No screws. That was the manifesto of Harald Gottschling and Philipp Haffmans, two graduates from the Universität der Künste, when they launched their radical eyewear brand, Ic! Berlin, in 1996. Their first product, ‘Jack’, was a pair of metal-framed sunglasses, constructed without the use of a single screw.
Weighing just 20 grammes and looking like a pair of acid-yellow bee’s eyes on a pastry fork, the design caused initial suspicion. Yet ‘Jack’ helped pave the way for Berlin to become the international capital of independent eyewear brands, led by labels such as Mykita, Kuboraum and Lunettes Kollektion. Financially speaking, they may be minor players in the $90bn global eyewear market, but they are undeniably influential.
Mykita, based in Kreuzberg, is the largest eyewear maker in the city, with a rabid fanbase, annual revenues of €30m, and fashion credibility earned via collaborations with Damir Doma, Bernhard Willhelm and Maison Margiela. But the Berlin brand with the biggest buzz is arguably Kuboraum, known for its oversize acetate frames that, according to founders Livio Graziottin and Sergio Eusebi, are ‘made for people who are ready for something with inorganic sex appeal, but that organically fits the face’.
Their ‘Mask E3’ sunglasses are a good example. A hybrid of a welding and chemistry teacher’s goggles, the design won a Jury’s Award at last year’s Silmo Paris, the world’s leading eyewear fair. When it comes to looking ahead, all eyes are on Berlin.
As originally featured in the April 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*217)