Profiles | February 28, 2018

Innovative tradition

A cellar in the Tyrolean mountains, four creative heads and the idea for a pair of glasses made from natural materials, without metal, with new glazing technology and specially developed hinges. That was in 2007, when it all started…

words Mark Renton

Rolf Spectacles was founded by Roland Wolf and Marija Iljazovic. Both of them apply their extensive experience and knowledge of various branches of the optometrist’s field to this project. Rolf’s team also includes the founders’ siblings, Christian Wolf and Martin Iljazovic. Roland learned his trade at a Berlin based eyewear manufacturer and together with Mary he set his mind to creating glasses that had never existed before. Mary has a passion for horses and her dog and she is responsible for design and the selection of material combinations. Christian is in charge of marketing and is responsible for advertising and the company’s brand presence. He studied architecture and is the company’s creative mind. Martin is a technician qualified in agricultural machinery and runs the company together with Roland and is responsible for production and the financial matters of the company. He still builds and develops machinery himself, but he is also the face for the advertising campaigns. The team strove to make a pair of wooden glasses which didn’t sit like a hunk of wood on the face, but were stylish, comfortable and of high quality. Thus, they soon found themselves adapting a neighbour’s milking machine and putting moped brakes and old cylinders in the CNC machine to create the first spectacles.

The story of Rolf Spectacles goes back to 2007, where it all started in a basement as a provisional experiment using a milking machine, moped brakes, old cylinders and a coffee table. The idea was to produce something new and unique, something which had never existed before – eyewear frames made out of wood with a wooden hinge and a special lens-glazing system. The first prototypes were presented at the opti trade fair in Munich at the beginning of 2009. That same year, their first award, the Silmo d’Or 2009, was won at the Silmo trade fair in Paris. “We make no compromises when it comes to realizing our ideas of perfect wooden eyewear,” states Christian, “either in the choice of materials or in the functionality of the glasses. We are always trying to improve our product, especially the hinges. Seamlessly functioning hinges require a large amount of precision and high-end machinery. These and other parts are milled by machines, but the most elaborate parts are the processes carried out by hand. We think the handwork brings the special feeling and energy to the frames. We have met many people who have told us that they can feel the Rolf spirit and the idea in our products.” Alongside high quality and innovation, passion is the underlying strength of Rolf Spectacles. The company is still family-run, deeply-rooted in the Tyrolean mountains, producing everything in-house in the Tyrol, but with an international focus. Most of the partners are located outside Austria – but the Austrian market is still growing and the potential is un-ending. The team is also working on solid, long term business in the US. They have opened offices in New York to provide best customer service and to take their philosophy overseas. Rolf Spectacles is selling at high-end independent opticians with an exclusive concept. Their goal: to focus on existing partners and convince them with innovations and new product ideas. One example of this is the new FLEXLOCK hinge, awarded with the Silmo d’Or 2017 in the innovation category. Since the beginning, Rolf Spectacles has shown that it is possible to merge innovation and tradition. “If you follow the market too much you will always be too late,” continues Christian, “nowadays, trends are forced by making fast money: as well as this, many more consumers are following this kind of high-speed market. We do not like that. We try to make timeless high-end eyewear. Eyes are so personal, we are not afraid that machines will be the next eye-doctor. The enthusiasm and excitement of creating new things and implementing new designs and materials keeps us motivated to continue creating new projects for the future.”