This edition of Designer Files is a little different as we are talking with a team rather than one person.
The founding team at ROLF Spectacles are from Lechaschau, a small town in the Tyrolean Alps in Austria. Roland Wolf was already working in the optical industry for many years prior to the foundation of ROLF Spectacles and Marija “Mary” Iljazovic, upon meeting him, also became involved building her experience over the years. Adding different types of expertise to the endeavor, both of their brothers joined them to begin the company and share their passion.
Hey guys, what are you working on today?
We are currently working on further developing our latest collection, the ROLF advanced | horn collection, which complements the existing wood and stone collections. At ROLF, we are constantly working on research and development and never stop to be innovative and to create new things. On another note, we are focusing on expanding our business, opening new shops, investing in new markets and creating more brand awareness. For 2014, our main focus is on the US market with the improvement of service quality and the implementation of a strong, dedicated sales team for the market. With all that in mind, we are striving to further extend our market leader role.
How did you begin working with wood as basis for your collection?
Wood has always been a major part of our lives having grown up in the Tyrolean mountains. Our home and upbringing has had a great impact on our work and attitude in life. We love to work with wood, as it is a natural, living material with lots of character and the uniqueness we are looking for in our designs.
How long did it take to transition from the “idea” to the “reality” of the collection?
In 2007, we started out carving eyewear frames in our basement with the simplest tools. The first prototype was ready after only a month, but results were not satisfactory. We needed to learn lots of things. CNC machining, press processes and creating new machinery to name just a few. In 2009, we showcased additional prototypes and for the first time we were able to gauge responses to our product. People were thrilled, but the desired quality was lacking due to imprecise processes. Without support from the banks, our project seemed to head for failure despite the positive feedback. Thanks to our families, we were able to continue and invest in new machinery and optimized production processes. Finally, after just a few more months, we could submit the first perfect set of ROLF glasses for the Silmo d‘Or at the SILMO Paris in August 2009. Being nominated was incredible for us – winning was just beyond comprehension!
What is it about the collection that makes it so unique?
The ROLF collection offers finest natural eyewear handcrafted in Tirol, Austria and that is the company’s philosophy in a nutshell. Our frames are made out of wood, stone and horn with loving attention to detail and bold use of innovative techniques. This makes each frame a unique one-of-a-kind piece of eyewear, a delight to wear. The frames are made from natural materials, with no metal, no screws or allergens, are extremely light, antistatic and maintenance free for better durability, comfort and quality. The wooden hinge and the patented ROLF glazing system are further unique features, which make it possible to create thin and elegant frames as well as expressive designs.
You are working with materials other than wood now?
At ROLF, we produce frames using natural materials, not just wood. We are not setting any boundaries to our production and design process and are strongly investing in research and development to create unheard-of eyewear. With our underlying know-how, experience and expertise in the production of frames, we could literally produce frames of any kind.
You have some very unique marketing. I particularly love the video with Bernie getting the old BMW sideways…
We are truly individual characters with a unique and authentic style, which also reflects in our marketing. We follow our passion and remain true to our roots, which differentiates us from others and is also one of our core strengths. One of our friends, who is a photographer and film producer, helps us with the shootings and the films, but there is certainly no script involved. The passion for old cars plays a major part in the design process, so it’s not unusual for old cars to be featured in our marketing activities.
What is happening with your brand for the rest of 2014?
In 2014, we are celebrating 5 years of ROLF Spectacles, since winning the Silmo d’Or in 2009. For a start, we are introducing our new advanced | horn collection. Further, we are extending our main collections with new wood combinations and designs being presented at the shows in Europe and the US. Finally, we are contemplating with the idea to restore an old Steyr truck – ROLF is about more than just frames, with the passion for old cars and craftsmanship. With ROLF, you never know what is round the corner.
What is it about being independent that makes a difference for you?
We have never had big investors, which may have been quite useful in the start-up, but on the other hand being independent allows us to be free and remain authentic. We like to follow our visions with attention to detail, passion and ambition combined with time and love in order to create something very personal and individual, from the frame to the case. We live our passion in every way, in everything we create.
Please visit ROLF SPECTACLES at LOFT NYC March 27-30 www.loft-nyc.net