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The WD Interview – Alexandra Giselbrecht & Klaus Huber, Eyewear Designers (part III)

February 13th, 2009 · No Comments · Design & Fashion, The WD Interview

Klaus Huber and Alexandra Giselbrecht talk about their designs for Robert La Roche and keeping the enfant terrible of the optical industry edgy in a modern setting.

Please tell us a bit about the history of Robert La Roche – is Robert La Roche himself still involved with the company?

Klaus Huber: ”The company Robert la Roche was founded in 1975 and the brand Robert La Roche was sold to Michael Pachleitner in 1999. Robert La Roche himself continued to work for the company as a consultant for another two years. I was involved with the company as the designer from the start and continue to design the lines together with Alexandra.”

How did you get involved in eyewear design?

Alexandra Giselbrecht: ”I started working for Robert La Roche in 2004 and didn’t really have anything to do with glasses before. I had studied industrial design, and when I met Pachleitner, I just got into it. In fashion design you can realize your ideas very quickly. With industrial designs you can plan forever, but if it becomes a reality is another story.”

Klaus Huber: ”This is quite a funny story. I studied painting and graphic design, but didn’t finish the course because I travelled around the world for a year. My girl friend’s mother told me I couldn’t carry on like this and should look for a job. She knew of something near where I lived in Linz. I wasn’t that keen on the idea, because I didn’t want to settle down. Since my girl friend’s mother was very insistent, I went for the interview making it very clear that I only wanted to earn some money for a few months, so I could go travelling again in the summer.

But the personnel manager told me to give it a try and ever since then I got stuck into it like a fly gets stuck to glue – and no more travelling around the world. Without knowing it, I got straight into high-end eyewear design with Optyl Carrera with names such as Christian Dior, and Porsche and a little later Christian Lacroix and Paloma Picasso.”

Do you understand yourself as successors of Robert La Roche who guards his inheritance or do you try to express yourself as designers in your own right?

Klaus Huber: “It’s a combination of both. Several points that were important to La Roche are important to us, such as exclusivity, special design, extravagance, independence… .”

Alexandra Giselbrecht: ”…and that the frames bring out the personality. We have to translate that into today’s environment, not just copy old ideas, but work very differently with what we have today.”

Klaus Huber: ”At the beginning I would show drawings to Robert, we discussed it and he would say if he liked them. You could say that Robert grew up with retro look of the frames of the 1930s and he tried to develop that and modernize it for his day. All this, while other designers were doing very different things. We do the same; we live in the 21st century and try to more futuristic things, but based on the approach of Robert La Roche.”

How would you describe the style and design philosophy of Robert La Roche?

Klaus Huber (laughs): “What did we come up with again, Alexandra? Sharp, unsettling, rebellious. That’s our motto.”

Alexandra Giselbrecht: “We are not happy with the first design that we come up with… .”

Klaus Huber: “…we want to create special things and not follow the mainstream, although we are very aware that to be successful financially, we have to be realistic in our designs and curb our design approach.”

Which materials do you like working with most and why?

Alexandra Giselbrecht (laughs): “I think you can see that for yourself… .”

Klaus Huber: “With acetate – you can do a lot more with acetate with the colours with the volume of a frame, with the three-dimensionality and with the transparency. You could say with are seeing an acetate boom – or perhaps with have already passed the height of this boom. We try to address this by using metal as well, but we try to adapt the metal frames to the styling and construction of an acetate frame, to give it a three dimensional quality and show more volume.”

Alexandra Giselbrecht: “We use the material because we love working with it, not because we have to (historically because of the Robert La Roche brand).”

Klaus Huber: “I think all designers feel that way, even those who have special features such as metal frames with special branch designs – even they start working with acetate, because it just feels differently.”

 What do you enjoy most about designing glasses?

Alexandra Giselbrecht: “We start very simply and spin our ideas out further and further. We start to think about our collections very early on and move on to other things. But when you suddenly see it again before an exhibition, it’s great to see the finished frame.”

Klaus Huber: “I have very clear visual ideas and images, which I take from films and the cinema. I imagine a look: hard, soft, strange or smooth and you have an idea of what that should look like. You try and convert that and if it succeeds, it a great joy when you created something that you like and you reached you goal. We don’t draw every day – we have many other things we need to do to create a collection. But when you get into the creative process and you translate that, that’s the thing that drives us and makes us happy over and over again.”

 

(This is an abridged version of an article that first appeared under the title “Design Rebels” in 20/20 Europe)

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