BLYSZAK EYEWEAR was started after I had a chance encounter with former LNCC buyer ANDREW BLYSZAK at the my popup store for Lockwood Umbrellas in the summer of 2015. Andrew had wanted to recreate a much beloved 90’s oval shape frame he picked up in the flea market in France. After I’d spent years struggling to make every sale on my own for Gucewicz eyewear - and seeing that Andrew had way more sales experience than I did - and I having but no budget to hire him : I agreed to team up with him to help make this new project happen.
We adopted the same theme that I developed at GUCEWICZ eyewear : namely a simple yet modular system, where you develop a few components very well, and make sure they are all interchangable, affording relatively cheap and easy scalability of your designs and product range.
The system was simply 3 options of construction for sunglasses frames : a) HORN FRONTS WITH HORN ARMS (as the most luxurious option) ; b) METAL FRONTS with HORN ARMS (as an intermediately priced option), and c) METAL FRONTS with METAL ARMS (Full Metal) sunglasses frame, (as what some call “an entry level price point”). The contrast of industrialised machined metal vs the old-world beauty of natural horn was appealing to both of us, and worked it’s way to become a major theme in Blyszak’s brand story, as well as acting a a neat differentiator between us and other brands - remember that back in 2015 - before this recent explosion in eyewear creativity and experimentation, most brands were still droning around the world of coloured acetates then, a few coloured metals, not much else..
I stipulated that the project continue my practice of using ethically sourced buffalo horn, and also the nice touch of including the Binomial nomenclature (ie. the Latin names for animals), as a slightly higher brow way of distinguishing between species of buffalo or ox which had different coloured horns (eg. Bubalus bubalis, or Bos taurus longifrons) - This also distingushed ourselves from other brands : the fashion industry ain’t exactly known for being occupied by people who studied Latin. I can’t help but slightly dig that difference between me and the majority of the industry.
Design started with a signature style, based on a pair of those 90’s type oval wire-frames Andrew had found in the French flea market. I copied the basic shape of the style and improved it here and there while adapting it for horn and our ‘modular system’.
Then we worked with Chinese manufactures to produce the metal parts to create our first collection, which was rather limited in that it was based entirely on this shape. But people liked it.
The production for first collection of horn sunglasses was executed in the Lockwood umbrella workshops in Seven Sisters (North London) by myself and with the tireless assistance of my friend the artist ANDREW J FINCH - we churned through a fair number of Marlboro reds, Monster energy drink (green flavour, before everyone got stickers of it) and disposable Barbeques cooking economy burgers in the workshop’s the carpark- Many hot days later, through the air thick with foul smelling smoke from lazer cutting horn and heat bending horn arms in microwavable trays of hot vegetable oil*, Finch and I built the first order.
*The horn needed this treatment to make it malleable enough to bend into shaping jigs that I had carved from perspex. Horn will keep it shape when cooled because it’s a keratin based substance (like hair) that you can heat up, put in or around a mold or jig and on cooling it sets. In that respect, it’s the same principle as giving hair a perm.
After a few industrial setbacks of horn arms popping open like popcorn in the microwave, and knackered jokes about needing Anthrax vaccinations (horn workers have been known to contract the disease from unclean horn) we got the order made more or less on time- And I privately vowed never to make so many glasses in one go, or drink that much Monster green again. My teeth were rotten and my clothes and skin stank. But no anthrax at least.
I worked with Andrew Blyszak until 2017. During this time I designed the III~V collections, in addition to the luxury ski-wear sunglasses later named ‘SPORT’ that were a recycled design from a Gucewicz luxury sportswear collection that Andrew and I used for Blyszak to collaborate with Thomas Erber and the Crillon Hotel in Paris.
During these 2 years Blyszak eyewear had successfully grown to be stocked successfully stocked in fashion stores and opticians in North America , Europe the UK with particular interest in Japan and Asia, where we did special edition installation with Tokyo based store Ware-mo-kou. I found an excellent creative partner in JOSEPH PORPIGLIA , who joined BLYSZAK in 2016 before moving onto Yohji Yamamoto eyewear. Even though i had some consultation in the overall look, it was because of a number of people, including Joseph and Andrew that Blyszak Eyewear grew to cut such a distinctive style.
After leaving Blyszak eyewear in 2017, I vowed not to get involved in a startup again, which I promptly broke and repeated breaking this vow many times since. One day perhaps I will be able to shake the strong feeling of allure I have for new projects, until then however, expect more blog posts like this.
Some of you have contacted me before and I’m overjoyed to help or simply chat and share my two cents worth of experience with you. - So please, again , If you have any questions about making eyewear, or how we got started with an eyewear or even fashion brand or whatever , just contact me here.