You may have heard of his name, Blake Kuwahara is the award-winning eyewear designer and the first designer to be admitted to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). He first gained international acclaim as the creator and designer of the exclusive KATA Eyewear brand with his groundbreaking use of engineering and production that has reinvented the way eyewear design is approached today. He’s designed eyewear collections for well-known fashion labels including Rock & Republic, Carolina Herrera, Behnaz Sarafpour, John Varvatos just to name a few. He’s been profiled in many editorial and fashion media including Vogue, ELLE, GQ, In style and has been seen on E!, CNN, and countless others. He’s been noted as one of the “100 Coolest People in Los Angeles” by Buzz magazine and he’s a favourite amongst Hollywood elite including Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Halle Berry and countless others.
Currently, he’s on a world press tour with the recent launch of his highly sought after new architecture inspired collection. Why all the buzz? Well, for starters, Kuwahara has only 100 sets of the hand-crafted collection made and available worldwide. Karir Eyewear in Toronto will carry only 2 sets and is the first retailer worldwide to receive the collection. There are 9 styles in each collection and each made from Italian and Japanese acetates and titanium materials. It takes two weeks to complete one set of frames from start to finish.
I had a chance to speak with the designer last week as he was in Toronto meeting with media in the design world. We are honoured that he made time for us in his busy schedule!
How did you get into the eyeglass design industry?
I actually received my Doctorate of Optometry degree from UC Berkeley School of Optometry. I was seeing patients in the early days of my career. I soon found that I enjoyed being in our optical boutique much more than examining patients in a dark room. I had the good fortune of meeting the owner of Liz Claiborne Optics (Liz Claiborne was one of the largest American women’s fashion brands at the time) who thought my optical background and interest in design and fashion was a good fit for his company. I went from being a “doctor in a white lab coat” to their Creative Director in charge of all design. It was kismet!
What are some things that the public don’t realize (and you’d like them to know) about eyewear and design?
Like most creative professions, only a small amount of time is spent on the creative side–designing the eyewear, selecting the colours and materials, etc. The majority of my time is spent on the engineering and production of each model. It’s very similar in the garment industry and in architecture. You have to know how to craft and engineer a frame as much as “design” a frame. It requires both right and left brain functions!
Why did you decide to create your own collection under your own name?
Selfishly, I wanted to wear frames that was in sync with my own design aesthetic and that of many of my friends that straddle both the creative as well as the business worlds–be they fashion or jewelry designers, architects, photographers, etc. The concept behind Blake Kuwahara Eyewear is to incorporate two different silhouettes–one more directional and one more “classic” into one frame. We do this by using a proprietary lamination process that fuses two separate frames into one.
Your new collection is a nod to designers like Mies van de Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames and others. What is it about them that has inspired you?
Architecture has always been a source of inspiration for me. It’s the ultimate combination of form and function. The same attributes apply to eyewear, but on a very small scale. The line, curve, radius, and forms as well as materials that we use are critical to the final outcome. It’s also about nuance. Architects have to be very sensitive to this as well. The names were just a fun way to pay homage to them. Plus, many architects wore glasses that became iconic to their look- van de Rohe, Phillip Johnson, IM Pei among them.