In Designer’s Corner, we feature extraordinary artists and fashion designers from around the world. Each designer has a unique journey into the accessories and jewelry space which influence their work and is a huge part of their success. We share these stories in this interview series.
With summer rolling right around the corner, the transitory state of wardrobe shopping is well underway. As summer is almost synonymous with intense sunshine, many are placing a justifiable emphasis on sunglasses for protection.
Enter: VIU Eyewear. Based in Switzerland, the brand is only 4 years young, but despite its short time in the industry, they’re already looking to revolutionize the concept of eyewear with their forward designs.
We sat down with Fabrice Aeberhard, Creative Director of VIU to gain a little insight on their creative process.
Can you provide us with some background on yourself, anything you want to share, your upbringings, and what you are like as a creative director, founder, and individual?
I have always been interested in design and aesthetics as well as creating things.
I studied industrial design up until 2005, and afterwards began work in automotive and transportation design in Munich and California for a short period of time. I didn’t find it very challenging – but it eventually lead me and Christian Kaegi, to found Aekae, a design agency in Zurich in 2006.
We quickly started working with clients in all sectors – cafes, retail stores and so on. This experience was invaluable for getting to grips with overall brand concepts. There’s nothing better than clients teaching you the things university couldn’t! Around 2008, we founded the bag label, Qwstion, and in 2009, we opened a cafe in Zurich – that was an exciting project.
Then in 2010, we founded the eyewear brand SIRE. It was sort of the Bentley of glasses – each pair was handmade in Switzerland and very expensive.
Finally, at the beginning of 2013, together with Peter Kaeser and Kilian Wagner, we founded VIU. As Creative Director of VIU, I am responsible for the brand, the stores and all our products.
How did the brand launch, what was this process like for you? Can you explain the story behind the name?
At the start of 2013, five founders sat down together to start the brand, and we sought the help of an optician – who became our fifth founder – and ran through our idea. At that time it wasn’t like there were a whole bunch of other brands popping up yet. It was an opportunity for us to make an accessory easily accessible, both in terms of price and quality.
It’s important to us to be able to pass on the prices in a way that reflects what they truly are. It’s crazy to think that an average pair of glasses in Switzerland costs around 600 CHF, and one in Germany around 380 Euro. We wanted to offer the best at an affordable price – one of our key values at VIU is honesty and transparency. Customers should know exactly what’s behind each pair – how they’re produced, who we work with, which materials we use, and why we do things the way we do.
What is your creative process and outlet with the brand, how did this process start?
One of my favourite guidelines when designing is: “Respect for the past but passion for the future.” As said before, the VIU design is all about essence. Cleanness, pureness, and honesty within the frames.
Of course we also offer more fashion-forward styles as well, especially the cooperation collections, which are usually quite bold. In April, we’ll be launching our third special edition together with Zurich-based maison enSoie. The VIU x enSoie sunglasses are real statement pieces – very colourful and striking. We’ve also just recently launched a collaboration with Munich-based jewellery designer Sakia Diez – there will be new colours of the existing frames as well as one new style.
We personally think you have an amazing brand, and are up to whatever challenges are put in your direction. Throughout this entire journey, what has been your biggest struggle?
The biggest struggle in our entire journey and probably still up to this day is finding the right people to work with – both in terms of production, collaborations and also employees.
One of the first steps we took back when we founded the brand was to find the right production partners. The process was a long one – we spent some time in the region of Cadore, Northern Italy, which is known for the production of acetate eyewear, and visited around 25 manufacturers, but weren’t really happy with any of them. We were there for about a week, and finally on the last day, we came across a wonderful factory – at 1400 meters above ground! – and got a good feeling right from the beginning.
It is run by an Italian family in second generation. There’s the father, Luigino, who is 72, but still in the workshop every day, and the mother, who is an optometrist. The daughter has taken over the management of the business, which now includes 12 – 14 people. It is a great relationship – we’re there every six to eight weeks – and they come to visit us in Zurich from time to time.
As our company is growing pretty fast, we face a constant need for manpower. It is quite challenging to find the right match – especially in design. We have a great team but each and everyone has been selected very carefully.
The designs we have seen are beautiful, how would you describe your customers, what are they looking for in your product, and how do you ensure this congruency between the brand and them?
Our core customer is between 25-35 years old, urban, has a great taste for fashion and design, and is looking for high-quality and sustainable products with a concept backing it.
Today, we know that our youngest customer is a 5-year old boy and the oldest a 87-year old lady.
What all customers probably have in common is that they are conscious consumers who are looking for glasses that also express and frame their character.
What are the next steps for the brand in terms of growth and creativity? In terms of product lines, collections, and individual products.
This year is very exciting for us. We will expand to Denmark, Sweden and UK and open stores in Copenhagen and Stockholm this summer. Also we will open additional stores in our key markets Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Furthermore, 2017 will be full of new product launches, collaborations and innovations. We are experimenting with new materials like stainless steel which is very light and filigree. In May, we’ll be launching a very innovative and customizable eyewear line.
2017 is very much about diversity. We’re constantly aiming to grow our product portfolio in order to deliver the best possible selection of products to the customer.