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In our anniversary interview we take a closer look at the popular rumor about the eyewear manufacturer and the movie classic The Matrix.
We proudly congratulate the Austrian company Silhouette International Schmied AG on 25 years of iF awards. Since 1995 the eyewear manufacturer from Linz has been continuing to demonstrate a high level of success and performance – in this period they received 20 iF DESIGN AWARDS awards.Their success is even reflected in our ranking list: Silhouette is among the iF top 10 Austrian labels, valuated between 2016 and 2020.
Silhouette eyewear is more than just a visual assistance. It has gained cult status. The signature minimalism and reduction look reflect Silhouette’s design language. Titan Minimal Art, one of the most successful collections in the history of the family-owned company, is even certificated for aerospace since 2000. At the same time, Silhouette applies the principles of sustainability since it was founded in 1964, as is shown in strengthening Europe as the production site and in the conscious use of resources.
In our anniversary interview with Roland Keplinger, Design Director at Silhouette, we talk about responsibility during the corona crisis, essential assets of 3D printing technologies and gossip referred to the sci-fi movie classic The Matrix.
“To me, good eyewear design is, in a nutshell, made up of three crucial components. First and foremost, every design should emphasize the wearer’s beauty and not hide it, for any wearer and eyewear should form one unit. Ergonomics, wearing comfort and smart functional solutions are basic requirements for good eyewear design. Secondly, timelessness and durability in terms of sustainability are of more value in this day and age. Silhouette has been living this philosophy since the company was founded more than 55 years ago. Thirdly, one should always pay attention to detail and bring along passion for materials and technology.”
Roland Keplinger, Design Director Silhouette International Schmied AG
iF: Congratulations on 25 years full of iF DESIGN AWARDS. What significance does this special anniversary have for Silhouette?
Roland Keplinger: On the one hand, this anniversary is a wonderful confirmation for the company and the design team, but also an incentive to continue the excellent work. After all, the vision of the founders to create the most beautiful eyewear and to consider the highest quality as a matter of course, is still valid today and is the DNA of Silhouette International.
Many sci-fi fans certainly link Silhouette with the Matrix universe where superhero Neo played by Keanu Reeves is dressed in gothic fashion with sunglasses. When a brand achieves cult status, that’s quite a success.
It’s interesting that this rumor persists, especially since the eyewear that is shown in the movies, only look very similar to ours. Silhouette's Titan Minimal Art TMS revolutionized the eyewear market in 1999. It is as light as a feather, weighs only 1.8 grams and comes without screws, frames and hinges, and is convincing with its extraordinary wearing comfort. We still see lots of copies of TMA on the market these days.
For your iF awarded neubau product "Côté Du Soleil” you use 3D
printing technologies. In your opinion, what are the challenges and
opportunities of 3D printing for design?
With this technology we are more autonomous in our design process and don’t have to deal with restrictions through traditional injection moulding. In addition, we only use the material that is really needed. This implies advantages especially for smaller quantities. The disadvantage can be found during the design and engineering phase when all components must perfectly fit and complete each other. With the Côté du Soleil Special Edition, we were able to create a very bold looking design and at the same time saved lots of weight which noticeably increases the wearing comfort.
Silhouette used, for the first time, 100 percent organic material in producing the neubau eyewear collection Côté Du Soleil. The frames feature the latest 3D printing technology and are composed of material based on castor beans. For the first time a metal inlay is integrated in the 3D printed temples, so that they can be adjusted without heat and stay in shape permanently. A newly developed surface finish prevents the risk of bleeding out and fungi while also creating a smooth tactile grip. This, together with the compact logo-hinge, makes for a bold and super-lightweight frame.
Still, media awareness is an important strategy to expand any brand. Horatio Caine’s sunglasses in the TV series CSI Miami for instance are real Silhouette ones. In your opinion, what’s the significance for companies in today's creative process when it comes to brand presentation in social media, films and on TV?
Coincidence has decreased in the past years. Today, contacts and lots of money are important when you pursue the goal of being prominently positioned on media outlets. In the creative process itself, extraordinary designs such as special editions are deliberately used in order to strengthen a brand and to increase visibility and awareness.
Silhouette donated 20.000 pairs of its Evil Eye sports eyewear collection to the Red Cross in Austria during this springtime when
SARS-CoV-2 spread across the world. What’s special about this model is that it serves for demanding working conditions in terms of stable frame material and temples with traction grip for a non-slip fit. Do you believe that the safety
aspect of eyewear, or in other words, functionality before form, will change or has already changed the industry's understanding of design?
I don't think that protective functionalities have a lasting effect on eyewear design – except sport frames where function is mandatory. Of course, there are considerations on how protective elements can be easily attached to reading glasses without them having a medical look. However, I currently see this as a niche. But of course, it depends on how long this crisis will continue to accompany us. More interesting are non-visible technologies in lenses, such as improved antifog coatings to make it easier for spectacle wearers to wear a mouth-nose protector.