When Tommy O’Gara was in Kuala Lumpur for Crossover Concept Store’s Native Sons Trunk Show, we caught up with him for a chat. Turns out there’s so much more to glasses than meets the eye.
By Kim Hana
Photos courtesy of Crossover Concept Store
You were creative director of DITA eyewear and now you co-own Native Sons. What is it about eyewear that intrigues you so?
Eyewear is the ultimate challenge from design line to fit; style, quality of materials, and construction to achieve a price point that works within the market you are targeting. Eyewear goes on the face and is very important with regards to personal appearance.
Talk about the inspiration behind the name Native Sons.
Native Sons was borne out of a desire to create a bold, original line. Both Shin (Shinsuke Takizawa of Neighborhood, also co-founder of Native Sons) and I are inspired by Post WWII industrial design of airplanes, cars and bikes. Not only that but by writers, painters and poets too. I had the idea and approached Takizawa san about collaborating and this was literally decided on the spot. We both felt the same inspiration.
What inspires your designs for Native Sons?
We are inspired by cars, buildings, aircraft. With regards to coloring we are inspired by the organic – Nature, storms and the process of aging of natural materials. I actually got many ideas traveling and seeing the great city of Malacca!
What makes Native Sons eyewear different from others?
Native Sons is original in that we hand-draw all shapes without sourcing for inspiration within the industry. Our materials are green – acetate is cellulose-based and made from cotton oil rather than petrochemicals. All parts including hinges and core wires are original. And we design the fit specs to work on various face and head shapes and sizes. There are no middle men in development or production to dilute the original idea – we work straight from design to craftsman.
Native Sons is a partnership between you and Shinsuke Takizawa – who does what?
We have vibe/inspiration design sessions together, I do the drawings then Shin, Nau (Shima) and I dial in the shapes together. Kobayashi san (Hiroaki) our factory manager does the blue prints and prototyper which we then dial in to start samples. Kobayashi san and I work together on this and the vintage tech/treatments. Takizawa san and I work together on brand promotion and we have a press team that keeps us underground as much as possible. Promoting the brand first hand, I travel and do trunk shows as I really love moving and meeting the new tribe members.
You’ve been working on eyewear for a long time now. If you could share one lesser-known fact about eyewear, what would it be?
I would say if the frames feel great and look great, they belong on your face. It is hard to communicate with just words, but eyewear is a very paricular construction process. While not rocket science, to get it right and off paper into 3D form as a finished product then packaged and into the stores in a timely manner is no small feat. It is a complicated process and takes quite a lot of people and time. I once calculated that something like 144 hands touch the product before it is fit to the customer.
Who in your opinion had on the best eyewear – famous or otherwise?
Yves Saint Laurant, Michael Caine, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and architects like I. M. Pei. If the image makes an impact, then the eyewear works for that person. I love to do bespoke when I have the time and have had the opportunity to make frames for Fraser Cooke, the Energy Marketing man for Nike – he looks great!
Crossover KL is not your first foray into the Southeast Asian market. What made you first venture into the region?
I have always been a gypsy at heart and started into Asia and Southeast Asia about 12 or 13 years ago curious about the culture and peoples while building DITA. Over time, I have traveled to many countries and made many great friends but there are still more to visit. I will never stop until my heart does and even then, who knows, maybe astral projection will get me to a few more (Laughs).
Through your work, you’ve obviously seen a lot of the world. Where is your favourite place in the world, and why?
You know it is true but I do not have a favorite physical or geographical place. It is more like timing or “amazing grace” to be in the right spot at the right time, with favorable conditions to meet and share time, make friends and enjoy culture, conversation, food, drink and music. Looking forward to Full Moon Drumming in Bangkok this weekend!
Do you think there will come a day you will tire of eyewear?
Never say never, but I do not see the day on the horizon when I will tire of working or creating eyewear as long as I get to do what I love and travel, meet people, share a story and a laugh. Life is short and it is a great big world filled with people to meet and music to dance to. Like Dr. Leary said, “It is all about the dance..life.” Enjoy the music and hope we meet again.
For more information on Native Sons, visit Crossover Concept Store