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Focus | October 10, 2019

Contemporary déjà-vu

There are people who pass on heritage from generation to generation and those who ‘borrow’ it from the most diverse contexts. Nevertheless, everyone agrees that the future cannot exist without reconnecting with the past

words Alessandra Albarello

“As with alchemy, here too your hands can transform lead into gold. But, before this happens it takes 10 years of hard training for curves, polishing – every single detail in fact, to be totally immaculate: either it’s perfect or you start all over again. The same happened to me when learning from my father, Christian Bonnet. He was extremely tough and demanding. Today I am eager to communicate this unique know-how to my team and generations to come.” Franck Bonnet, who represents the fourth generation of the family, together with his brothers Steven and John, feels that his exemplary career in eyewear embodies this. Founded in the 1930s in Morez, the Maison Bonnet has, over time, become a symbol of excellence in the sector. In 2000, Frank’s father, Christian, received the recognition of ‘Maître d’Art’ from the French Ministry of Culture for his tortoise shell processing techniques. This was followed by other important awards after 2002, which led to him becoming ‘Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur’ in 2008.

The mission of Maison Bonnet, declared a ‘living heritage company’ in 2007, is bespoke eyewear – the natural result of a direct relationship between the craftsman and the customer. This involves 8 to 30 hours of manual processing, depending on the material chosen; from tortoise shell to buffalo horn and exclusive acetate frames. Recently, the Maison has also introduced a ready-to-fit collection that involves the annual launch of 20 models, available in different variants and sizes, with just 20 copies of each being made. Furthermore, one cannot speak of heritage without mentioning Persol. A brand created in Turin in 1917, which this September opens its first European store designed by the Milan studio of David Chipperfield Architects, in the heart of Milan’s Brera district. In June, in anticipation of the September concept store, the temporary store focused above all its attention on an iconic model: model 714, renamed Brera, a folding version of the legendary 649. Among its fans is the unforgettable Steve McQueen, who also wore this model in the 1968 film ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’. That exact original model was then sold in 2006 at a Bonhams auction in Los Angeles for $70,200. However, what is the strength of a brand that for decades has continued to delight teenagers and adults of all generations? First of all, the ability to continuously refresh its legendary aura, bringing it into the contemporary world and, in particular, the fact that it has kept all its construction features intact and recognisable: the Victor Flex bridge, the Meflecto flexible temples and the Supreme arrow. The 8000eyewear brand, on the other hand, draws on a collective heritage, where 8000 takes on different meanings, celebrating the limits beyond which man has pushed himself to reach increasingly demanding goals on the road to progress. Like the 14 peaks in the world that exceed 8000 metres, conquered by visionaries, pioneers, maybe dreamers…

Founded in New York in 2012, the brand challenges itself to use all the know-how of the sector to redefine the concept of eyewear, exploiting the heritage’s charm and giving back through cutting-edge processing. The lenses of the sunglasses which are made of very thin glass are in fact inspired by the protective lenses used in the 30s by the first climbers. They are combined with refined, light frames often made of stainless steel. Recent innovations include the launch of the first prescription frame: 8000RX has details inspired by the great architects of the twentieth century. Moreover, there is a noteworthy detail: all the glasses are produced in Italy in limited edition at a maximum of 8000 pieces per model. Starting off from an excellence as part of the company’s DNA is another way of using heritage to propel it into the future. This is what Factory900 does, the Japanese company founded by the Aoyama family, now in its third generation and an important reference point for acetate in Japan for over 80 years. However, as always, tradition and innovation go together and in 2000, the company launched its first eyewear collection, combining classic acetate processing with the most sophisticated 3D printing technologies. This was made possible through in-depth material knowledge. The three-dimensional effect and the material presence of the models, the wisdom and virtuosity with which the acetate is transformed and sometimes made very thin, create a sort of déjà-vu; they reinterpret themes of the past using contemporary techniques. For Kyoya Aoyama, chairman of Factory900, this is indeed important, “Not only preserving the traditional techniques and know-how, but also pursuing new possibilities to produce innovative frames using new machines and techniques.” The ways of heritage are endless.