One would expect the new home of contemporary sunglasses design to be bathed in perpetual sunshine – but Berlin has never been a city to conform to stereotype. The ever-intriguing German capital has recently become a hub for daring designer shades, with brands producing styles that channel retro 80s chic, are hand-sculpted from wood, and are made without the use of screws. From the ultramodern to the avant-garde, these Berlin-based brands are keeping the cutting-edge fashion crowd looking cool throughout the year.
Mykita is rapidly becoming a sunglasses brand that’s known worldwide. Though its home and creative studio are in Berlin, the brand now has seven flagship stores and its wares are stocked in more than 70 boutiques internationally. Moritz Krueger, its CEO and creative director, explains that keeping the entire Mykita team under one hip Berlin roof is vital to its creative vision. ‘In our Mykita Haus we have all departments, enabling the best synergies and the ability to react very quickly,’ she says.
Mykita’s Berlin-centric approach has been incredibly effective. The brand recently launched the Mykita Mylon collection, a range of high-end sports sunglasses made from polyamide. ‘There is no competition to this material in the eyewear world – it’s lightweight, it’s adjustable, it’s durable and flexible,’ says Moritz. ‘It also offers a very new aesthetic, because we tried to give the people the touch and the feel of the original material. We have since won an International Forum Design Award and a Red Dot Design Award for this collection.’
Another directional sunglasses name in the city is Kuboraum. Founded in February 2012, the season-less brand describes its products as ‘masks’ rather than sunglasses, an edgy ideology that’s helped it open a flagship in Berlin and a shop-in-shop in Tokyo’s prestigious Isetan department store. Sergio Eusebi, Kuboraum’s brand, communication and marketing director, divulges the brand’s unique philosophy. ‘The mask is an extraordinary inorganic object; it has a power that’s beyond its use,’ Eusebi explains ‘We have found a new way to define our work. Not glasses, but masks.’
Vintage-lovers will revel in the retro appeal of Cazal’s designs, found in Berlin’s Eye Couture boutique. Dating back to 1975, the brand takes its name from that of its key designer, the late Cari Zalloni. Zalloni’s striking designs became cult pieces, with many of the styles embraced as status symbols by those in the New York hip hop scene. As Cazal’s CEO Beate Obersteiner reflects: ‘His style was so unique, his ideas so innovative that one could always tell a Cazal from far away. A Cazal frame dresses faces, it’s not meant to hide them.’ The brand recently re-launched certain classics with its Cazal Legends range and plans to build on this for 2014. ‘Cazal is working on a ladies’ collection with very strong elements from the 1980s interpreted for today’s demands.’
For something more bespoke, Herrlicht’s wooden-framed sunglasses – found at Brillenschneiderei – are a superb choice. Andreas Licht’s brand, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, developed from his aptitude in making wooden furniture. ‘I love the material and wanted to try something with it that no one had done before,’ Licht reveals. Using only wood from trees native to Germany, and taking 10 to 15 painstaking hours to make, Herrlicht’s glasses are a thoroughly artisanal option. ‘Herrlicht glasses are no mass product; every piece is one of a kind. And the material allures people: it has warmth, it’s light, it’s beautiful to look at. Some of our customers are explicitly interested in our frames because of the craftsmanship of their making,’ Licht says.
Designs for life
If you prefer your sunglasses to fuse function with fashion, seek out Ic Berlin, which produces screwless sunglasses. ‘The idea was to create a simple screwless hinge inspired by the aesthetics of military cars,’ says the label’s founder Ralph Anderl. Creating glasses around the central concept of function has seen the brand stocked around the world. ‘Comfortable, useful glasses last longer than just cool, stylish ones,’ comments Anderl. ‘On the other hand, the glasses have to look good on the face of the customers. So we are very much about style and design.’
The best place to invest in a pair of Ic Berlin sunglasses is at its Berlin store, with its comfy leather seats and a speaker-stacked till point. ‘When Ic Berlin started, there was no optical industry in Berlin,’ Anderl continues. ‘Right now, after and inspired by Ic Berlin, there are several frame brands. Berlin and Germany is very much coming back in the optical field. I’m looking forward to seeing more and more products that are made in Germany on the noses of woman and men worldwide …’
With a market as booming as this, he won’t be waiting long.