Interviews | May 21, 2020

A chat with… Sergei Zubkouski

The founder of Gamine talks about the journey that led him through the evolution of an essential concept to a distinguishable collection

words Cayce Pollard

I am casting my mind back a few years to when Gamine was first presented, at one of Europe’s most important eyewear fairs, as a collection based on an essential round shape. How has your brand grown and evolved since then?

Our journey in the optical industry started in 2015 with a very innocent vision. My experience came from 10 years working in the art world but not that much in eyewear. So, in five years, we learned, practiced, experimented and grew. Our collection got larger and we started to explore new materials. We used to be a lot about acetate and bold shapes but we’re now discovering metal and minimalism. Our collection is growing up with us, evolving but keeping its essence: the round shape.

How do you create new collections based on the essence of shape?

We’re saying that freedom releases us from restrictions, and to be honest it is quite a big one, to stick to round lenses! So, the challenge is to keep that base and to build around it. I’m always scared of thinking about how long I’m going to be able to design around a single shape! But I guess that it’s also a way to push the limits and to focus more on what’s essential. It is also our way of bringing some nonconformity to the eyewear industry.

Tell us what prêt-à-couture means to Gamine?

This is our vision of fashion! Something between prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) and haute couture, as in the creation of exclusive custom-made objects.

Your collection is designed in New York. Tell us about what inspires you.

In actual fact, it was designed in New York. For a year now, it has been designed in Paris! I got married to a gorgeous French woman who is also the Art Director of Caroline Abram. I’m mainly inspired by architecture, so while I’m travelling, I’m always checking around, making pictures or quick drawings. Back at the studio, I’m reading about districts, styles and construction and then the first drawing turns into a frame: very geometrical, exploring lines and curves. The only thing is, that I can redraw one frame up to 30 times and I keep changing it even at the prototyping stage. This drives my wife crazy! “Why do you have to change everything so many times?”, she keeps asking me…

Can you tell us about the new Lab collection you will be presenting at Mido?

I designed the Lab collection during our honeymoon in Japan. It is based on a mixture of my perception of Japanese art and architecture in the European and American context. In general, it’s a fashion statement made up of lightweight frames with screwless hinges. Lab is the complementary line to our Bold collection. Bold is 100% made from acetate, while Lab is a thin light metal. Lab was originally designed as optical. It is super-thin – 0.4-0.6 mm – surgical stainless steel, giving high comfort for daily wear. For sunglasses lovers, we have six different colours of sun-lenses. The screwless spring hinge we designed for Lab means our customers don’t have to worry about loose hinges and it helps with the easy fitting of the frame. We are also using a silicone gasket to prevent the lens from cracking. Gamine will present 3 new shapes in 4 colours for this collection, plus new colours for our existing bestseller models Quadrilatero and Nørrebro.

Which are your biggest markets, online or offline, and where are they?

The biggest markets for us are in Italy and in France. We work with an amazing team in both countries! We focus more on offline because we believe that the customer experience in store is unique. We are now working with beautiful stores around the world and we’re happy to be represented by them. Our online shop exists mainly to diffuse this Gamine attitude all over the world.

Finally, what are your plans for 2020?

We’ll be starting the year collaborating with the world leader for spectacle lenses. You’ll discover the campaign very soon… We’re also opening new markets at French independent stores, and preparing a beautiful capsule collection with one of our favorite brands. The dream for 2020 would be to see Gamine distributed all over the world!