To celebrate the 30th anniversary of their signature round framed “Lifesaver” glasses, Morgenthal Frederics tapped eyewear designer Blake Kuwahara to lend his eye to a new iteration of their famous frames. Limited to just 100 pairs, the frames blend Morgenthal’s signature aesthetic with Kuwahara’s own recognizable design construction featuring two frames blended together into one.
“It was the perfect time to work together using my construction techniques with their silhouettes and introduce new colors to the Lifesaver in a completely new construction,” says Kuwahara. “Morgenthal Frederics is an institution in New York. They’ve been around for close to 100 years. Rick Morgenthal is a friend of mine and he was one of the early supporters of my original collection, Kata Eyewear. Through Rick, I know Jeff Press, who has worked with Morgenthal Frederics for a long time and is now their creative director. Jeff is also a member of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers for America) with me and we had talked about working together and doing a collection.”
Kuwahara, an optometrist turned designer, has created frames for a slew of designers from John Varvatos to Carolina Herrera. His first solo eyewear venture, Kata Eyewear, was at the forefront of the ‘90s-era boutique eyewear movement, selling to Barneys in New York and Brown’s in London, before it was acquired 20 years ago by eyewear conglomerate, Legacy. He started his eponymous collection. Since then, he’s been running his boutique agency Focus Group West, which includes a group of eyewear designers, architects, graphic designers, and publicist, who work together to bring brands to market and sometimes create them from scratch.
But just three years ago, Kuwahara got the itch to lend his singular eye to another venture, founding his eponymous line. His handcrafted frames made from acetate supplied by top tier manufacturers, Mazzucchelli in Italy and Daicel in Japan, are known for their singular frame within a frame construction. “I was shopping one day and I saw this antique wooden stool that was encased in a clear block of lucite and I thought it was really great, because you have something on the inside that’s very familiar but on the outside it’s totally new content that makes it fresh and modern and that inspired my aesthetic,” says Kuwahara. “I wanted to fuse two things together.”
Kuwahara’s aesthetic perfectly marries with Morgenthal Frederics quirky appeal, while his old school artisanal approach to crafting frames matches the independent eyewear company in quality. It takes over two months alone just for Kuwahara’s lamination process that blends the two frames together and a total of nine months for the frames to be finished. Afterwards, they undergo extensive milling and carving so that the edges are nuanced to perfection. “As an optometrist I’m sensitive to not only how it looks, but it must be ergonomically correct,” says Kuwahara. “It’s not just about the aesthetic, but about how they feel on the face.”
The be Blake Kuwahara x Morgenthal Frederics frames are available in all Morgenthal Frederics stores and through Blake Kuwahara retailers and retail for $615 each in four different colorways.