Australian eyewear label Isson is celebrating a decade in business with the release of a new range of stainless steel and Italian acetate, vintage-styled frames. A collection, the label's release notes, "to challenge conformity and defy the norm." Isson's founder and designer Catherine Federici boasts an eclectic background, having studied industrial design, worked in optometry and as an artist and inker in a tattoo parlour. Manuscript spoke with Ms Federici about what the future holds for Isson.
What influenced you in the creation of this new line?
Industrial and architectural designers that have created unusual yet simplistic work are a definite source of inspiration to me. Many designers of the 20th century exploded into an unknown world where new materials and manufacturing techniques gave immense freedom to their creativity. This experimentalism is at the heart of Isson, and whilst the materials and processes haven't changed a great deal over time, the creative freedom to challenge the norm is at our heart.
The collection comprises vintage shapes but in a reconstructed way. Was that a reaction to the current trend for retro-styled fashion?
I strongly believe that the strength of the vintage/retro mania has evolved into something much more than what Buddy Holly and Breakfast at Tiffany's have inspired today. Colour, texture, thick rims, quirky shapes and a near-kookiness is all an offshoot of the initial mania but has morphed into something much more expressive and interesting. I don't consider Isson a straight-up fashion brand. It has close ties with fashion and trends but extends out towards experimentalism and the reinvented.
In the 10 years since you launched Isson, are there any facets of eyewear you haven't ventured into?
There are a few areas that I don't care to venture into: sport/performance and children's eyewear, and definitely anything using injection-moulded techniques, are cheap and nasty and lacking in any real character. At the moment we are experimenting with new materials and effects. I'm curious to see where the results might take me.
What inspired you to create avant-garde eyewear?
2008 marked the beginning of the end of wrap-around, oversized sport-esque frames, and although Isson was never at the core of this trend, we opted to move the brand further away from the mass market and towards the alternative thinkers. It's true that at the time, these colourful, adventurous people were the early adopters of retro/vintage frames, but what made this movement even more successful was the GFC in 2009 and a huge decline in the appeal of major luxury licensed brands. With greater freedom to be more experimental and with a growing number of consumers seeking bold, interesting, edgy frames, Isson's collections over the past three years have become hugely successful, which I didn't really expect. It makes me very excited about the future of Isson.
Your background not only encompasses a jewellery and furniture design major but you've also been a tattoo artist. How has this variety influenced your work in eyewear?
I love a challenge and I'm curious about lots of things. I'm very direct and cannot stand conforming with the status quo, but ultimately I'm hugely optimistic. I think it's impossible to deny that everything we do and think is a result of our past experiences and beliefs, and I suppose that all my experiences and curiosities manifest themselves in designing frames. Incorporating a unique design aesthetic, details, wearability and a design progression is a challenge, but there's a great sense of satisfaction in sketching by hand a final, tangible 3D product and seeing someone wearing my frames down the street.
What can we expect in the next 10 years?
Ten years is a long time, but I will say that there's a superb collaboration coming up next year and greater expansion on our already growing number of international distributors.
Words Patrick Weyland-Smith