Before you’ve had a chance to say a word, your eyewear has already made your first introductions. In the age of rapid fashion trends and ready-to-wear frames, glasses that are yours and yours alone can make all the difference.
French bespoke eyewear label Ateliers Baudin knows the value of frames that are made to suit one’s unique lifestyle and personality. Now one of the last remaining workshops of its kind, it breathes new life into the age-old craft traditions of Jura, the birthplace of the French eyewear trade. They are masters of a meticulously controlled, end-to-end process, one that involves over 25 facial measurements, hand-done production, and multiple consultations across at least three months.
At their Philippine trunk show held last August 25 and 26 in the menswear shop Signet, partners Guillaume Clerc and Brice Maitre walk The Edition through the finer points of their craft, and what it takes for frames to make the grade.
You have an incredible A-Z process for making your frames. Can you walk us through it?
Brice Maitre: We all have different face shapes. We must take some measurements, about between 20 and 30 measurements, to put the frames perfectly on your face. I measure over your earlobes. I have to take the measure of the temple also. I have to take a measure of the eyes, and the eyebrows. Also [the apples of the cheeks], because the frames don’t touch the spot here.
Guillaume Clerc: You also pick the material, the color, and the thickness. Each piece [of material] is very unique. You try to make a mix between your inspiration, the inspiration and [lifestyle needs] of the clients, and the morphology. At the end, it has to be aesthetically pleasing and comfortable.
Maitre: After, I make a drawing, and then I make the frames by hand for the first prototype. The client receives the prototype one month later. Then the client might have something to change. All in all the process takes about three to four months.
Your frames are obviously made to last. How do you strike a balance between creative trends and timelessness?
Maitre: In the shop, we have maybe maximum 50 models to show, but we never sell them. These are just for seeing the shape on your face. We [let clients try] two or three frames maximum. It’s not like an optical shop with 10, 20, 30 frames.
We know what can we do on a face. We are very picky with the choice. Sometimes we are pushing them from [what we think is] a bad choice… A lot of people have seen advertising with a brand, you know, and they say, “I would like this for myself.” They want to have the same look. But with some faces, it’s not possible to do so. You are taking the frame in the photo, but putting it on a different face.
Some people, sometimes, they don’t want to change. They say, “I want to have this.” But we try to push them to change.. We have to speak a lot with our clients. It’s not a simple relationship, it’s not just for business. And so a lot of our clients are our friends now, because they are confident in our choices.
Do you think your business will continue to thrive given the ready availability of affordable frames?
Maitre: Yes. Now we are teaching two people to do frames by hand–there’s no school for that. It’s run by us old people, and now we have to transmit some of the craft to other people. But it takes two or three years to learn.
Clerc: Nowadays, people do not want to have the same frame or pair of glasses. Everybody has the same Ray-Ban. Everybody’s the same. It’s boring! People who are coming into the shop, they know they will have something completely different. Each pair of our glasses are unique.
And nowadays, maybe people prefer to have one beautiful pair of glasses. If they break it, we repair it. We charge only [for the broken area]. Why change the frame every time? With the evolution of the world population, with the ecological problems, why?
You are known to use horn and tortoise shell for your frames. Can you tell us a little about each?
Maitre: We are making each year 500 frames, and just maybe 60 in total are tortoise shells. All the other frames are made in buffalo horn. And that’s it–it’s a very small production.
The horn material comes from India, Indonesia, or South America. For the tortoiseshell, we are working with a very small, regulated amount.
Clerc: The shell stock comes from only before the Washington Convention [a law that imposes restrictions on international trade in animal and plant species, ratified by France in the late 1970s]. So the shell is reserved to a small quantities of people. We only sell shell frames to people who appreciate the material. If you don’t appreciate it, don’t buy it.
The light-colored shell is the most rare. If someone is coming to the shop, and they say, I want that one, we say no. We must walk them through the whole process first so that they understand it. If after you want the light brown one, maybe we can give it to you.
Maitre: You can keep your frames very special. In horn, you can keep it 3 or 4 years. If you come into our shop, we’ll put in a special oil to polish it, and it will seem to be new.
Sometimes you have frames in tortoiseshell lasting 20, 30 years. There is no problem with the tortoiseshells because, if they break, you can put them back together. Because tortoiseshell is made with many little, different parts, you can put it in hot water, press it together, and it will be one piece again. It’s incredible.
Interview by Arianna Lim
Signet is at the ground floor of the retail area of Shangri-La at The Fort, 30th Street corner 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.
To learn more about Ateliers Baudin, visit www.ateliersbaudin.com