We first met Blake Kuwahara at SILMO, where the LA-based designer was debuting his eponymous eyewear collection to the Paris press to rave reviews. The founder of the design agency, Focus Group West, Kuwahara first gained international acclaim as the creator and designer of the KATA Eyewear brand. Now, he’s back with Blake Kuwahara Eyewear, a line of glasses that frame familiar silhouettes in nontraditional surrounding shapes.
The debut collection is comprised of nine unisex optical and nine sunglass styles all made by hand in Japan. Each is individually crafted out of richly colored Italian and Japanese acetates (with one model incorporating titanium).
By essentially making a “frame within a frame,” the juxtaposition of shapes and colors creates a design tension that is fresh and unexpected. Needless to say, bonding two frames together was a major technical challenge, but leave it to Kuwahara and his years of experience with material and manufacturing to make it happen. In addition to the eyewear, Kuwahara designed all of the packaging, cases, displays and accessories which currently include a tote bag and a hand mirror. The logo for the brand, meantime, is based on Kuwahara’s Japanese family crest (or kamon).
Kuwahara wanted his namesake brand to combine his personal inspirations – film, art, literature – with techniques of sculpting and tactility. The result is a collection of artistic frames that is completely unique, yet comfortably familiar.
We like the attention to detail paid to each pair of glasses, which really makes them standout as works of art. While many brands fit into easy classifications – preppy, athletic, avant-garde – Kuwahara’s designs aren’t as easy to pin down. They’re not simple by any means, but they’re not as over-the-top as you’d think on first glance either. The shapes are totally wearable and flatter a variety of face shapes and personalities. As for Kuwahara’s new signature, the “frame within a frame” look adds visual interest and proves that glasses – and glasses wearers – don’t always have to fit into a box.
Wes Stoody founded Aframes Eyewear with a single goal in mind – to offer stylish, high-quality frames at an accessible price-point in the U.S., while working to increase funding for vitamin A supplementation (a leading cause of blindness) in developing countries. We caught up with Stoody last week to find out more about his brand vision (pun intended) and we’ve teamed up to give away a pair of Aframes sunglasses to two lucky readers! Read on to find out how to win…
Was there a particular moment or experience that inspired Aframes?
The idea for Aframes was born in a college economics class after learning that close to one million children die or go blind each year from vitamin A deficiency, and even more shocking, it costs just one dollar for a year’s worth of supplements for one child. I couldn’t believe that most Americans did not know about this massive problem, or its cheap, simple solution. Upon graduation, I decided to launch Aframes Eyewear with the mission of raising awareness and funding for vitamin A supplementation in developing nations. We accomplish our mission by donating a portion of each purchase of our glasses to Helen Keller International to help fund vitamin A supplementation.
Where did the name “Aframes” come from?
We chose our name “Aframes” as a subtle reminder of our commitment to raise funds for vitamin A supplementation.
What would you say differentiates Aframes from other new eyewear brands in the marketplace?
After launching Aframes and selling our first collection, I realized what kind of brand I wanted Aframes to become. It seemed there was a gap in the current fashion and eyewear market. Since the popularity of cause-driven products, one thing has been missing – quality. That is why we have spent the last two years evolving our brand to a higher level of quality and style. Our eyewear is now handmade by craftsman in Istanbul, Turkey, using only the finest Italian materials. We also do not focus on online sales. We focus all of our energy on our wholesale accounts, who we partner with to really deliver a personal and comprehensive customer experience.
Do you remember when you realized you were onto something with Aframes?
After visiting our factory in Turkey this summer and witnessing the craftsmanship behind the production of our eyewear, I knew that we were on the right track. I believe we are doing something important: we are providing our customers with an extremely high quality product at a reasonable price, as well as giving them an opportunity to give back.
How do you intend to grow and develop the brand?
We view our current collection of eyewear as our base, which we will continually build upon to create a seamless collection of frames. We plan on adding a number of acetate styles this spring, as well as some titanium styles within the next year. While we continue to grow our line of eyewear, we will always remain dedicated to raising awareness and funding for vitamin A supplementation.
*WIN A PAIR OF AFRAMES SUNGLASSES!
Every pair of glasses in the current Aframes collection is named after an African country, where the work of Aframes and Helen Keller International has provided Vitamin A supplementation to children in need. Our favorites are the “Kenya” and the “Mozambique.”
The “Kenya” is a feminine frame full of contradictions: sweet yet sultry, with bold curves tempered by a classic keyhole bridge. The “Mozambique,” meantime, is a new take on the rectangular frame, perfect for those who want something that’s grounded in basic design, but with a sharp, modern kick.
Want to win a pair of these glasses? We’re giving away one pair of “Kenya” sunglasses and one pair of “Mozambique” sunglasses. To enter, make sure you’re following us on Instagram and Twitter @TheSpectacled. Tag us in a post and tell us which pair you’d like and why. Be creative! Tell us what you’d wear the glasses with or how the glasses inspire you. We’ll select two followers at random to take home a free pair for themselves! Contest closes November 25th at midnight – good luck!
eyewear: Selima Optique
notes: We spotted The Spectacled alum and CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) CEO Steven Kolb in Paris, wearing his newest pair of frames from Selima Optique. Steven met us at the CFDA’s “Americans in Paris” showroom, a stone’s throw from the Jardin des Tuileries.
Steven’s history with Selima Optique goes back to his start in fashion. When Steven started at the CFDA in 2006, he was wearing a pair of inexpensive glasses that he had purchased on Canal Street. Selima Salaun of Selima Optique gave Steven his first pair of “designer” glasses, as he needed frames that suited his new job in fashion. Nearly 100 pairs later, he is back wearing Selima with these new frames.
Giorgio Armani is known for his elegant, tailored clothing and innate sense of design, and he’s applied these traits to a successful line of eyewear over the past few years. One of our (Tim’s) first pairs of “designer glasses” was from Armani – a simple, slightly narrow rectangular frame in matte black – and it spurred a love of beautiful eyewear from that moment on. So imagine our thrill a few months back when we were invited to attend a swish party celebrating the launch of Armani’s “Films of City Frames” initiative atop the CN Tower in Toronto.
Held in conjunction with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), the party served as the premiere for the project, which involved students from six international film schools who were given the task of creating short films using Armani’s “Frames of Life” glasses as a perceptual filter. Created in collaboration with Luxottica and Rai Cinema, the recurring them in each film was eyewear – as a muse, as an expression of personality, and as a character all on its own.
Taking home the Viewer’s Choice Award for “Best Screenplay” was the short film, “Ella,” written by students at the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Directed by Pepe Avila del Pino and Kirsten Tan, the film follows two strangers in New York (both wearing tortoiseshell Armani frames) who may or may not share a connection while sharing the street. New York City is a perfect backdrop for the sweet, contemplative tale of happenstance, while the Armani glasses add a chic, warm and stylish touch to the proceedings.
The premiere night ended with a cocktail party hosted by Roberta Armani and Academy Award winning producer and director Edward Zwick, as they celebrated with hundreds of guests taking over the iconic CN Tower (complete with a DJ set from Mark Ronson!) It was a chance for the room – and the frames – to truly come to life (pun intended), bringing together fashion and cinema, and welcoming new talent and new ideas as they come into focus.
eyewear: Carolina Herrera
notes: The Louvre was the perfect backdrop to photograph Corinna and her cool Carolina Herrera sunglasses. Corinna was visiting Paris from Frankfurt, and was searching for flat top sunglasses when she found these thick, square-shaped frames instead. Made in Italy from a shiny black resin, the frames butterfly out at the nose, and feature a signature gold “H” metal logo on the temples.
The wide shape of these glasses do wonders for oval and round faces, adding angles that help to slim the cheeks and to define a jawline. Corinna found that most frames were too skinny for her face and that these fit her the best. Paired with her leather jacket, ripped jeans and boots, this is a black-on-black look that flatters from every angle!