Reading: Iconic Eyewear Designer Gives Us Double Vision
Iconic Eyewear Designer Gives Us Double Vision
ICONIC EYEWEAR FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SEE AND BE SEEN
FIRST THINGS FIRST, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
My name is Blake Kuwahara, and I’m an eyewear designer.
THERE IS A STRIKING DUALITY TO YOUR FRAMES. FROM AFAR THEY APPEAR TO HAVE A CLASSIC SILHOUETTE, THEN UP CLOSE THEY ARE TOTALLY BADASS. WHERE DID YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FOR THIS CONCEPT?
I was trying to bring this dual sense of design into one frame. To design, as you put it, a little badass attitude to the frames but also have frames that are approachable and wearable. I was shopping one day, and I saw this antique wooden stool encased in a crystal lucite block, and I thought “what a brilliant way to combine two different aesthetics into one unit.” The challenge was “how would I do that” with eyewear. The process we developed was to literally make two separate frames and laminate them together. The inside silhouette tends to be very wearable, very approachable; while the outside silhouette, which is a little bit more crystalline, is only seen as you get closer. From far away it looks like you’re wearing something very familiar but when you get up close…
IF THE EYES ARE THE WINDOW TO THE SOUL, WHAT DOES YOUR EYEWEAR SAY ABOUT YOU?
I’d like to think it says I’m discriminating; I have a sense of style but in a very understated way. I’m not trying to use my eyewear as a substitute for a personality but rather to enhance my overall design aesthetic.
WHAT MAKES EYEWEAR THE ULTIMATE ACCESSORY?
It’s on your face; it’s the first thing that people see. That by its very definition makes it the ultimate accessory.
I’VE DECIDED I’M GOING TO BE A STYLE ICON, HOW WOULD I GO ABOUT CHOOSING MY SIGNATURE FRAME?
When you are choosing any accessory, it is about your overall, head-to-toe presence. How you dress, your lifestyle, the colour palette that you wear. It’s not done independently of the total context of your fashion lifestyle.
HOW MANY PAIRS OF GLASSES DO YOU OWN?
Good question. I haven’t counted. Probably in the hundreds.
(Editor’s Note: Jealous!!!!!!)
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR APPROACH TO DESIGN IN ONE WORD? I’M FEELING GENEROUS. IT CAN BE HYPHENATED IF YOU NEED IT.
So I get two words?
BUT ONE HAS TO BE A MODIFIER.
WHAT ARE YOU DYING TO SPLURGE ON?
It falls under that same category as artfully-restrained, and I already have two.
ANYTHING UNDER FIVE IS RESTRAINED.
It’s the big travel-size Birkin. I’m dying for one in a different colour. I have camel, and I have black. I’m looking for something a little bit more exotic.
WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU GOOGLED?
Hugh Grant. But I’ll tell you why. I flew to Toronto, and on the plane I watched Florence Jenkins the movie. He was in there with Meryl Streep. He plays like an older guy and I was thinking is that makeup or is he just old.
SO HOW OLD IS HE?
He’s 56. He was born in 1960 – I looked that up too.
YOU’RE BASED IN CALIFORNIA, SPLITTING YOUR TIME BETWEEN L.A. AND SAN FRANCISCO. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE SPOT IN EITHER CITY THAT INSPIRES YOU?
In L.A. I live in West Hollywood, so my go-to place is Chateau Marmont. Have you been there?
NO, BUT MY RESEARCH SHOWS THAT LINDSAY LOHAN USED TO LOVE IT.
Without a doubt every time I’m there, there is some celebrity. What’s cool about it is it’s not some hotspot where people go to be seen. They don’t let you use your phones so you can’t take pictures, so it’s very low-key. People are just hanging out, the ambiance is great. It’s very old-school Hollywood.
WHAT’S A TYPICAL DAY IN YOUR DESIGN LIFE?
I wish I could say it’s all about picking out colours. I think for any designer, whether it’s fashion, eyewear, architect or graphic designer, I would say 10% of what I do is creative. The rest of the time you spend on the non-sexy stuff like engineering and manufacturing. That’s what really makes a frame a frame or a suit a suit. The materials are one thing, and the design is something else, but it’s how you structure the suit which allows for your designs to be expressed perfectly.
THIS LAST ONE IS MAYBE NOT SO MUCH A QUESTION BUT A CRY FOR HELP. YOUR GLASSES TAKE NINE MONTHS TO PRODUCE, FOR SOMEONE WHO ADMITTEDLY HAS AN EXTREMELY SHORT ATTENTION SPAN, WHAT IS THE KEY TO YOUR PATIENCE?
I’m probably one of the most impatient people around. So the fact that it takes so long is a bit crazy making. I’ve resigned myself to the fact the design process can still happen in the now; it can happen immediately, and that has its own energy around it. And then the product is ordered, it then goes into someone else hands to produce, but I’m already on to something else and something else beyond that. I’m working on three collections at once, so I think that tends to satisfy impatience. It’s not designed and then wait nine months, a lot of things happen in parallel and not just sequentially.