A little Reflection for Summer

top: “Chester” by Orgreen
middle:”Low Rider” by Orgreen
bottom: “FRANZ 24k” by MYKITA & Bernhard Willhelm

If, like me, your eyes are sensitive enough that walking around midsummer without sunglasses is tantamount to headache and disorientation, then you probably know a thing or two about frames. As all we visually impaired people know, frames are arguably the most important feature of our everyday look. Sunglasses are particularly fun because they have that innate ability to transform us into someone impenetrable and cool. But there’s still something to be said for retaining our appearance of cool, calm, I-don’t-give-a-fuck collectedness, even within the realm of sunglasses. It’s distinctly uncool to have big, flashy labels running down the sides of our temples. The search for the right pair of refined and fun sunglasses can be difficult. There are fewer independent eyewear producers and fewer opticians that carry their wares.

Most of the stores that are cool enough to carry hip labels that don’t plaster their eyewear with rhinestone curlicues will have a selection of the usual producers of geek-chic glasses: Cutler and Gross, Theo, Alain Mikli and the like. These designers are wonderful, no question. But if you’re looking for frames that you won’t see on the face of every Pugh + Scarpa intern, here are a few eyewear brands and collaborations that are making cooler-than-thou sunglasses sans branding.

The folks at Orgreen seem to have a knack for balancing sports and work. Henrik Orgreen, Gregers Fastrup and Tobias Wandrup have no formal training as opticians, but they have been immersed in art, street culture and extreme sports for a while. The trim titanium detailing and backings that pervade the collection do create a certain air of sportiness. You get the sense that you’re meant to be boarding, skating and climbing in these frames, even when they’re distinctly dorky. The frames seem to be a meditation on the modern man: physically active yet hard working, excitement-seeking yet responsible. View their frames as a gentle reminder that trying to find balance in your life may be shitty, but at least your frames reflect that you’re trying.

These next sunglasses are absolutely mesmerizing. I want to stare at them all day. The bright coloring, the shiny plating, the power of the form: MYKITA and Bernhard Willhelm really know how to create an élan. When I first heard about the collaboration, I was excited but skeptical. MYKITA, founded by Harald Gottschling, Daniel Haffmans, Philipp Haffmans and Moritz Krueger in 2003, is known for elegant and restrained frames; by contrast Bernhard Willhelm, a member of the Antwerp Six who started his clothing line in 1999, is known for avant-garde, over-the-top ready-to-wear. Much as I love Willhelm’s more restrained creations, I could easily imagine a catastrophic and ugly end product. But what resulted is far more impressive than I imagined: my favorite sunglasses of the summer. They combine the vibrancy and energy of Willhelm’s sartorial vision with the architectural restraint and simplicity that MYKITA is known for. The result is stunning. I can’t help but feel like I’d be significantly happier and significantly cooler if I wore these. I imagine you feel the same.

We could all see it coming. Really, it was weird that Balmain hadn’t yet gotten into the frame industry: as purveyors of everything French and hip-to-the-core, there’d be something amiss if Christophe Decarnin didn’t see the potential in eyewear. So Balmain went ahead and made sunglasses, collaborating with the incomparable Oliver Peoples, which has made some of the best and most widely distributed frames around since 1986. These threateningly edgy sunglasses that look even better on the face than in pictures. With a wraparound band that connects the temple to the lenses (I particularly like the silver frame that ups the contrast), and the bold, slightly elongated lens shape, the glasses beg for some hot young thing to wear them. Namely, you (and hopefully me).

-Max Kessler