Don’t be fooled by the name: “Conservatoire International de Lunettes”

Alfredo Salazar, Paris-based Mexico-born photographer  in model 404 by Conservatoire International de Lunettes.

As we introduce New Englanders to an amazing and diverse collection that we discovered on a trip to Europe last month, we thought it appropriate to explain a little about the name Conservatoire International de Lunettes, which playfully juxtaposes truth and a little bit of fantasy.

Further seems forever, by Carlotta Cattaneo, an Italian graphic designer. Interpretation of model 107 for Conservatoire International de Lunettes.

Truth:  It really does involve a conservatory  –  not just one creator, but a whole school of artists, philosophers (yes, philosophers!) and entrepreneurs with brilliant minds and incredible talent.  These frames express their varied cultural backgrounds and professional experiences of their creators. Artists from all over the world came with their diverse style and methods to illustrate their personal vision of Conservatoire glasses. They incorporated Conservatoire in  their art works.


To see or not to see by Luca Rossato, an Italian photographer. Model 107 for Conservatoire International de Lunettes.

Truth:  The Conservatoire International de Lunettes collection embraces the classics, like tortoiseshell acetate, and marries it to modern creativity, like transparent layered color inside the frame, or thin metal temples.  The result is classic reinterpreted in a sleek, sophisticated style.



Fiction:  The name Conservatoire International de Lunettes is French, but the company is Italian, based in Milan, fashion mecca and home of the finest optical acetate products in the world.

Visit us to experience the very best of Italian craftsmanship, design, technology and fashion.

Just Dandy — For Summer and the Fall

The dandy look conveys casual sophistication and intellect.

This summer, RISD is celebrating the dandy look – the latest trend in menswear — with an exhibit entitled Artist/ Rebel/ Dandy: Men of Fashion.”  The program traces the development of the Dandy look from its inception in the late 18th Century to today’s modern revival.

You could call George Bryan “Beau” Brummel (1778 – 1840) the Father of the Dandy Movement. The son of a private (male) secretary and grandson of a shopkeeper, Brummel set out to disprove the old adage that “clothes don’t make the man.” Clothes were an indication of status and wealth in his era and Brummel wagered (yes, in fact, he was a gambler) that elaborate dressing and impeccable grooming would gain him status despite his humble origins.  He was right.  The Prince of Wales, who would later become King George IV, befriended Brummel and gave him a commission in his regiment.  Brummel also found patrons (read sources of income) among other members of high society, such as Lord Alvanley and the Marquess of Worcester.

Brummel and his fashion disciples frequented Savile Row in the Mayfair section of London, where “bespoke tailoring”  – clothing made to order – ensured the kind of close fit that Brummel brought into style, in sharp contrast with the loose-fitting pantaloons that those outside the dandy circle wore in the day.

The fashion trend set by Brummel lived on long after his demise – embraced not only by aristocrats, but also by middle class men who wanted to make the point that they were distinguished gentlemen.  Oscar Wilde and Charles Baudelaire can be counted among them, by their own admission.   In time, the dandy fashion also spread to women, who were called ”dandizettes.”

By the 19th Century, the term “dandy” took on a negative connotation for men.  The idea was that the guy tried just a little too hard to look impeccable.  Perfection somehow meant the man was a sissy and a snob who regarded himself as a little too high-brow to do real work.

Perhaps influenced by the Sherlock Holmes revival, the dandy look for men has made a strong comeback, and the modern interpretation has no negative undertones.  It is a statement of casual elegance and old world refinement that says “Gentleman” with a capital G — the epitome of looking elegant without trying too hard.  It also conveys an interest in intellectual and cultural pursuits.

Want this look?  Here are some pointers:

  • Start with muted tones.  Dark tones like black, gray and earthy brown work well, and white is a classic, especially for summer.  After all, Brummel himself was big on white linen. You can add a splash of contrasting color, like yellow or bright blue for added emphasis.
  • Choose jackets and slacks that are well-tailored and fitted, not baggy or skin-tight.
  • Mix patterns with solids.  Tweeds and plaids – particularly the complicated patterns like window pane or glen plaid – lend an air of intellectual sophistication.
  • Make the blend of tones and textures smooth and symmetrical.  Don’t create shockwaves with patterns or colors.
  • Choose classic shoes like oxfords or wingtips."BonVivant" sunglasses by Lunettes Kollections add the perfect finishing touch to this well-tailored dandy ensemble.
  • Add old-world accessories like suspenders or an old-style felt hat, such as a derby, bowler or fedora.  You can also swap felt for a summer look with a classic Panama hat.
  • Finish the look with retro or genuine vintage eyewear, such as Savile Row’s sophisticated round “Warwick,” Lunettes Kollektions’ “Ca Plane pour Moi” in tortoise or classic black, or classic Ray Ban Wayfarer sunglasses.

Savile Row’s “Warwick” gives a look of friendly intellectualism that’s perfect for the modern interpretation of the dandy.

RISD’s ongoing Dandy exhibit runs through Sunday, August 18, 2013

American Optical: Sunglasses with Real American History

American Optical’s iconic Wayfarer look-alike

It’s a story of the American dream turned to reality.  William Beecher (1805-1892), born on a Connecticut farm, ventured to Providence for an apprenticeship in jewelry making.  Little did he know how this decision would impact American history some years later.  After moving to Southbridge Connecticut to practice his new trade, he tripped across a very crudely made – and unfortunately, very typical – pair of eyeglasses imported from Europe.  “I can do it better,” he said to himself.  And he did.  The eyewear company he founded in 1833 eventually expanded and merged with other, smaller optical shops to become American Optical in 1869.  By the turn of the century, it employed 2,000 workers and soon expanded to include an office in London.

American Optical was a pioneer in ultraviolet protection

Opthalmic eyeglasses were the original, but not the only, product of this early eyewear company.  American Optical took its first step into the world of sunglasses in 1876 with tinted lenses in a variety of shades.  The critical leap forward came in 1913 when the company obtained the rights to glasses invented by British scientist Sir William Crookes, which launched the concept of ultraviolet protection.

But fashion eyewear  wasn’t enough for this innovative company.  During the World War I, American Optical designed and built an amazing and truly innovative mobile eyeglass fitting facility to provide optical support to U.S. and Allied Forces in Europe.  The mobile units – eight in all – contained frames, lenses, machinery and refraction equipment to allow qualified personnel in the field to conduct eye exams and fit troops with ophthalmic eyeglasses and sunglasses.  Through these mobile facilities, American Optical provided 2.5 million eyeglasses to the U.S. Government during the war.

American Optical expanded its support to the war effort in the Second World War to include goggles, gun sights, bombsights and other optical instruments used for military hardware, as well as eyeglasses. In fact, American Optical’s contributions in support of the U.S. military were so substantial that the company received the Army-Navy “E” award in recognition of its efforts.

Underneath that helmet, Neil Armstrong’s wore American Optical pilot sunglasses when he made that historic first step onto the moon in 1960

The company’s connection to the U.S. military didn’t end with the war.  In 1958, the company released the Flight Goggle 58, also known as the “Original Pilot Sunglass,” to give U.S. pilots maximum performance, protection and comfort.  Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong wore this sunglass when he stepped onto the surface of the moon in 1969 and it’s still in production today.

At least one Commander-in-Chief also benefitted from American Optical’s superior technology.  A pair of American Optical sunglasses is among the collection of his personal effects on hand at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library.

“Made in USA” — it’s a beautiful thing.

Through a stroke of great luck, we’ve acquired a collection of never-worn vintage American Optical sunglasses similar to the ones JFK wore – Wayfarer look-alikes with real glass lenses.  We offer them for just  $252.  Come in and try them on for a walk down the lane of American history.