IN CONVERSATION WITH VINCENT CATANI
words by MARIA MOTA
“I was a very influential kid and I liked to pretend, the characters I was pretending to be were always wearing sunglasses.”
Vincent Catani always had a passion for sunglasses and held them close to the heart. Today he designs for his own eyewear brand focusing on unique and innovative designs, achieving it by partnering with people who provide top materials and craftsmanship. The Sunglasses are crafted in the city of Sabae in Fukui, Japan, which is the home to the world’s best eyewear craftsmen and houses. Catani centers his attention on the details and the quality, which he believes to be the key to durability, making his sunglasses truly one-of-a-kind.
Starting from the beginning, can you tell us about how your passion for sunglasses started, and what was the tipping point where you decided to start your venture?
Starting from the beginning my interest in eyewear came from my Dad. He had a huge collection of unique sunglasses both for him and my mom. I was a very influential kid and I liked to pretend, the characters I was pretending to be were always wearing sunglasses. From there I have always incorporated sunglasses into my style. As my style has developed so has my interest in sunglasses and finding new brands with cool designs. I feel like sunglasses have such a distinctive and strong character effect on a person.
When I was 19 and had graduated high school I was on a mission to find new sunglasses for the summer. I knew pretty much what kind of frames I wanted but had a tough time finding a frame I really liked. I wanted to find something new and cool. That’s kind of what sparked me to start designing my first own sketches. At that age, I just wanted to make sunglasses for myself.
I moved to Copenhagen from my home in Finland to study marketing and sales. After graduating I was in a pretty personal development phase of my life trying to decide what to do, and all that other mid-20s drama shit. I decided to follow my passion for eyewear and take the first steps of becoming a designer and making a collection.
There can be much more to eyewear than just protection from the sun, what does eyewear mean to you?
Eyewear enables me to express myself creatively. I can attach myself, specifically my perception of design and product purpose to eyewear. As I create my brand and eyewear, I get to build and share a visual representation of myself. In my eyewear, I focus on the details and the quality, which is the key to durability. That is why there are so many classic timeless frames in my collection that never go out of style and when taken care of and maintained well you can have them for a very long time. I love being able to wear a pair of sunglasses for the rest of my life. I still have most of my dad’s collection left in great condition even after 30 years. I believe in buying less and buying better. We need to appreciate the things we have, slow down on consumption, and focus more on the details to stay unique. We don’t need more stuff, we need a purpose for the stuff we have. Sunglasses allow me to support this belief.
What helps to nourish your creativity on a personal level and career-wise? From whom or where do you take your main inspiration?
A structured and balanced everyday life nourishes my creativity. I plan my time carefully so that I have time for all the things I enjoy in life. I work every day, but I want my life to have regular space to go skateboarding and boxing to take care of my body and boost my adrenaline. I go out with my friends to listen to music and let loose. Whatever I do and wherever I go, I aim to live in the present and enjoy the moment. I need all these things in my life to be able to incorporate myself into my work. I take inspiration from where I am, who I am with, and in what kind of state of mind I am in. I create from my own experiences and interests. There are great eyewear and fashion designers that I look up to as creators and business people. Working with Japanese manufacturers and craftsmen and witnessing their focus on product design and quality is very inspiring to me. I am also a fan of Ronnie Fieg, Rhuigi Villasenor, Shawn Stussy, Jacques Marie Mage, Matsuda, and Kuboraum to name a few.
Recently you released a campaign video that merged the two worlds of eyewear and music. Can you tell us more about this project, your love for music, and the reason behind the emphasis on it in the campaign?
I knew that the designs and products would speak for themselves, so for the campaign video, I wanted to focus more on the brand DNA and bring out something more personal to me.
Music is a very big part of my life and has always been. Music can tell so much about a person and I wanted to introduce myself through music. In the Campaign video, a band of Jazz musicians plays a sound that we produced together with the band while wearing the different pieces from the collection. The idea was to have a catchy sound that represents both jazz and hip hop, two genres that I have grown up listening to. I was looking so much forward to producing the video. I had been planning this video in my head ever since I started working on the collection. I love live music so when I moved to Copenhagen I looked up if they had any jazz clubs. There was a club called Søhesten close to where I lived that had live Jazz every Wednesday and Thursday. I fell in love with the place from the beginning and have been going there almost every week. Every Thursday in Søhesten I could just vision these different artists wearing my designs and playing exactly the way they were at the time.
We were able to Film the campaign video at the club which made the video even more meaningful. Jazz Thursday is a day I really look forward to during my week. I get to hang out with friends, have some beers, listen to music, and empty my mind from my daily routines. I want to continue to incorporate music into my brand identity. There is a Spotify playlist that is curated to my collection ‘’Vincent Catani Collection ID’’. There are some good tracks on it.
Can you take us through the product development process from beginning to end?
I start by deciding roughly what kind of shapes I want to have in the collection. I try to have a frame shape and size that fits as many people as possible. Then I start building a concept around the collection that can guide me through the designs and ultimately give them unique shapes and details. Then I send my design deck of technical drawings, color combinations, materials, lenses, hinges, and detail-description to my manufacturers at Sabae Frame in Japan. They make their own technical drawings and send them back to me. I make the necessary adjustments to the designs and start producing the first set of samples. When I have inspected and reviewed the samples to my satisfaction we settle on logistics, then start production on the pre-production samples. When all of this is done and I am happy with the result and trust that I am getting what I want, we start on the bulk production. There is a lot of teamwork together with my amazing partners in Japan who are professional and experienced in eyewear craftsmanship. I also have great people around me to who I can reach out for help and come up with different ideas to make the outcome of the collection better. This collection would not be this great without these partnerships and people.
How do you incorporate sustainability in your designs?
Great question! For me, it is very important to have transparency.
I create long-lasting products in limited quantities, I use bioplastic in the production of the sunglasses, my sunglasses cases are made out of chrome-free leather, and my packaging materials are fairtrade certified. I am also incorporating a return policy for the sunglasses, which will allow you to return your sunglasses in the case that you want to buy new ones from my collections. You will receive a store credit in exchange and the returned sunglasses will be sold through my archives as secondhand. If the sunglasses are not sellable we will make sure to reuse and recycle all the materials from the sunglasses. I will also construct product passports for my website for all my products, you can see the whole supply chain for each pair.
What is your personal favorite design at the moment? And why?
That’s like asking a parent who their favorite child is. Frommy designs I really can’t say, I love them all. I am proud of how versatile the frames from the Collection are. Model BTF is a round frame shape for people with larger head shapes, while if you have a more oval and slim head shape it turners into a new frame resembling a cat eye frame. The Director frame was an interesting process. I wanted to design a large square frame that was largely inspired by early 90s eyewear design. I decided to tone down on the largeness and add small elements from other styles, like an aviator and a classic rectangular shape. This gives the Director the essence of a big square frame but with elements of other shapes make it very special and a shape I haven’t seen before.
Model 76 was a lot of fun to work with. It’s a frame that I wanted to represent my interest in vintage cars. I have always been a fan and admirer of the design of vintage cars. The colors, shiny coatings, attention to detail, and shapes served as sources of inspiration for me with this frame. I wanted this frame to make you feel fly. I was looking a lot at Cadillacs, Lincolns, Chevrolets, and other American vintage cars. They are so eye-catching and special in design, not the most conventional but definitely the most fly. I am very pleased and proud of how the Vincent Catani Collection ID turned out. Each frame has its individual story and look, but they create together a cohesive collection.
And finally, what do you envision next for Vincent Catani Eyewear?
Attract and inspire good people. Keep learning more every day. Grow my team with talented people. Setting and moving towards new goals. I have many ideas and plans in the works that keep me very motivated.
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