With over 7,000 kilometres of coastline, Italy is blessed by geography - locals are never too far from a beach and a chance to soak up in the sun’s rays.
It’s no wonder then that wearing sunglasses has become second nature to them. “It’s an unwritten rule we Italians have,” says Luca de’ Finis, co-founder of eyewear brand TYG Spectacles.
de’ Finis’ love affair with sunglasses began when he was still a teenager living in a seaside resort town on Italy’s Adriatic Coast where sunshine was plentiful and tourists came in droves to soak up the warm Mediterranean light. “I would hang out after school with a friend at their optician shop and peruse all the models. They carried lots of niche brands — many foreign — designs you didn’t see elsewhere. Soon, I started to amass a collection. Vintage pieces, you name it, I had dozens.”
While work would later take him to Milan, where he took a job at a headhunting firm, the memory of idyllic summers eyeing the beautiful lines of sunshades stuck with him. Three years ago, the entrepreneurial itch was too strong to ignore so he switched careers. “Instead of finding work for others, it was time to branch out and start my own business.”
A Passeggiata Along Corso Como
The office in downtown Milan
Together with fellow eyewear aficionado Enrico Prisco, who de’ Finis met when he hired Prisco for a job at their placement firm, the pair laid the groundwork for TYG Spectacles, knocking on the doors of the best suppliers in northern Italy to source their frames. “In the Veneto region, there is a lot of eyewear know-how that has been accumulated over decades. These are family-run businesses who still do assembly work by hand. Machines are secondary. What’s most important is the eye of the artisan.”
Given that Italy is home to Luxottica, the eyewear giant that enjoys a near monopoly, they looked to artisans that could work with TYG’s small order book and who were eager to experiment with new shapes and detailing. TYG frames are made out of cellulose acetate, a natural material derived from cotton fibre that it is 100 percent natural and anti-allergic. Once cut from a sheet of acetate into the desired form, the frontal part of a frame is placed in a tumbler, where frames slowly mix with wood pellets and tiny balls of pumice to help smooth out their harshly cut edges.
The duo is perhaps most recognized for their playful use of tinted shades and sun filters, which includes an icy wayfarer frame with reflective mirror blue lenses. From 1950s Buddy Holly silhouettes to their latest collection, an homage to the Bauhaus and modernist architecture with bas-relief milling and a strong contrast between matte and polished surfaces, the brand has had success updating classic styles by infusing them with a contemporary look. “We are not trying to reinvent the wheel,” says De’ Finis. “We simply want to make sophisticated eyewear that has character. The aim with our designs is not to be fashionable or trendy but to be timeless.”
A visit to the TYG manufacturers in Veneto
TYG Spectacles at a glance . . .
Company Established: 2013
Debut: TYG first exhibited at Milan’s Mido, the industry’s leading trade fair foreyewear, in 2014
Eyewear output: Over 3,000 frames made each year
3 best-selling models:
Charles: Matte frame inspired by legendary architect Le Corbusier
Marianne: Optical frames with clean lines influenced by the Bauhaus
Agatha Kriska: Rounded oval frames for women
Good Vision: The brand uses Carl Zeiss lenses manufactured in Italy
This portrait is part of a collaborative series, produced by Freunde von Freunden and MINI and is co-published by Yatzer. These features take a personal look at three Italian design talents behind the MINI Gentleman’s Collection – men’s accessories created for the launch of the MINI Clubman. We tell the inspiring stories behind the design, focusing on the craft used to create these special products.
Read the full interview on Freunde von Freunden.