Every tribe has its own unique traits and Hong Kongers definitely have plenty of their own – one of them being a serious penchant for a good pair of glasses. Stroll down any street and you’ll be sure to find be-specked folk – from six year olds rushing to their next piano lesson to harried working folk, hipsters and the elderly – all sporting some sort of frame. Frankly, you wouldn’t be too hard-pressed to find the fashion forward sporting a pair just to keep up with ever-changing trends. Needless to say, we know what we like and the offering in this fair city continually works to meet demand.
Puyi is arguably the most well-known purveyor of luxury eyewear in town, with an eye towards both niche and mainstream brands. Their wares include global cult favourite Linda Farrow and Mykita, the label for cool Berlin types in the know. This December, a new name is joining the family. Sener Besim, founder of his eponymous brand, was born in Australia to Albanian and Turkish parents. Every collection he designs takes his Ottoman roots as inspiration, first and foremost. Then, Japanese lens craftsmen use aviation-grade titanium to turn the beauty and allure of one of the greatest empires in history into a piece of luxury eyewear.
We took a minute to chat with Besim to learn more about his label as it joins the Puyi coterie.
What drew you to eyewear?
I didn’t set out to establish an eyewear line, exactly. I had been involved in various creative endeavours for some time but never with a sole focus on outcome. I enjoy the process. I didn’t and do not want to undertake a process whereby I immediately identify the form but I had this idea of ‘framing space’ and of harnessing Ottoman aesthetics in general – Ottoman architecture in particular. I’d say that these twin goals led me to eyewear.
What do you mean when you say, ‘framing space’?
The actual ‘framing of the space’ becomes specific with relation to the shapes and aesthetic that Islamic and Ottoman architecture are driven by and that are defined by geometry and the mathematic equation. These spaces continue for me to convey something very minimalist and modern.
Why was it important for you to draw from cultures in your creations?
The architectural expression that arose from earlier Ottoman works has been a critical and specific source of inspiration for me. In the beginning, it was more of a process for me to rediscover my identity. My parents are immigrants from the Former Yugoslavia. As most of the Balkans was under the Ottoman rule for over 500 years, the influence of architecture and culture is undeniable. The mix of European and Turkish influences has certainly been an expression of self within the presentation of the design aesthetic of the Sener Besim brand.
What has inspired the collection that will land in Puyi stores?
The new styles are all Ottoman inspired, it is the brand’s DNA. The styles to land in Puyi stores include all the exclusive styles with the green lenses that represent newness yet still conform to quiet and intelligent industrial design sensibilities.
Can you tell me about the creative process from vision to production? Why Japanese technicians?
The creative process is meditative and continuously revisits Ottoman architecture. Everything from concept to sketches are directly advised by the perfect harmony between inner and outer spaces that are so prevalent within the DNA of Islamic and Ottoman architecture.
From concept, we go to prototyping with the factory.
The nature of the object requires detailed mathematical perfection. Hand milling titanium at this level can take up to 350 hours alone. Custom tools are developed to assist in achieving the forms. Traditional Japanese method was something I wanted to embrace for this collection in order to reflect the level of quality in my practice and my brand. Each lens is overseen by a master optician before cutting; a critical step in ensuring the highest possible clarity. The stage of forming and finishing each lens involves several critical steps. In the case of creating the 24K plated lenses adds roughly 100 additional hours of production. Extensive levels of hand detailing in conjunction with advanced technological procedures are executed within each piece. The end tips of each arm are embellished with onyx stones. A master jeweller is commissioned for the placing of the stones within their settings.
Unlike most other eyewear fabrication, the composition does not incorporate additional alloys. The titanium I utilize is pure and of the highest grade available. Gold is reserved for more elite pieces, as in the Ottoman era. These designs often reflected complex filigree work and incorporated Persian and Byzantine motifs. The process I apply draws from this understanding. I examine each composition with as much attention as a jeweller approaches a fine-jewellery piece.
One other integral material element is the 24K gold plating applied to the gold mirror lenses. This is undertaken in France before being shipped to Japan.
The label is expanding well, especially now that it is to be stocked in Puyi. What do you hope to do with the brand?
We hope to be able to continue finding the right partners like Dover Street Market, L’eclaireur, Just One Eye and of course Puyi, who like myself are interested in the future of luxury. I want my brand to communicate its creativity and luxury all within a personal vernacular that is intelligent, tolerant and emotional.