A tribute to the unknown ‘Eye’cons
With innovative styles and concepts, the world of eyewear has come a long way. Although, not a single person has ever been identified as the inventor of eyewear. The architects and designers have gone unappreciated and unrecognized. Here’s a tribute honoring the legends, who revolutionized the eyewear industry.
Hail! Mr. Wayfarer Man
The revolutionary Wayfarers were manufactured by Ray-Ban in 1956.
Raymond Stegeman – Not known to many people, Raymond Stegeman was the brain behind the iconic Wayfarer sunglasses. An optical designer by profession, Stegeman broke away from the metal frames and took advantage of the then-new plastic molding technology. Stegeman designed the Wayfarers which marked the transition of eyewear made from thin metal frames to an era of plastic eyewear.
In the 50s, the iconic frame quickly became popular among the public, bringing life to the Wayfarer phenomenon. Considered a classic, the Wayfarer has had its ups and downs in the fashion industry and among the general public. Its popularity declined the following decade. In the mid-2000s, after redesigning smaller and lighter frames, it made another comeback. Since then, Wayfarers are considered an evergreen & iconic eyewear making them a bestselling item around the globe.
The power of two
Bausch & Lomb was founded by business partners John Jacob Bausch and Henry Lomb in Rochester, New York, in 1853.
John Jacob Bausch – As a youth, Bausch was apprenticed to an eyeglasses maker, and also worked as a lens grinder in Switzerland. In 1850, he immigrated to the United States. For several years, he struggled to support himself and his wife in Rochester. While working as a wood turner, he met with an accident which resulted in the severing of several parts of fingers. After recuperating, he started working as a peddler of eyeglasses. Although business was slow, in 1853, he opened a store and offered his services as ‘J.J. Bausch, Optician’.
Henry Lomb – Born in 1828 in Burgham, Germany, Lomb immigrated to the United States in 1849. He was trained and worked as a cabinet maker in Rochester before he joined Bausch. Lomb apprenticed himself to Bausch to learn the optician’s trade. He invested his savings of $60 in the business to help Bausch’s business with the promise that, if the business ever grew to such an extent that he needed a partner, Lomb would be brought in.
Over the decades, Bausch and Lomb continued to flourish as a manufacturer of optical products for personal, commercial and scientific use. Today, it tops as a leading company in the eyewear industry. Some of its most lucrative patents since the 1950s have included Cinemascope camera lens, Ray-Ban sunglasses and soft contact lenses. Today, it is one of the oldest firms operating in the U.S., focusing exclusively on eye-related products.
The lady behind the mask
The Harlequin frames are popularly known as Cat-eye or Upswept eyeglasses.
Altina Schinasi – She was born in the year 1907. An American artist, filmmaker, designer and inventor, she was best known for designing the Harlequin eyeglasses frame. Schinasi was uninspired by the frames found in the optician’s store. She envisioned eyewear that conveyed mystery and romance. Aroused by the Harlequin mask, she designed the Cat-eye frames in the 30s. In 1939, Schinasi won the Lord and Taylor’s annual American Design Award for revolutionizing the eyewear industry.
Popularized in the 50s and 60s, Cat-eye glasses became synonymous with secretaries and librarians. The horn-rim edge design was aesthetic and unique, and thus became notable in Hollywood. They were made widely popular by fashion icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Barbara Windsor, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Barry Humphries as Dame Edna Everage. Revived recently by celebrities like Nicole Richie, Jessica Alba and Dita Von Teese, they are still a favourite among divas.
Eyewear has become an integral part of our lives. Without eyeglasses and sunglasses, our lives would seem empty, don’t you think? But most importantly, without these iconic figures with a vision, the world of spectacles would not be the same.