10 Questions: Eric Balzan & Mirko Forti von HAPTER

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03 Dez 10 Questions: Eric Balzan & Mirko Forti von HAPTER

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Mit ihrer Marke HAPTER wagen sich die beiden italienischen Designer Eric Balzan und Mirko Forti in luftige Höhen. Inspiriert von klassischen Bergsteigerbrillen gingen die beiden ihren eigenen Weg auf der Suche nach Materialien und Produktionsmethoden. Das Ergebnis ist eine einzigartige Kollektion von Brillen mit ganz spezieller Haptik. Im 10 Questions Interview von EYEWEAR verraten die beiden Aufsteiger die Hintergründe der preisgekrönten Marke.

How would you describe the philosophy behind HAPTER in a nutshell?
A minimal and discrete mix of advanced design and natural materials, fused together through unique manufacturing alchemies.

HAPTER draws strong inspirations from mountaineering and military influences. What attracted you to these fields?
Our hometown Belluno is a small town nestled in the Italian Dolomite mountains. We call it the “California of Italy” because it’s perfect for outdoor and winter sports. We evolved the idea of the mountain from being a rocky and snowy playground to being sort of a mystical place. And our minds are soaked with cultural and visual inspirations drawn from the mountains. Moreover, the Dolomite region is an historical battle-place, and there are still many evidences of this on the mountains.
HAPTER pays homage to all of this: the name was chosen because of the concept of “Haptic perception,” which is the process of recognizing objects through touch. But also in terms of the brand and collections, the identity, functionality, essentiality, rejection of excess are typical attitudes of mountain people and paradigms of the military world. This guides all our design, creative, and stylistic choices.

How did you arrive at the brand’s signature combination of stainless steel and fabrics?
The Military Goggle found in 2013 was the initial spark. It is fully made of canvas fabric, totally unstructured. The feeling when having it in your hands was of a soft solidity, somehow reassuring: we have worked hard to develop the same feeling into a contemporary eyewear collection.
Stainless steel as structural support for the fabric essentially allows us to create soft-to-the-touch, flexible, easily adjustable structure, exalted by the signature tactile expressiveness given by the fabric. We developed our own process for absorbing resin into the fabric for protection, but without compromising the soft feel.

You’ve already won numerous prestigious awards, what were some of the most important milestones after founding the company?
Actually, we have been announced the iF Product Design Award 2013 even before founding the company! Then the German Design Award 2014 came in, the freshly announced Hong Kong V-Award 2014, and the Silmo d’Or nominations in 2013 and 2014, and more and more…
Probably the most important milestone was the day we were eventually able, after so many tries and failures, to have a decent first sample, fully industrialized in our specific process, in our hands. That made a change in perspectives for our lives.
The last important achievement is our video THE ORIGIN. With basically no budget, we wanted to visualize the feelings and perceptions that influenced HAPTER. We engaged a lot of our friends who helped during the two-day shoot in the mountains, and our good friend who is an alpine guide did the acting.

What attracted you to eyewear and how has your creative process evolved over the years?
The sexy combination of inspirational design, materials and functionality, with all the connected challenges, made this complex system so attractive to us.
Approaching this project like rookies of eyewear design helped us to create a rational and efficient process. We initially approached established eyewear companies in our area, but they did not want to change their processes or believe in the project. So now about 90% of our manufacturing is developed outside of the optical world thanks to the new professionals we had to bring in. Those are the people we call the “industrial artisans”.

Not many really, it is a well balanced but still limited collection, somehow private and dedicated to the most selective stores.

What is the hardest part about designing eyewear for HAPTER?
Actually, we feel that we do not design eyewear, rather we fight to materialize our dreams and visions. Both in terms of production processes, and materials reactions.
Combining technical elements like steel with natural elements like fabric means developing a new material with its specific properties, reactions to elements, transformations, etc. So the most challenging part is to learn about the materials that we use. It’s a continuous learning process, with a huge amount of blind experimentations. Definitely it is not something recommended for relaxed creative people…

Your production process is rather unique and complex… and secret. Is there something you would like to reveal at this point?
Yes, it’s secret so I cannot tell you much (laughs). The most important thing to say is that we created an unprecedented production process for HAPTER, and this took us three years to put together with a secret network of partner manufacturers, all of them trained and now specialized in a specific service for us. And with all of them acting in Italy in the vicinity of our office, and 90% of them with no previous experience in eyewear.
HAPTER acts as a coordination hub between these labs, moving materials and semi-finished products, so that everything remains HAPTER’s property. Thereby, we can preserve our level of quality. It’s almost like having our factory on the territory, and it’s a lot of work for designers like us.

What separates your label from other eyewear manufacturers?
Everything of course, like most of our independent designer colleagues, luckily. Specifically in terms of product, HAPTER is a carrier of cultural and artisanal manufacturing experiences of unique value, developed out of centuries of artisanal know-how. Just consider the amazing and complicated process to create the raw fabric that we apply on the frame. Starting from the cotton tree, the careful selection of the raw yearn, the phases of spinning, warping, weaving and dyeing. And this is just the frame’s surface…

Which current eyewear trends would you like to see more of? What trend needs to go away sooner than later?
We are not sure what the eyewear trends are, because we are too busy with our own project. We also want to avoid cross-influences that can only corrupt the pureness and originality of our project. So we are not sure about the trends in eyewear… HAPTER’s goal is to be authentic, and not trendy. We are mountain people, do minimal technical design, use dark colours. We do not follow or do trends, we do what we are.

Thank you for the interview, guys.

Watch the HAPTER brand origin video: