MYKITA, an interview with Moritz Krueger. by Silvia Bombardini

MYKITA 2012, by Mark Borthwick (3)
MYKITA 2012, by Mark Borthwick (2)


Dear Shaded Viewers and Diane,

8 years ago, in a former Communist kindergarten (Kita) in East Berlin, MYKITA was taking its first steps, patiently folding origami and dreams. Today, they boast ongoing collaborations with the most progressive designers and brands, are a must-have for any respectable music superstar, eyewear connoisseur or Sex and the City devotee, and opened worldwide six luminous backlit stores. All this, while keeping their whole production firmly grounded in Berlin. A few days ago at TOTEM in Paris, I had the pleasure to meet Moritz Krueger, CEO and Creative Director of MYKITA, who told me a bit about creative DNAs and polyamide powders, Italian mountaineers in the 50s and art and textures from Mars, and that uniquely intimate alliance that ties us at first sight to our Shades.

MYKITA 2012, by Mark Borthwick (1)


S.B.: MYKITA proudly describes itself as a modern manufactory, as design critic Markus Frenzl puts it, "in a perpetual pioneering phase". How do you manage to balance your distinctive in-house and handmade philosophy with the demands and pressure of the international market?

M.K.: First of all I'd like to give a definition of what we mean with the concept of modern manufactory. Usually the idea of a manufactory comes from the 18th century, from Great Britain, where under one roof you would have different craftsmen with different expertises to work on a new, more complex product. It was like a collective of shared values and qualities. So what we describe as our modern manufactory is the combination of classical, traditional craftsmanship and high technology. It doesn't necessarily have to mean that everything is under one roof, even if for the major part it is. But it's more about a symbiotic way to integrate some other subsidiaries into our production process. We have three small manufactories of special technologies that are only working for us, on our products, and with their expertises we are able to create a modern product combining the classical and new. So this is what we mean by modern manufactory. Of course something that it's also very important for us is that people nowadays are very interested in understanding where and how something is made, so MYKITA also gives a transparency to the customers, they can look behind the seams. The insight we are giving is just like lifting a little bit the curtains in front of our MYKITA house in Berlin, let people look inside, nothing is hidden, everything is visible, as well as on our eyewear concept, the technology is always visible and is our trademark on the frame.

S.B.: The same dynamic hybrid nature in fact, this combination of technology and craftsmanship, is clearly visible in your spectacles just as well. In your new DECADES collection, for instance, where dainty retro outlines meet MYKITA's unmistakable ultralight flat-metal concept.

M.K.: That's most important for us. Our perception of a modern product is not to do replicas, which look like and are produced in the same way of 30 or 40 years ago, but is to always find a translation, even when we want to let people see the origins of a shape, for example in the DECADES collection, to be reminded of an 80s panto shape from New York or something like that. But our idea is to find a translation through the use of our eyewear concept, and of course perhaps by dressing the frames in interesting colour combinations to find a modern expression for a look that originally came out of the past. That's a strong part of our creative DNA, that we are creating the product in a different way than the eyewear market is usually doing.

MYKITA & Alexander Herchcovitch,  SS2012 2
MYKITA & Alexander Herchcovitch,  SS2012
MYKITA & Alexander Herchcovitch,  SS2012

S.B.: I've read that your very first eyewear model came from the idea of making glasses based on the principles of Japanese origami. And even today, quite a long way after, we can still perceive in MYKITA designs a certain neat harmony, some patient wisdom and folded, invisible grace. Would you tell me something about this early original frame, and how it evolved over the years?

M.K.: Yes, that was the idea of our very first collection, made of 0.5 millimetres stainless steel. You can really imagine sheets of stainless steel, then just with folding and bending you were creating this three-dimensional object. For us is very important that the technical solution we are looking for would be an aesthetic solution as well. Like I said, on our glasses everything is visible, there's nothing hidden so the technology has to be beautiful, and it has become the trademark, that the connoisseurs know, of the MYKITA frame. The technology gives their special DNA to our glasses. And with the technology we are trying to develop something that fits the characteristics of the material as well. So if you have a so soft material, and lightweight, like the flat metal, you don't want have a technology that could later on lead it to break at some point, it has to fit the material, we take into consideration its characteristics in order to find the right technique.

S.B.: So you used these sheets of metal in a similar way to paper sheets in origami art?

M.K.: Yeah, exactly the same.

S.B.: Awesome. An ancient eastern legend grants a wish to he who folds a thousand origami cranes. In 2011, MYKITA sold more than 160,000 frames, each carefully handcrafted at your in-house workshop in Berlin: with so much already achieved, do you have any wish left to fulfil?

M.K.: If you would describe our company as a sailing boat, I would wish the team which is running the boat to be constantly developing and happy. Because with a skilful and happy crew you will be always successful, and this gives us the opportunity to feel responsible enough to stick with our way of course, but still be spontaneous enough to follow the wind or take a different voyage sometimes.

MYKITA 2012, by Mark Borthwick (6)

S.B.: A certainly decisive stage of your voyage was the introduction of your MYLON line. A new material, researched and developed by MYKITA, that brought your commitment to innovation further up to a new and exciting level, somewhere between design and almost alchemy. A magic polyamide powder, prodigious lightness and durability: what could you tell me about the MYLON tale?

M.K.: We have always been trying to think a little bit out of the box, to strongly not become just part of our industry but be open-minded and have our eyes open to different fields. And there for example we found a technology called Selective Laser Sintering, where as you said you have a superfine polyamide powder in a three-dimensional space, and then fine layer by fine layer the laser is melting it together and you can create, without any restriction in terms of shape or design, any three-dimensional object you want. This technology was intended for the prototyping industry, to make functional prototypes mostly when they were developing cars, and there was no demand yet for an aesthetic surface. So with all our knowledge we thought about how to work with its surface, how to colour it, and that made that material this MYLON, we discovered how to finish it.

It's extremely lightweight, 40% lighter than acetate for example, it's very flexible so you can't really break it, and has no restrictions in terms of shape, so you can really create whatever you want, and you can thermically adjust it, the optician for example can heat it so that the frame really fits on you.

And the idea was to really find in terms of eyewear a link between sport and fashion, where before you only had sport frames, like Oakley or something like that, with a very monotonic design language, very American, very masculine, very cyborg-looking, anything but what we like. So now this new material is allowing us to find a new expression for sport eyewear, that draws inspiration from the 70s look of sport glasses. We tried to work things out with the MYLON material or the way we're colouring it, in order to see the original character of the material, its texture, the layer by layer way how it's made. A very artificial but also natural moment, somebody was saying that it looks a bit like wood found on the Mars planet, something which is really quite outstanding.

S.B.: And with MYLON came your prestigious collaboration with Moncler, "A Homage To The Mountains" with all the enthusiasm and the ambition, the trepidation, resolve and bravery of those times when there were still peaks left to conquer and we would do that while wearing Moncler and Alpine goggles.

M.K.: Yes, that was exactly the point, you described it already in a nice way. First of all nowadays when people think about Moncler they are not considering that this company has its origins in technology, that they were the first ones in the 50s to use downs to isolate, to create warm jackets for super extreme conditions. In the 50s they created the expedition clothes and sleeping bags for two Italian mountain pioneers, who were the first to climb the K2, and that's the origin and the heritage of Moncler. When we started this project we created a kind of moodboard, and there on one picture you could see these two Italian mountaineers, and they were wearing these round Alpine glasses which were common at the time, with leather at the sides. The aesthetic there was strongly about protection, with these round lenses because back in the 50s you couldn't really have many different shapes so they were round, because of cutting processes and so on. And we tried to take inspiration from this look and transfer it into a contemporary context using our invented material while at the same time let people see the link to the past, like a bow from the 1950s to 2011, a logical connection to create something new and modern. 


MYKITA MYLON, AW2012 and "Lino" from the MYKITA & MONCLER collection, after Lino Lacedelli

S.B.: Beside Moncler, MYKITA has fruitfully teamed up with many talented designers and brands, the likes of Bernhard Willhelm, Romain Kremer and Rad Hourani, Alexandre Herchcovitch and Kostas Murkudis among others, for what looks like quite a selective and tasteful list. What do you look for in a potential partner? Is it an aesthetic choice or a matter of character or sentiment, who's the MYKITA type?

M.K.: Mostly we are looking for a creative process where at the end there stands a new product, that part is the most important for us. Of course the personal relationship when working on something together is very important too, but we want to see that both sides can marry their creative DNAs and melt them into a new product which hasn't been there before but where both sides are still really visible. We are looking for this kind of creative exchange and process, and then what's also really important for us is to create a tradition in our cooperation. With Bernhard for instance we are working since his Winter 2009 collection and this collection is still existing and we are trying to keep it alive, by bringing in new shapes and finding new colours. It's like an evolution, the collection is like a project, with an initial idea that both sides really like to be used as a playground. And now that the company is bigger this reminds us of that kindergarten where we've come from.   

S.B.: Something particularly curious and refreshing in all MYKITA glasses is also their unusual, spontaneous discretion: while many eyewear brands proudly print their logos on lenses or temples, yours is always tactfully hidden, sometimes revealed only when breathed on. What are the reasons behind this choice?

M.K.: It's not that hidden, you can see it, but it's not the letters MYKITA, is the technology, the eyewear concept that is our logo. It gives you a more personal connection to your product, you know. You're owning it, you know what it is, other people who know what it is are also connoisseurs of the brand.

S.B.: It says something about your clients doesn't it?

M.K.: Exactly. And it creates a connection between them, in a way. These are for people who don't want to wear logo, more and more people nowadays don't want that anymore.

MYKITA & Bernhard Willhelm, AW2012 (1)
MYKITA & Bernhard Willhelm, AW2012 (2)

MYKITA & Bernhard Willhelm, AW2012

S.B.: Your recently published "8" retrospective celebrates with an impressive array of creative guests the first eight years of MYKITA, quite literally from the nursery on. What was the idea behind the book?

M.K.: Actually this book is a present for our customers, so that's the idea. Nowadays when you buy a MYKITA frame you get this book as a present, but we didn't want to use it just to talk about ourselves. So we invited eight different artists and the German design critic and journalist Markus Frenzl, who wrote three essays about the concept of modern manufactory, innovation and collaborations. Obviously you read them. Of course the artists we selected to contribute on this book were really free, there was no briefing on them. A lot of them are friends or personally connected to the brand like Mark Borthwick who's been doing our campaigns for three years, or Mikio Hasui, a very famous Japanese photographer who we met while travelling by coincidence and then became friends with. Sarah Illenberger from Berlin, who we've known for a long time, Bernhard Willhelm of course, Agathe Snow is inside, who we did a collaboration for the Deutsche Guggenheim together with, a special edition. So you get an idea of MYKITA through the eyes of those artists and that's what we wanted to achieve.

S.B.: "If I could have them surgically implanted on my face I would." observes Agathe Snow in her contribution to the book, and we're very well aware here of the inseparable ties that bind a pair of sunglasses to its rightful owner, once soulmates have met. For those of us who haven't yet been so lucky, can you give any expert advice on how to find the perfect match?

M.K.: It can really only come out of yourself, I would say. And even if it's not like this always, often if you go somewhere where they have clothes or glasses, it's really the first thing you're choosing, something that comes out of your instinct, in a way, that's the right choice for you. It's so true that eyewear is such an important part of your external identity, of how people see you, because you're mostly communicating with your eyes. In the world of fashion eyewear is still more like a shadowed business, certain values are more important in different products, like shoes for example, where you really want to know how they're made and the materials. But eyewear is slowly getting more attention than before for authentic values and quality, and we've been working on it in a way, on this new eyewear education.

MYKITA 2012, by Mark Borthwick (13)
MYKITA 2012, by Mark Borthwick (5)



The 2012 MYKITA campaign was photographed and filmed by Mark Borthwick in Tulum, Mexico.