My glasses are for driving,’ says Japanese-based architect and designer Eisuke Tachikawa. ‘And sometimes for stargazing.’ As dually specialised ocular prerequisites go, this is quite an obscure request… but, it turns out, nothing that spectacle maker Silhouette’s Rimless Bespoke programme can’t handle.
We are in the design department at Silhouette’s HQ in Linz, Austria. Creative director Roland Keplinger is talking about Dieter Rams’ (via American architect Louis Sullivan) notion of form following function and how it relates to spectacle design. He tackles the intricacies, trickiness and applications of titanium, guiding Tachikawa through the Rimless process, advising on face fit, lens shape and colour.
It transpires that, conceptually and aesthetically, Silhouette and Tachikawa have much in common. ‘The name of my design company is Nosigner,’ announces Tachikawa. ‘It’s a firm aimed at designing the invisible. Silhouette has a similarly minimal design concept, making glasses that are almost invisible and sit naturally on the face. What I want to do is to take that minimalist concept to its limit.’
So, with Keplinger’s expert help, Tachikawa opts for a skin-toned, gunmetal nose piece, and arms in a similar colour to his dark hair. ‘The shape of the glasses fits my eye and around my eyebrows,’ he says, ‘and I requested a very lightly tinted glass to avoid white edge reflection on the lens. I also asked Silhouette to reduce the area of the lens to highlight the elegant titanium construction.’
The genius of the Rimless service is the way that Silhouette cleverly employs both handcrafted and state-of-the-art robotic fabrication to make something that is mass-produced, highly digital and engineered, but also very much bespoke, explains Keplinger. ‘It’s a system available all over the world,’ he says, ‘so that any of our opticians can tailor-make your perfect frame and the lens shape.’
Tachikawa is fascinated. His work spans two-dimensional, three-dimensional and spatial design, product development and branding. After designing the Japanese HQ for Mozilla (the Firefox search-engine people), he is currently working on the environmental redesign and rebranding of Japanese heritage sites – temples and shrines, mainly. He’s besotted with computer-generated design and the myriad possibilities of Google Glass. And, therefore, hypersensitive to the importance of subtle, macro adjustments.
‘What surprised me about working with Silhouette is the very detailed, technical nature of the design,’ says Tachikawa. ‘A simple 1mm change can completely transform the look and feel of the glasses and the way they sit on the face. It’s closer to cosmetic design than regular product design.’