Long gone are the days of glasses being worn only by librarians. Today’s specs are chic, Insta-worthy and trend-setting, especially when they’re handcrafted by experts who understand the importance of good eyewear. We chatted with Aileen Ams, the managing director of Smith & Norbu, to learn more about its amazing journey and why each item it creates isn’t just eyewear, it’s a piece of traditional art.
Your brand has a totally unique angle – making items with sustainable buffalo and yak horns. How (and why) did you choose these materials?
Everything started with a trip to Tibet in 2007. The company founder Benoit Ams fell in love with a piece of yak horn, and from there came the idea to create high-quality eyewear frames using this fantastic material. Smith & Norbu was born from that inspiration; we handcraft yak and buffalo horn frames and sunglasses as well as yak leather accessories.
Ecological commitment is centric to our approach, and all our products are manufactured with regard to the highest respect for the environment. We use only eco-friendly and sustainable materials, sourcing our materials from domesticated yaks and buffalo that are widely used in agriculture. These animals don’t fall into the category of “protected” or “endangered” species. They’re also bred for their meat and milk, so the horns are a by-product, as is the leather. We ensure that the horn processing methods that are used respect the environment and, therefore, comply with the most stringent eco standards.
How do you come up with the designs?
We wanted to create frames that are not only beautiful, but also comfortable to wear. Our bespoke service allows customers to pick their own pattern and style, and to choose the shape they want. All our frames are made to measure. The end result is a truly unique pair of beautifully crafted glasses adapted to the physical features of the wearer, and a guaranteed high level of comfort.
Your Hong Kong store is located in PMQ. Why did you choose that space for your brand?
PMQ has been transformed into a creative industries landmark in Hong Kong and provides support for local young designers to set up their own creative studios. We share our brand stories and concepts with visitors, and we showcase and sell our products, ideas and services there.
Where are your products made?
All of them are made right here in Hong Kong.
What sets your brand apart from others?
Our unique materials and the accuracy with which we create using a bespoke service. We want our customers to associate our brand with high quality made with natural, raw materials. Our method of mixing tradition with innovation to create stylish, re-interpretations of classic icons is at the heart of the brand’s philosophy. Our focus is on creating chic products using quality craftsmanship with a commitment to sustainability.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Smith & Norbu is a coming together of East and West. The name reflects that fusion between the traditional craftsmanship of Asia and a western shape and style.
Visit the website for more information at www.smith-norbu.com.
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