In 1986, Alyson Magee met Alain Mikli. Magee had just completed a master of arts course at the prestigious Royal College of Arts in London where she had created an eyewear collection as a major mass production project. Eyewear had such an impact on her that she decided to pursue it as a career and approached eyewear designer Alain Mikli, known since the ‘70s for his revolutionary frame designs, distinctive styling and innovative technology. He hired her immediately and she moved to France. “Working with Alain was the best school,” Magee says. “But it was my first job and after five years I thought it would be good to go back to England.” She eventually returned to France and in 1995 helped found the Parisian eyewear company Face a Face, becoming creative director. Now Magee is back in the Mikli fold, creating Alyson Magee Eyewear for mikli-Studio. MikliStudio is a new concept, with eyewear designers developing their own collection under the mikliStudio umbrella. Magee is the first to participate. Her collection will be available at select stores in Spring/Summer 2007. Here Magee and Mikli discuss their collaboration and their plans and hopes for the future of eyewear.
Tell us about the foundation of the collaboration between Mikli and Magee.
ALAIN MIKLI: Our collaboration started many years ago. In 1986, Alyson took over my collections and she proved to me that she was a real frame designer. This is why she is the first person I chose for mikliStudio.
ALYSON MAGEE: I have known Alain for a long time. It is in his company that I started my career in the eyewear industry. I have a lot of respect for him, for what he does and how he does it. I now have a new challenge in my career—working on my very own brand. For me there is no better person to do it with than Alain Mikli. Our collaboration in this project is natural.
How do your respective design philosophies complement each other?
MIKLI: We have a very different approach to product and the merging of two distinct cultures also creates a different product. It’s an extremely interesting experience. But we need time to see the result—at least two or three collections. MAGEE: I am working on a collection completely different from Alain’s. I am doing things he doesn’t do. He is doing things I don’t do. This is why I think we work well together. I have a more feminine approach. Our ideas do overlap when it comes to requirements such as irreproachable quality and product presentation.
What is the design/inspiration concept behind the Magee collection?
MAGEE: Modern, colorful, technical, playful, sophisticated fun—all the result of two years of research and development. What do you expect this collection to bring to the market that differentiates it from other collections?
MIKLI: We want to add a new direction to the Alain Mikli group—a completely different feeling. We use our passion to develop different collections because opticians find pleasure in presenting distinctive collections and consumers enjoy new frame designs.
What are some of the signature elements of the new collection?
MAGEE: In designing this collection, I have been able to push the limits of my creativity and have developed a more technically advanced product than I have ever achieved before. Included are styles made from acetate, aluminum and stainless steel in exclusive colors.
MIKLI: And the Alyson Magee’s collection is more feminine.
Who do you see as the Mikli customer?
MIKLI: The Mikli customer is always in search of innovation and comfort. After all these years in the market, our customer is still asking for a better product. Who do you see as the Magee customer?
MAGEE: My collection is high-end. I expect the customer—both male and female—to have sophisticated taste with a touch of fun.
How do you expect the new collection to evolve?
MIKLI: This is just the beginning of a new collaboration. We need time to innovate, to create. I hope the market will be patient and fair, and wait for our collaboration to reach its maturity.
MAGEE: It’s the beginning of a new story, which has a very strong technical concept. A starting block for many new ideas.
How would you like to see the optical industry change in the next decade?
MIKLI: I would like to see the return of the real optical brands. I hope spectacle manufacturers will keep their position as leaders and won’t hide behind brand names.
MAGEE: I would like to see it move toward quality and good design.
What do you feel are major challenges for today’s optical retailers?
MIKLI: There are two types of opticians: the one who wants to sell a certain style of product, who chooses his frames carefully, and the other one who doesn’t express anything. Tomorrow’s optician should have strong convictions.
MAGEE: Retailers need to pass the correct message from the designer to the end customer. And retailers need to fully understand the product and what the designer is trying to express through the product.
What major trends would you like to see in eyewear in the next decade?
MAGEE: Eyewear is such an important part of one’s personality and expression. I would like it not to become invisible. MIKLI: We must go further, innovate, improve, create style as well as personality. Frames have to be more and more comfortable, easy to wear. I would like to see frames become a personality accessory. ¦