an honor granted to high-end companies that furnish goods to the royal family.
USP: Remarkably lightweight, some of Lindberg frames weigh as little as 1.9 grams and yet are exceptionally strong and flexible. We would especially recommend people with prescription glasses to explore this brand. The frames are all handcrafted are completely free of screws, rivets and welds. The screw-free hinges are self-lubricating. In their Precious series, besides choosing from various tones of gold, you can also choose uncut diamonds in shades of pink, yellow and black. Lindberg uses highest quality Top Wesselton VVS diamonds known for their beautiful clarity and colour. Their designs work equally well with power-suits and weekend-seersuckers.
Prices start from 0 going up to 00+ / Available at Drishti opticals in Khan Market / To find a pair in your city, search here:
6. KAREN WALKER –
Karen Walker’s chic-with-a-dose-of-eccentric sunglasses might already be on top of your lust-list. The who’s who of Hollywood sporting this label have made the brand name ubiquitous. Karen Walker started her namesake label in 1989 when she was just 18. Her main line of business was clothing which is showcased each season as part of New York Fashion Week.
USP: Karen Walker sunglasses are like meeting a nice girl and then discovering the little streak of dangerous. The sunglasses have a an almost vintage feel owing to the oversized shapes, but the little deviations in classic shape add an edge of modern-day badass.
Available in India at Dayal Opticals
7. CUTLER & GROSS –
Started in 1969, this British eyewear brand is sported by a diverse mix of celebs from Rihana, Woody Allen to Sir Elton John, has been featured in top fashion editorials, has produced eyewear range for Victoria Beckham collaborated with Margiela and Commes Des Garcons and much more.
USP: Their designs instantly make you sit up and take notice. There’s a restrained quirk even in the most classic shapes. Hand-crafted all the way from manually cutting the frames to hand-polishing, Cutler and Gross does a theme-based collection. Cutler and gross is your brand of choice if you are looking for something that’s a piece of art with a story behind it.
8. DITA –
Not to be confused with the special line of eyewear done by Dita Von Tesse, Dita eyewear is a brand that was started in 1995, by good friends friends, Jeff Solorio and John Juniper. Today Dita’s impressive clientele includes: Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Lenny Kravitz, Eva Mendez and Jamie Fox, to name a few. Dita’s designs can are best expressed by the term “glam”. Slightly leaning towards over-sized and vintage, the designs have a modern-day high glam quotient.
USP: Dita frames are made the way old-world watchmakers assemble the finest timepieces. All Dita frames are hand made in Japan and use only the highest quality materials: titanium, 18k gold, white gold and the finest Japanese zyl acetates. Creating a single DITA frame can take as many as 320 separate productions steps over 8 months. A perfect example of DITA’s uncompromising production philosophy is the way in which they polish their acetate frames. Unlike brands that commercially process massive quantities of acetate frames as quickly and cheaply as possible, Dita slowly tumbles their acetate frames in genuine, hand-cut bamboo chips of varying shapes and sizes.
9. LINDA FARROW –
A heady cocktail of eccentric, mad, luxe, glam, nostalgia, and all of this in a classy way, Lind Farrow’s designs are a euphemism for the celeb high-living. Originally founded in 1970s by Linda Farrow, the brand was shut by her to focus on her family in mid-80s. Years later in 2002 her son Simon Jablon was moving in with his girlfriend Tracy Sedino at a family warehouse. While clearing it, they came across cartons of eyewear in mint condition. They called up Harvey Nichols, who purchased £5,000 worth of stock. After presenting their findings at London Fashion Week, they received orders from, and Barneys New York. There’s been no looking back since then. From capsule collabs with top fashion labels (Dries Van Noten, 3.1 Phillip Lim, The Row, Matthew Williamson, Kris van Assche among them) to every celeb sporting them, this indie label is the cream of the crop.
USP: From completely out-of this-world designs to really luxurious materials, a Linda Farrow is all about innovation. So be it their iconic Mickey Mouse ears glasses they did for Jeremy Scott, their 24karat gold-plated range, their natural bull-horns, to their iconic, most expensive and highest selling python-skin sunglasses, Lind Farrow eyewear is the ultimate experience in indulging your fashion and personality quirks. From vintage, retro-futuristic, classic, to completely zany, there’s something for everyone who’s got a will to spend upwards of 0 (exotics going above 00).
10. RETRO SUPERFUTURE – http://retrosuperfuture.com/default/collections.html
Super by Retrosuperfuture, had us at the the name. Founded in Italy in 2007 by Daniel Beckerman, Retro Super Future came about as an effort to establish a label with independent design philosophy like many of the fashion labels that inspired Beckerman. Sported by everyone from Rihanna, Beyonce, Yoko Ono, Kanye, Jessica Alba to Bieber, the label is famous for some of its iconic staples like the Flat Tops, Ciccio, América, W, or distinctly feminine models like the Lucia and Drew. Indulge your inner love for street-style while keeping it luxe. Currently crushing hard on their TUTTOLENTE drop – retro silhouettes but so futuristic due to seamless lenses (even the temple is the same as lenses!!!)
USP: Entirely handmade in Italy, Super collaborates with some of the world’s best eyewear manufacturers and experiments with new production techniques, finishings, materials and detailing, while also adding a layer of quality eye-protection by teaming up with the exclusive German lens company ZEISS. They are famed for their printed acetates and innovations in finishing like the Tuttolente series and keeping it seriously cool.
11. GENTLE MONSTER – http://en.gentlemonster.com/
Think Gentle Monster, think entering David Lynch’s mind, finding yourself in Mullholland Drive in your not-so-pleasant-dreams or stepping into Die Antwoord’s dark I Fink I’m Freaky. This new kid on the block is a South-Korean brand launched just 2 years back and has already been-there-done-that (read being spotted on celeb faces). Recently they made news for a crazy capsule collab with Opening Ceremony for their SS16 NYFW show.
USP: Designs. Their edgy shapes and use of materials and their nod to the dark world. Eyeglasses with gold plated teeth on the temple to classic cat eyes in marble finish, GM has designs for people on both sides of the fashion continuum from daring to conservative. Also don’t jump when you read the handmade-in-china. Because they are every bit the next word in luxury eyewear and follow the same handcrafting techniques as the Italian labels. But of course business-sense lies in producing closer home. And definitely visit one of their stores which is an experience in itself. With unique designs and using their store spaces as constant art spaces (art not for the conservative-minded either) this is a very conceptual label.
12. ANNA KARIN KARLSSON –
Working in London’s swish optical for years, Swedish designer and music maker Anna Karin Karlsoon became well-versed with the art of bespoke eyewear and tricks of the eyewear trade and her own label was only a natural way to go. A decadent take on vintage designs, that bring to mind “vixen” “the scheming minx” “sex-kitten”, are what her made her label famous with women like Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Fergie to name a few. Available at all premium shopping haunts online and offline, turn to this women’s eyewear label if you are looking for the statement accessory.
In the Autumn of 2013, Anna-Karin Karlsson won the prestigious, premier award in Swedish fashion; Guldknappen. She was recognised for her acclaimed collection – “Perfecting the Art of Dying Alone”. Some 30 designs from her collections as odes to McQueen were on display at the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition this year. Two pairs of sunglasses (£575 each) have been created exclusively for the exhibition, limited to 10 pieces each, and both ooze Karlsson’s signature high-octane glamour and dark drama – which chime with much of McQueen’s collections.
(All brands, product names, corresponding products, supplementary materials, graphic or photographic images, licenses, registered trademarks, trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners and sources have been cited below every image.)
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