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Interviews | April 21, 2021

A chat with … Tortsten Zehnpfennig

High standards in design and material for a young and open-minded brand made by the people for the people, fully inspired by the culture of its hometown

words Mark Renton

What was the first inspiration for the creation of Düsseldorf Eyewear?

As opticians and spectacle wearers ourselves, my husband and I have always had a special connection when it comes to the topic of frames and glasses. Our inspiration when establishing Düsseldorf Eyewear was our hometown and our idea of creating frames for fashionable and trendy people. Düsseldorf is a stylish city, one that is also innovative and diverse, as can be seen in its cityscape and architecture. When you walk alongside the Rhine river on the promenade from the old town to the ‘Medienhafen’ – the media district – you see that there are traditional old buildings with lots of charm and history, as well as modern buildings made from glass, metal and concrete: a mixture of various styles and epochs. These influences can be seen in our products in its designs and materials. But we also celebrate the people who live here and the culture. The typical Düsseldorf guy is a cheerful Rhenish soul, open-minded with his heart in the right place. The love of traditional ‘Brauhauskultur’ (brewery culture) brings people of all ages together. We are inspired by the positive and unique vibe of the city and the great people around us. 

How and when did you create the brand? 

We registered the trademark for Düsseldorf Eyewear in November 2015 and established the company in 2016. As a skilled optician and entrepreneur, my husband André brought the necessary expertise into the company, whilst took care of the company’s creative and operating part. was able to draw on a lot of valuable experiences from the fashion sector which helped me in product design and management as well as with managing human resources. Our team is the heart of our company because a company’s success depends on an agile and motivated team. Thus, we employed Dennis as our first sales representative in 2017 and were able to build a solid team in very quickly. By so doing we placed great value on a balanced mixture of skilled workers in the field of ophthalmic optics, fashion and design.

What’s your philosophy? Which aspects of Düsseldorf Eyewear make it ‘unique’?

We see spectacles as a stylish accessory and set high standards design and material as well as in quality. Our claim ‘Kleider machen Leute, Brillen machen wir’ loosely translated means ‘Clothes make people, we make spectacles’ and stands for our affinity and closeness to the fashion sector. Our glasses are more than pure visual aids or sun protection they are an expression of your personality and therefore as style-defining as your daily clothes, your sneakers or your cap. We put a lot of special emphasis on unique styles and put a lot of effort and passion into taking new directions which we set with distinctive and expressive shapes. Not only our collections are expressive but also the people who work for our company. Everyone participates in the process and takes on responsibility for every new design. One of our most successful spectacles came from the idea in a first drawing by one of our team assistants, Sarah; then, together with the design team, she finished the shape into a final product.

What percentage of sales does Germany represent? What are your target markets outside Germany?

Our core business lies in the German speaking DACH regions but we are also in the middle of the internationalization of business. Besides Germany, Austria and Switzerland we are already trading to Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Scandinavia and we are heading towards the UK and Italy. In addition, we plan on going across ‘the pond’. The USA and Canada are some of our biggest objectives since their market is a very attractive one when it comes to fashionable spectacles. We see all these countries as an opportunity to get an insight into their culture and their attitudes towards glasses and to then benefit from it, broaden our horizons and eventually develop, as well as improve, our products and corporate thinking. 

What are the most significant and distinctive features in your designs? 

The most important features of our designs are: a clear form, the processing and finishing of high-quality material like titanium and metal, the courage to try new things being different to the rest. Whilst a lot of manufacturers are concentrating on acetate, we have drawn our attention to minimal, characteristic and functional line management since 2016. Our spectacles can be characterized through lightness, modern looks and retro vibes, as well as stylish oversized frames. Our young and dynamic design team creates all our products with great attention to detail. I am still in charge of the design process but the making of a frame is always a result of collaborative work. Our design is inspired by our city’s architecture but also by its people’s fashion and music from punk to rock, from jazz to hip-hop – from suburban to urban cultures. With the new models we are definitely remaining true to our current collection and styles but will also extend them further. The ‘ Affinity’ collection, for example, will be extended and our design patented, double wire, full titanium temples will be used in lots of our new models.