[ Luminary Dialogue // 潛光。敘談 ]
第二章： 客座採訪者星星親子眼科陳宜信院長與視光博士Blake Kuwahara的美學對焦
// Luminary Dialogue
“A conversation between JEpoque and those inspiring people who have a sophisticated sense of style and live their version of better living.”
Chapter II: Shared Vision - Dr. Sidney Chen and Dr. Blake Kuwahara’s cohesive aesthetic.
Providing the premium quality eye care service with the latest state-of-the-art technology and equipment; offering unique eyewear selection handpicked and curated by Dr. Sidney Chen- a widely known and respected ophthalmologist who completed his residency at the Johns Hopkins University school of Medicine with years of experience as a refraction specialist, Staricare Vision Center addresses all of your vision needs under one roof.
In Luminary Dialogue Chapter II, we invited Dr.Sidney Chen to conduct a stellar interview with Dr. Blake Kuwahara, our favorite design mentor. It’s all about two elite optical professionals sharing a concurrent vision, and the steadfast love for eyewear.
Can you briefly retrace your career path for us, and please tell us what triggered your decision to make eyewear?
其實一切都是巧合，求學時期我研讀視光學，在取得博士學位之後我到洛杉磯的視光中心工作。工作了三年半左右，我意外得知Liz Claiborne (Kate Spade母公司) 的眼鏡部門在尋找 “潮流趨勢預測員” 的工作，雖然沒有相關經驗，但直覺告訴我應該要放手一博，經歷了鍥而不捨的多方嘗試，他們總算答應讓我面試，並且在晤談過後給予我比原先預想地更重要的“創意總監”職位。便先前曾涉略平面及室內設計，設計眼鏡倒是第一次，很感謝當初任用我的業主，他堅信美感與直覺比實務經驗來的重要，因為他的信任讓我開啟了至今將近三十年的眼鏡設計生涯，直到現在他仍是我的良師益友。而後我也在他的協助之下發展了自己主導的第一個品牌 “KATA” ，在當時這是美國市場首個定位高端的獨立設計師品牌。接下來，我成為REM Eyewear (美國知名眼鏡製造商) 的創意總監，並在10年後成立Focus Group West設計公司，集結了建築師、平面設計師、公關人才、以及專案經理，協助眼鏡及時裝品牌建構企業識別、產品及商業空間規劃。而在四年前，我成立了同名品牌Blake Kuwahara。
It was completely by chance that I got the opportunity to pursue eyewear design. I’m actually an optometrist (eye doctor) and was in private practice in Los Angeles. After practicing for 3 1/2 years, an eyewear company (Liz Claiborne Optics) was looking for someone with optical experience and an interest in fashion to be their “fashion forecaster”. After several attempts to secure an interview, they finally relented! After my second interview, the owner of the company offered me the position of Creative Director instead- a much bigger position and opportunity. Although I had some graphic and interior design experience, I had never designed eyewear. For him, having a keen aesthetic sensibility was more important than practical experience which he felt could be learned. That was nearly 30 years ago, and I’m so grateful that he took a chance on me. He’s still my mentor. He then gave me the opportunity to design and create my own brand, KATA EYEWEAR, which was one of the first boutique optical brands to target the high end segment of the market. After KATA was sold, I became Creative Director for REM Eyewear and 10 years ago, established Focus Group West- a design collective consisting of two other eyewear designers, two architects, two graphic designers, a PR agent, and two project managers. Together we work on projects within the optical and fashion industries: everything from creating entire brands to discrete design projects (product, logos, displays, etc.) to retail spaces. Four years ago, I launched Blake Kuwahara Eyewear.
Please tell us more about what makes you passionate about eyewear?
hink eyewear is one of the few really transformative accessories there are. You can quickly change your look by just switching your eyewear. It’s also very challenging- we have very little “real estate” with which to work- unlike apparel for instance. And, lastly, it isn’t just art or fashion for fashion’s sake. There’s a lot of engineering and ergonomic considerations that have to be taken into account. I definitely use my optometric background when designing eyewear.
How do you come up with the shapes and concepts for each design?
There’s really no set formula or path I take. It’s more of a gut reaction to what I’d like to wear and what I think my friends and our clients want to wear. The overarching design foundation is that my collection is artful yet wearable. It’s about subtle details with as much attention to how the frames feel in the hand and on the face as it is to the outward aesthetics.
You named after your each design by architect’s name，how did the fascination for architecture influence the design of your collection?
Eyewear needs to be as functional as it is fashionable. The same can really be said of architecture. A home, for instance needs to address practical considerations but also needs to be aesthetically pleasing. Eyewear’s the same. We also must work under strict constraints- it’s not just an aesthetic exercise. As such, I have great respect for architects and have named my frames in honor of my favorite ones.
How did you find your Japanese manufacture partner?
Sourcing is key to well-made product. I’ve been in this industry now for many years, so I’ve been able to develop and work with sine of the best factories out there.
What do you consider to be the most important turning point for the brand?
For me, once you ultimately see your frames on faces, it means you’ve done your job. With all of the thousand of options out there, when someone chooses your frames to wear on their face, it means you’ve made that personal connection. To me, that’s what it’s about. Especially in the age of Instagram and influencers, paid sponsorships or paying a celebrity to wear your glasses, is to me, so inauthentic and distasteful. We don’t play that game.
Do you have any projects lined up for the future that you can share with us?
In addition to a collaboration with another eyewear brand that’s scheduled to release next year, I’ll be launching a new sub collection under my label that has a completely different look and feel. It’s will be a very edited and will consist of four styles at first, but we plan to have a larger rollout in 2020.
Which frame is your pride and joy?
每件作品我都視如珍寶，不過透明色的“Chambers” 鏡框似乎最能代表我的樣子。即便相較於其他款式，“Chambers” 看起來並不是那麼的繁複，但它其實是最難製作的一款。因為線條相當簡練、色澤如水晶通透，只要稍微一有缺陷就會輕易被察覺，就像極簡風格的建築物一樣，越是純粹的設計背後蘊含的是更為煞費苦心的百般挑戰。
They’re all my “babies”, but I guess it’s the CHAMBERS in Crystal which as become my signature frame. It’s actually the most difficult to make even though it looks the simplest. Because it’s so minimal, it’s technically the most challenging because any slight defect will show. It’s like minimalist architecture. The purest design is always the most difficult to execute.
Which frame represents your current mood best?
I think it’s a style from my upcoming release. It’s always about the future- not the past!
What was the last inspiring place you’ve visited?
I just came back from Song Saa in Cambodia. It’s a private island with just 24 villas. Ours was on stilts over the water. It’s really a slice of heaven.
How do you see the future of eyewear?
I’m seeing a lot of new brands emerge almost as a response to the consolidation of the big companies in our industry. As consolidations happen, brands become commodities and are dumbed down. While some see these big behemoth companies as threats, I really think they are creating opportunities for smaller brands. I think both the high end retailers and the savvy, sophisticated end consumers don’t want what everyone else is wearing. They aren’t as logo driven. They’re looking for unique designs, high-quality, and artisanally made product which will last beyond just a season.