In the Eye of the Designer
A Return to Minimalist Eyewear
By Sabrina Aguzzi
In a market where trends shift by the second, it can be challenging to decipher a timeline for some of the most iconic style evolutions. However, there are certain accessories that instantaneously become staples in everyone’s wardrobe, such as that of minimalist eyewear. While the preference for minimalist frames appears to be a modern phenomenon, their unique and complex history should not be overlooked. In recent years, both regular glasses and sunglasses have shifted in the lightness of their aesthetic and versatility of design –and this SS16 season is no exception. By examining the move toward minimalist eyewear, we see a sharp departure from eighties-inspired shades and the chunky bug eyes of the early millennium. Instead, the industry’s newfound affinity for understated eyewear both rectifies and reappropriates looks that stem from the nineteenth-century.
The earliest “minimalist” eyeglasses are a product of the Victorian age, a period where outer appearances were believed to define an individual’s disposition. Eyeglasses’ innate association with old age, weakness, as well as mental or physical instability, made them particularly unfitting for young women, many of whom were navigating a tricky marriage economy. In consequence, spectacles were only worn when absolutely necessary, which initially inspired their sleek, subdued, and ideally, unnoticeable appearance. Over two centuries later, the contemporary fashion industry has beautifully subverted the role of barely-there eyewear, now deemed minimalist, into a multifaceted accessory for self-expression.
The prominence of silhouette frames, delicate brow-lines, wiry metals, and subtle hues of pastel or nude, establishes an appearance as easy and airy as the summertime. For instance, Montreal’s Vintage Frames recently imported an incredible array of fine wire frames by Yves Saint Laurent and Paolo Gucci for this summer season. The finesse of their rounded spectacles epitomizes the shift toward functional fashion.
Not only are we seeing utilitarian-inspired eyewear in the collections of well-established luxury brands, but independent designers increasingly appear at the forefront of this minimalist revolution. One example is Australia-based Ellidah Eyewear. Ellidah’s experimentation with the flatness of their frames creates the ultimate illusion of two-dimensionality, while working almost exclusively in shades of rose gold, beige, cream, and charcoal.
Meanwhile, Mykita’s optical and sun glasses lines showcase an acute attention to detail. Their handcrafted hybrids play with the geometric facets of a classic frame, while exuding blatant simplicity. By deconstructing and reshaping traditional eyepieces, the brand’s collections maintain their exclusivity. Mykita’s “Essential” stainless steel frames, part of a collaboration with Maison Margiela, brags no additive components to its raw materials, further highlighting an emphasis on purity.
While eyeglasses, like all accessories, are subject to mass change and radical experimentation, there is a foreseeable future for minimalist frames. The move toward minimalist eyewear not only marks the fashion industry’s ability to rebrand past trends, but to reshape their meaning entirely. Their contemporary presence, marked by the subversion of an unconventional history, has established minimalist eyewear as a new classic. After all, there is no overstating the power of an understatement.