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Focus | February 20, 2016

Zero gravity

When experimenting with lightness the best results come from an exacting combination of innovation, in both materials and manufacture, as well as design acumen. We explore how lightness is as much about visual perception as it is about physical materiality, reduced to its essence

words  Sandra Battistel

Our newfound appreciation for tranquil design and the absence of the unnecessary stems from the realisation that we are in a phase of product overload. As we develop a taste for a minimalist aesthetic, we seek products stripped of any superfluous elements; functionality and conceptual simplicity is of the essence.

As we in society think more about our spirituality and explore meditation; often looking for experience over material consumption, guiding us in the process of selecting the (fewer) things we carefully choose to wear. Every purchase we make has to be meaningful and thoughtful.

This is supported by technological developments, which enable us to turn our desire for lightness into fact and dreams into reality. We place a higher value on function and performance and new materials help achieve this, without compromising on a visually pleasing outcome.

Brands like Silhouette have been creating lightweight eyewear for decades, making it a signature of their brand and are now collaborating with fashion designers to add a creative edge to the technology that they keep perfecting. On the other hand, some designers, recently joining the eyewear scene are adopting a conceptual approach to lightness, exploring it through visual effects and unorthodox materials.

Tradition
Lightweight and a minimalist design are the very definition of Silhouette’s aesthetic. Founded in 1964 in Linz, Austria, the brand stands for glasses that harmonise with the people who wear them, allowing their personality to shine through. Recently, New York fashion designer Wes Gordon partnered with the storied Austrian brand in creating a new design based on the company’s original Titan Minimal Art frames. Collaborating with fashion designers is re-establishing Silhouette as a purveyor of high-tech functionality and covetable designs.

Perception
Lightness can be expressed in visual form, through optical illusion more so than the physical qualities of lightness. Cast Eyewear perfectly expressed this surreal concept through crystal-clear acetate giving the illusion that the lenses and the thin metal wire frame is suspended, gravity-free.

Process
For over 20 years Götti manufacture in Japan’s Fukui region; an area well known for the production of titanium glasses. The fascinating thing about Götti’s notoriously delicate and clean-cut frames is that they start as the antithesis of lightness, with massive slabs of titanium, one of the lightest but strongest materials available, this is pressed under 300 tonnes of weight, through more than 200 elaborate steps and a variety of precision tools. It takes incredible force and weight to create lightness!

Experimentation
Materials don’t come much lighter than paper. With their unorthodox take on lightness, Papp Up’s low-tech experiments with high-density board where initially sold at flea markets, in the creative Kreuzberg area of Berlin.
At Papp Up they pride themselves in locally producing sustainable eyewear. The high-density board is based on wood left-over from certificated production, a flexible aluminium strip is embedded inside a plastic shrink-tube to enable adjusting of the temples, a clever patent hinge made of caoutchouc – a natural rubber – riveted onto the paper temples and front.
Papp Up inspire by truly thinking outside of the cardboard box!
The future approach to lightness is very much about a state of mind as it is about research in technology and materials. After all, lightness without research can be perceived as fragile, while a weak design aesthetic makes for a plain and unattractive collection. The winning formula is in rethinking lightness and minimalist design with a strong creative approach.