The Italians are well known for many historical achievements, from building empires, creating art and architectural masterpieces, and making the world’s finest pastas and pizzas. All of these were literally brought to life by hand, and each has a story behind how it came to be.
In 2010, designer Oliviero Zanon decided a Renaissance in eyewear design was in order, beginning with frames and sunglasses 100 percent dreamed up and handcrafted by artisans in Italy, with the same heart and soul that the Roman empire was built, the Mona Lisa was painted, and Aida was composed. And this is his story:
“I lived in London for 10 years, where I went to university for product design and worked for a design and product innovation consultancy. We set up RES/REI in Italty, my native country, to create the first Italian designer eyewear brand that wasn’t mainstream. In Italy, we have a long tradition in eyewear – the know-how in making exceptional frames is outstanding.”
In his travels to Europe’s most vibrant design hubs, Zanon soaked up local design trends, social behaviors, and global influences, and you can see the result of his experience in the RES/REI collections.
“The design process is inspiring,” says Zanon, who believes in being as involved as possible in the entire creation of his eyewear, from conceptualisation to packaging for the final customer. “Designing for me means to make prototypes by hand and getting my hands dirty in the workshop. Shaping the raw material is a big part of the process.”
No wonder Zanon has named each frame in his premiere collection after a Roman emperor when RES/REI debuted at Silmo Paris, the world’s biggest and most important optical fair, in 2011, and styles in the current collection are christened after important Italian artists. Obviously, nothing has changed in centuries of how the most talented Italians approach their crafts, in the pursuit of excellence.
For Zanon, it’s a challenge to combine high-quality, durable characteristics in eyewear with stunning design, but his approach is simple: “You can decide to be good or you can be exceptional. We try to be exceptional.”