British Design. Italian Craftsmanship. Global Conscience - MONC x Oliver Spencer

Here at Oliver Spencer, we take sustainability and craftsmanship seriously. Every collection we create starts with the quality and provenance of fabrics, so when we discovered a young eyewear maker who shared the same values, a collaboration seemed like the natural progression. Cue Freddie Elborne, founder of MONC (monclondon.com), who since 2016 has been producing small batches of perfectly formed eyewear from a small factory in the heartland of Italian frame manufacturing. In a short space of time, Freddie has created a brand that places provenance and sustainability alongside style and aesthetics. The result is a considered approach to frame making that leans on the artisanal skills of old, of handworking and materials with longevity. We caught up with him recently in his studio in West London to discuss the collaboration...


Oliver Spencer: So how did you get into the business of eyewear design Freddie?

Freddie Elborne: Well my background is in product design, so I have always been a bit of an obsessive over great design. The sunglasses speciality comes from my dad who owned a vintage pair of Persols before the company was sold in the 90s. I used to see my brother wearing them and think he looks so cool! There was just something about them. I realised then that sunglasses can totally define what your character is, or what you want it to be.


OS: Let’s dive into the collection then...

FE: Sure, well, as you know they all take their names from towns on the British South Coast and the Isle of Wight where you have a home - Lymington, Beaulieu, and Osborne, once the residence of Queen Victoria.

For the Lymington I wanted to create a frame that would basically suit everyone - something well-sized that’s classic and delicate but with a bit of character. When you have minimalist styling like this, it’s the components that come to define the characteristics. So for example, you won’t ever see metal frames with a triangular profile as on the Lymington.

BEAULIEU AVIATOR SUNGLASSES YELLOW GOLD BLACK/GREY LENS

BEAULIEU AVIATOR
SUNGLASSES YELLOW
GOLD BLACK/GREY LENS

BEAULIEU AVIATOR SUNGLASSES WHITE GOLD GREEN LENS

BEAULIEU AVIATOR
SUNGLASSES WHITE
GOLD GREEN LENS

BEAULIEU AVIATOR SUNGLASSES BRUSHED BLACK/GREY LENS

BEAULIEU AVIATOR
SUNGLASSES BRUSHED
BLACK/GREY LENS


OS: Yes, and when we spoke at the very beginning of this collaboration, we briefly thought about acetate but acknowledged that everyone does acetate and we wanted to create something different, against the grain.

FE: So wire frames were the perfect choice because although they’re not as prevalent as acetate and more expensive to manufacture, they better encapsulate the craftsmanship and handwork that defined the beginnings of the sunglasses industry. It was an exciting challenge for me because I had only really experimented with wire before, and hadn’t ever put wire frames into production. MONC is about individuality, subtle expressions, and I think wire frames express with their geometric nuances really express this.

OSBORNE AVIATOR SUNGLASSES YELLOW GOLD BLACK/GREY LENS

OSBORNE AVIATOR
SUNGLASSES YELLOW
GOLD BLACK/GREY LENS

OSBORNE AVIATOR SUNGLASSES WHITE GOLD GREEN LENS

OSBORNE AVIATOR
SUNGLASSES WHITE
GOLD GREEN LENS

OSBORNE AVIATOR SUNGLASSES GUN METAL GREEN LENS

OSBORNE AVIATOR
SUNGLASSES GUN
METAL GREEN LENS



The Beaulieu is the more classic round frame style that references the iconic frames of the late 60s and early 70s while the Osborne I describe as the Miami drug lord! It’s 80s inspired with bold sharp corners - its persona is kind of a cool, rebellious biker type...


OS: Yes, the Osborne is similar to the ones that Peter Fonda wears in Easy Rider. What’s amazing about them is that you don’t even feel like you’re wearing them, they’re so lightweight.

FE: The alloy is a mixture of titanium and alpaca (an alloy itself, not the animal), which has been used since the 80s. A titanium alloy gives you all of the tensile strength and lightweight benefits of titanium but at a reasonable price. Trying to sample it in lockdown was difficult but we got there!


We also chose to use glass lenses by renowned Italy manufacturer Barberini, rather than polycarbonate which is what 99% of sunglasses lenses are made from. Glass is derived from natural minerals and costs five times the price of plastic lenses but they are so much better, and the clarity is insane. It’s like when TVs went from SD to HD! They’re totally scratch-proof and recyclable too.

LYMINGTON AVIATOR SUNGLASSES WHITE GOLD BLACK/GREY LENS

LYMINGTON AVIATOR
SUNGLASSES WHITE GOLD
BLACK/GREY LENS

LYMINGTON AVIATOR SUNGLASSES GUN METAL GREEN LENS

LYMINGTON AVIATOR
SUNGLASSES GUN
METAL GREEN LENS

LYMINGTON AVIATOR SUNGLASSES SILVER AZURE LENS

LYMINGTON AVIATOR
SUNGLASSES SILVER
AZURE LENS


OS: The frames are made in a ski resort aren’t they?

FE: Pretty much! Yes, the factory we used is about an hour from Cortina, in a small Dolomite town called Danta di Cadore. It’s an amazing little factory about 25km from our acetate workshop. The sunglasses business is all based in that area. Post WW2, it was one of the most affluent areas in Italy because they had all of these massive eyewear producers manufacturing there. Then everything went to Asia.

OS: Manufacturing needs to come back to Italy, just as it needs to come back to the UK. If people are going to be serious about sustainability on an individual level, then they need to be prepared to pay more for things that are designed to last. Throw-away culture is so bad for the environment, and the fashion industry has a lot to answer for.

FE: We did a piece on our website last year about what the ‘Made in” label means these days. In garments, it definitely went through a period of meaning very little, but I feel that is starting to change again.


OS: Some ‘Made In’ labels definitely mean more than others. Take our Made In England garments, our Grandpa coat for example. I can show you which hill near the factory that the sheep graze upon!

FE: That’s brilliant! And that’s why this collab feels so right because we both share the same ethos around quality and production values. You’re showing the heritage of the garment, whereas most other companies don’t elaborate. Eyewear, much like fashion, is a prime example of an industry that almost entirely packed its bags and moved to China and it’s had a hugely detrimental effect on the real artisans of the industry.

OS: The clothing industry is no different but I’m hopeful that as manufacturing standards improve, consumer habits will follow suit too. I definitely feel like there’s now a critical mass of brands like Oliver Spencer and MONC for whom sustainable manufacturing processes are non-negotiable. Hopefully we can prove that great design is something worth cherishing for a lifetime and not just a season.


Shop the new MONC x Oliver Spencer collaboration here.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published