Photo: Marissa Roseillier

By Jillian Urcelay

JU: You have spent numerous years designing for companies such as Modo and De Rigo Rem before making the move to Europa and State Optical as creative director. How has this newest venture been different?
NR: Besides the weather, only a few things have changed. However, I did make some major realizations along the way from Los Angeles to Chicago. First, I realized that I love family businesses, and in that way Europa is very similar to De Rigo Rem and Modo. It is always about the people. The connection you have with your team is the most important and makes the biggest difference in your work. The company ethic behind Europa and State Optical is the perfect representation of a true family business. I met Scott Shapiro through the industry and always admired what the company has done with State, so when he called me, I knew it would be a fun new challenge. The other difference and something that is new for me, is the non-license business. They are a true independent company for independent retailers.

While I made great friends and worked with amazing people so far in my career from Derek Lam to John Varvatos and the team at Converse—the feeling of freedom and open possibilities on the creative side without any license to report to has been really interesting.

Lastly, of course the biggest difference and one of the main advantages to working with State is having the factory in our building just a few steps away.

Your career began in architecture and you have used it as inspiration in many of your past designs. How has relocating to Chicago affected or inspired your design process?
I always loved Chicago; I just never thought I would live here—especially after 10 years of living in the California sun. Two incredible masters of architecture lived and worked here—Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, so there is a lot of history to learn and build upon from my industrial design and architecture schooling in Paris. It has actually helped me rediscover and learn from the masters. I always see my designs through architecture, and the design principles of lines, perspectives, proportions and details are what make the differences.

Which has been your favorite collection to work on at Europa, and how would you describe the brand to someone unfamiliar?
When you start designing with a new company, there is always one brand in particular that you are excited about. When I was at De Rigo Rem it was John Varvatos, and now at Europa it is State Optical.

State is a true independent luxury brand with its own factory made entirely in Chicago. Now with the acquisition of American Optical, State has added another original brand that is truly rooted in American history. From the moon landing to the original frame JFK wore, the more I dig into the history of AO, the more amazing discoveries I find on historical images and product designs. It is like the archeology of eyewear.

Here at 20/20 we know you love creating a good mood board (a few have been featured on our pages before.) Can you describe what your current mood/trend board looks like for an upcoming release?
For me a trend board not only looks at the next trend of color or texture, but also tells a story. Each brand starts with its own seasonal story. This spring, we are exploring the softer palette of transparent colors with a touch of contrast accent variations. You will see light browns and greens as well as some new desaturated pink textures.

Going off that, what can State Optical fans expect in 2020 in terms of design themes, tech, color, etc.?
At State, we are all about the mix of design and craft, the best materials and people. However, we are also looking at new ways to improve and refine the details of our frames. The collection launching at Vision Expo East is about easy wearable styles with a sense of discovery.

We will be launching new color details on our signature temple tip as well as a softer profile in this new release. The main concept is about the touch and feel—the sensibility of holding a handmade frame. It is about the personal connection between the wearer and the product.

This year we will also be releasing a few new collaborations between State and famous artists, from music to the art world, as well as some new ways to bidge craftsmanship between countries and master eyewear makers. There is definitely more to come.

Anything else you would like to share about what’s coming next? Any new initiatives or exciting news for the company?
This year will be busy for Europa and State. We are adding many new segments, from Scott Harris, Alan J, State and the relaunch of American Optical.

I see my responsibility beyond just frame design. It is about creating an environment within the collections as well as great storytelling. We have been spending a lot of time designing new packaging, P.O.P. and marketing support. At the end of the day, the reward is to see people wearing the product and to hear their connection to the frame. ■