Tucked in a corner of a beautiful suite in The Lancaster Hotel, an elegant case, resembling something you would carry an exquisite instrument in, sits atop a mahogany side table. Beside it stands Ralph Vaessen.
Having been nominated for the Silmo dâ€™Or (the Palme d’Or for sunglasses and eyewear) in the Sunglasses category for his design SpykerÂ -Â specially designed for the Dutch sports car manufacturer of the same name, we watch with bated breath as Ralph reveals his new collection. The pieces sit in perfectly sized, individual compartments and immediately we see why his designs have caught the attention of the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Lenny Kravitz, Vivienne Westwood and David Lynch.
Though perhaps extravagant, his eyewear is both sophisticated and elegant, drawing great inspiration from the Memphis group of the 80s, combining a postmodernist collection of designs with an art deco, pop art fusion touch.
Perhaps what is most interesting about Ralph Vassen is his about-turn fromÂ his previous profession working for the Dutch government to pursue his dreams as a luxury eyewear designer. After a fruitless search for the perfect pair when he himself needed new frames, he decided to take the design stage into his own hands, after feeling that he couldnâ€™t find precisely what it was he was looking for. His brand now boasts hundreds of designs, carefully crafted by artisan masters in a small atelier in Eifel, Germany.
A main component of Vassensâ€™s designs is the use of natural horn, a classic material that not only creates a striking medium for his trend-setting designs but is one that is responsibly sourced, ensuring that the horn used for his collections are natural residual waste from domesticated buffalo, none of which are harmed in any way for his designs. Buffalo horn has been used for the manufacture of eyeglasses since the fifteenth century, but it is Vassenâ€™s innovative designs and sharp lines that have led him to being recognized as one of the true masters in natural horn eyewear. Ralph Vassen collections are available in some of the most prestigious stores including Barneys New York, Le Bon MarchÃ© Rive Gauche, Harrods, Saks Fifth Avenue and Selfridges&Co, to name a fewâ€¦