Robert La Roche

The first 50 years

Words Alessandra Albarello


Founded in 1973, the Austrian brand continues to draw inspiration from the iconic models that have made eyewear history, especially in the 80s and 90s...

If you try surfing the internet for Robert La Roche you will certainly find vintage models that have become cult accessories. This is because Robert La Roche (the visionary founder) is a brand that has made history in eyewear and continues to evolve and renew while maintaining the spirit of its early days.

Upon leaving the company in 1999 and retiring to his family home in an Austrian village, Robert La Roche had in fact created a fully-fledged archive, thus passing on his heritage and also fuelling the interest of fans and collectors. Today, 50 years on, the brand continues along the trail that was blazed by its founder, but is now projected into the future with a new structure and synergies established with particularly talented designers.

But let’s start from the beginning. A restless and somewhat nomadic boy, after completing his studies in economics, an exciting stay in the US and a two-year stint of work experience in Japan, on his return to Austria had a special encounter, the kind that only happens once in a lifetime – when you’re in the right place at the right time. That encounter was with the legendary Wilhelm Anger, founder of Carrera and inventor of a new material, Optyl, which, for a time, would also lend its name to his company. This is where Robert La Roche had his insight into the right path to take and in 1973, Robert La Roche Lunettes was born.

The addition of ‘Lunettes’ was to bolster his surname with a touch of French-sounding allure despite Robert La Roche’s true origins: his father was of Czech origins and his mother came from Trieste. Therefore, he also has Italian roots, and it is precisely in Italy, in Cadore, that Robert La Roche began to produce his first glasses. With Austrian design, Made in Italy production, as far as the acetate was concerned, and Made in Japan for the titanium – excellence was guaranteed. In fact, Robert immediately had very clear ideas about the direction he wanted to take: only luxury glasses, handmade and handcrafted, with great attention to quality, and with custom-made details – without any compromise.

1980 model from the Essential Collection

1980 model from the Essential Collection

Above all, these frames had a very specific personality and certainly did not go unnoticed. So much so, that in the 80s and 90s the independent brand became a leading name on the international eyewear scene and was also adored by international stars and artists such as Andy Warhol. Not only that, ahead of his time, Robert La Roche also carried out the first experiments in recycling waste materials from the glasses manufacturing process. In this, the brand was a forerunner of the eco-sustainable commitment and awareness that all brands are obliged to adopt today, although, back then, it wasn’t so obvious, it was just a matter of ethical choice, one he bravely made.

Now, in addition to the classic line of Essentials curated by Kamilia Kusz which focuses on lightness and comfort, translating the brand’s heritage into new collections are Les Deux H – Harry Bader and Harry H
– the duo of opticians and designers inspired by the world of music and the star system, and then a true young talent – Christoph Rumpf. A resident of Paris but originally from Graz, Rumpf is considered a rising star of Austrian fashion for his sumptuous clothes made with vintage fabrics. For Robert La Roche, he has created six acetate models with strong lines and tailored ‘cuts’, two of which are available in a limited edition of only 100 pieces where the material and generosity of the volumes evoke the same opulence as his creations, combined with the brand’s timeless DNA.

Under the creative direction of Kamilia Kusz, the ‘50 years collection’ by Robert La Roche celebrates the 80s and 90s, reinterpreting the iconic models of that era. It is a sincere and authentic tribute to the brand’s origins because, as she herself says, “For our 50th anniversary collection, we wanted to touch on the ever-flowing cycle of trends and highlight the fact that truly ingenious design will always come back in style. That's why the highest level of craftsmanship has always been our number-one priority.” And she adds, “We’re confident that 50 years from now, you can pick these up and they’ll look – and feel – just as good as they do now.” You can be sure that this will, indeed, be the case.

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