The Danish spectacles company LINDBERG brings buffalo horn into the 21st Century
Horn spectacles have been available for centuries. Existing examples date back to the 16th and 17th century and indeed there are even earlier Renaissance designs which look more like monocles or pince-nez than the specs of today.
So for a company like LINDBERG, a specialist in spectacle design with an intrinsic link to the Danish design aesthetic, it is a material that deserves a new treatment in our culture that offers new possibilities in terms of technology and production.
As well as resonating luxury, buffalo horn is a material that is so unique that no two frames will ever be the same. Moreover, and this is a truth that is quite often misunderstood, the material comes from domestic (not wild) animals in Asia, sometimes Africa, and is a bi-product, meaning that if it wasn’t being used in spectacle-making, it would have no use and be wasted and thrown away. There are different grades of horn, and the top-level designers using it to make handcrafted spectacles, will source from farms where animals are well fed and tended, factors that are said to actually affect the quality of the material and the beauty of the varied colorations and patterns. Its other inherent qualities are that it is naturally light, hypoallergenic, and, when hand-polished, it has a natural glossy finish.
LINDBERG’s new Horn Collection, which features nine different styles with more coming soon, breaks with traditional horn production. The frames are modern and luxurious, combining contrasting materials, hi-tech titanium and natural horn with extraordinary finesse, and offering a technically superior solution for the hinges and flexible sides. It’s all about fine-tuning to get a perfect fit as well as an elegant look on the face.
“We always try to be true to our philosophy which is about design, comfort, functionality, and attention to detail,” explains Henrik Lindberg in an interview in Milan this month. “We always think about the optician and the work he must do when fitting a customer with a frame. There are lots of frames you can spend an awful lot of money on, and they might offer a trendsetting shape and a nice material but you can’t fit them on the face properly. It’s a bit like choosing to put on amazing on-trend high-heel shoes but finding they permanently hurt when you walk. Some women don’t mind putting up with this, but I think it’s a whole different story when something doesn’t feel good on the face. How you feel wearing your spectacles will affect everything you do.”
Horn is also traditionally seen as a difficult material to work with, compared to more common spectacle materials like acetate or metal. “We had to see what we could do to make a system for a horn frame that even a normal optician would be able to handle easily,” continues Lindberg. “That means when the optician has worked on the frame for a customer, the fit must remain and be reliable and not keep requiring adjustments. That is one of the reasons why we split the horn into layers. While it looks to be one thickness, this innovative layering takes the stress out of the horn, and that means we can preserve the shape and it doesn’t bend or change. This is also why we use titanium. It brings an extraordinary strength to the horn designs that never existed in the past. We have used our years of expertise making frames combining acetate and titanium to achieve this and it has taken a considerable investment in time and resources to perfect it to this level. We have also developed our designs so that the lenses can be mounted from the back. This resolves one of the commonest problems of horn-only frames which is that the lenses can have a tendency to pop out from the front.”
Lovers of the Scandinavian minimalist rimless concept of LINDBERG will see a new direction brought into play in this very exclusive horn concept, but as the owner explains, the essence of a LINDBERG design is very much alive here. “In line with the Danish design tradition, we always say ‘keep it simple’. We don’t want to make our designs more complicated than is necessary and this is why they are completely screwless. We work with clean, natural materials that are easy on the skin, and we do not use more decoration than is necessary. It is these clear solutions that make our frames what they are.” Of course, simple is not always simple when put into practice, and after talking to Henrik Lindberg and holding the horn glasses to see them close up, it is clear that these Danish-crafted designs are a celebration of artisanship and technical design innovation rolled into one.
LINDBERG Horn Spectacles retail from £800. Stockists include Hodd Barnes & Dickins, High Holborn, London WC1, Lauder and Rees Opticians, London, W2, and Ellis and Thompson, Cobham, Surrey.
Photography in Paris by http://romainbjames.com