Interviews | January 15, 2016

Hapter – Eric Balzan and Mirco Forti

In Belluno, a little mountain town nestled in the Italian Dolomites, development and traditional craftsmanship are brought together thanks to Hapter, an ambitious project which is the brainchild of Eric Balzan and Mirko Forti

words  Antonella Reina

Eric Balzan and Mirko Forti, Hapter’s founders and designers, love to define their creative approach with the following metaphor: “Mountaineers at peak fitness, with good technical skills acquired over years of training and achievements… who were inevitably attracted by increasingly difficult and complex challenges”. Eric Balzan tells us why…

What is the best question we could ask you?

“Can we discuss your project over an aperitif?” Our new studio, Hapterìa, is across the street from an osteria run by friends. It’s a welcoming place with a lovely view over a stream: the perfect setting for an interview!

The worst?

“Where do you get the inspiration for your glasses/collection?” Many designers can answer this without hesitation, but I can’t. Hapter glasses are created from a blend of vision, ideas, skill and great effort, including emotional exertion. The challenge is to extract the sweet stuff from all this inspiration and translate it into a real project.

Hapter is?

A 100% Italian company, with strong local roots yet significant international leanings. An authentic, radical and integral project targeted solely at independent stores that share our vision.

What is the concept behind it?

The name Hapter comes from the concept of ‘haptic perception’, the process of recognising objects through touch. We wanted to create a real sensory experience. We like to think of Hapter as a cultural bridge between design and craftsmanship, where the functional qualities of the industrial materials merge with the intense emotions of artisan products.

What are the unique features of your frames?

Hapter frames are the result of what could be called alchemical fusion. Thanks to special shaping, the surgical steel skeleton acts as a flexible structure for the external coating, which is made with high-end artisan fabrics. The two materials are fused together in various steps, creating a uniquely tactile product, which is hi-tech yet full of sensory and emotional stimuli.

What is innovative and what is traditional about them?

The glasses have a retro feel, but they stem from advanced design. The approach taken to their construction challenges the manufacturing techniques that have always dominated the industry: combining materials that are natural opposites, which require production skills and expertise from different worlds.

How would you describe a Hapter frame?

A minimalist, subtle mix of design and natural materials, merged together using alchemy and manufacturing techniques.

You are unique because….

The uniqueness of the Hapter project does not lie solely in the combination of opposing materials, but also in the selection of the materials themselves. The most complex materials to combine are the most important to the end result. The luxury fabrics, custom designed and made by Lanificio F.lli Cerruti, are inspired by those found in the Lanificio military archives from the 1920s and 1940s. However, it is the flexible supporting structure that makes the glasses “soft”, which is designed to take advantage of the mechanical properties and the characteristics of the surgical steel. Hapter glasses are extremely technical from an optical point of view, yet attractive and sensual at the same time. The consumer notices the difference immediately.

What are the distinguishing features of the frames?

The opening on the bridge, level with the nose pads, is extremely distinctive and characteristic. Hapter introduced it to the market, and it enhances the interlocking system that we invented for lenses, a pressure system that doesn’t use screws or tubes, allowing the glasses to remain a single piece.

Where are your glasses designed and made and according to what rules?

The glasses are designed and made, for the most part, at Hapterìa, our new workshop in Belluno, following our production system, which we like to call “star-like” as it is made up of different departments, laid out in a star shape, each of which specialises in a specific manufacturing phase. After each step the product comes back to Hapterìa, where it is checked and sent to the next craftsman. This ensures our quality control is flawless. Our production process is linear and sustainable. Even the smallest scrap can be recycled and put back into circulation.

How much has your brand changed over the years?

The brand has never changed. Techniques and creativity are always evolving but in reality we work along the same lines that we put in place right at the beginning. The materials, the production techniques and the mountains are still the worlds that inspire us.

Achievements and things you are still striving for…

Finding a pair of glacier goggles from the First World War in 2009 inspired us, leading to the creation of our project. We entered the market with Hapter in 2013, but it is only now, after two years, that we can say that we have finalised the product. From 2016 onwards we will move out of the experimental phase and into commercial maturity. At the same time we will present a new idea, which is also very experimental. We have a lot of things still to achieve. We have many projects, all with a solid technical and design base, which we will launch on the market when the time is right.

What feeling do people get from wearing your frames?

A pair of Hapter glasses is extremely light, soft to the touch and hugs the face with the right amount of pressure, offering comfort and stability. We like to think of them as a “glove for the face”. The feeling that a wearer gets when touching or wearing our glasses is unique.

How does the world look through a pair of Hapter glasses?

It is a positive world, but not necessarily an easy one. It consists of vision, courage, effort and highs and lows. A contemporary world that should be experienced with intelligence and positivity, rediscovering the value of effort and hard work as ways of generating creativity.