Emmanuelle Khanh // Heritage and Creation

Emmanuelle Khanh was known as many things – stylist, designer, model and entrepreneur. Underlying all of these roles was her own unique style. She was a visionary at the avantgarde of the prêt-à-porter industry. Enormously successful in the 1980s, she remained impactful and created both a brand and a mindset. Bold, elegant and modern are just some of the words that come to mind. The same goes for the iconic eyewear, which she was famous for – and which would ultimately outlive her. She died in 2017.  

Today, EMMANUELLE KHANH PARIS is a continuing homage to the iconic style that has immortalized its namesake. The product line-up includes oversized eyewear models as well as an array of luxurious accessories. And the fact that these products so well represent the distinctive “EK” spirit, is, among others, thanks to Eva Gaumé, the artistic director of the brand. Born in Lyon in 1992, Eva holds a degree from the prestigious School of Art and Design in Geneva, where she studied Industrial Design, specializing in jewelry and accessories. Eva won the 2014 Piaget Young Talents Award in Watchmaking Design. Her strong artistic vision is what ultimately led Eva to the Parisian eyewear brand. Her work goes far beyond recreating iconic looks from the past. She experiments with different materials, contemporizes designs and plays with identity – all to bring to life both the spirit and the look of EMMANUELLE KHANH. Here’s our interview with Eva Gaumé.

Eva, can you give us a brief introduction to the history of EMMANUELLE KHANH as an eyewear brand and how you ended up working there?

Quickly after the launch of her ready-to-wear line, Emmanuelle Khanh became a symbol of the 1970s and 1980s fashion scene with her daring and very large frames. Her eyewear collection allowed glasses to fully become fashion accessories. In 2012, the brand came back after its fade-out in the Nineties, bringing back the iconic shapes, the signature of what remains today as EK’s most outstanding element of style. Few years later, the brand was willing to bring in a new artistic eye and that’s when I started to work for the house. My mission was to pursue a new creative direction while being faithful to the brand heritage. I also had the honor of meeting Madame Emmanuelle Khanh herself in 2016, which was so unique. She made me feel the deep spirit of EK and it still inspires me.

What are the most important aspects when we speak about the impact of Emmanuelle Khanh on fashion and eyewear?

She had the vision of a confident and emancipated woman pursuing a professional career, whom she wanted to empower first through her clothes, and then with an original eyewear line. More than just creating a brand, Emmanuelle Khanh created a progressive mindset and an environment where a woman could be both bold and elegant.

Needless to say, you’re based in Paris, the home of Emmanuelle Khanh. Please tell us about the significance of this city, the team around you and what your day-to-day job entails?

Yes, indeed, the EMMANUELLE KHANH head office is based in the center of Paris, in the fashion district. The city was always important to Madame Khanh. She was attached to its culture and fashion – it inspired her. At the head of the brand is a Parisian family that‘s been in the fashion business for years and that currently owns the brand. Around me, there‘s small team of passionate collaborators who take care of the customers and the products every day. As artistic director of the brand, I am in charge of the collection and product design but also the brand image and environment.

Beyond the legacy of the historic person, what are the values that EK stands for today?

EMMANUELLE KHANH is a maison that stands for creativity, independence and French savoir-faire. Beyond luxury, EK has a real desire to create products that last. Frames that are bold but still wearable and silhouettes that give people confidence in the way they can express their styles.

How do you translate the classic EK heritage into a look and design language?

I’ve enhanced this heritage through a line of pure acetate frames 100% made in France. Originally, EK stood for very large frames. I kept this strong direction for the sunglasses while developing a medium-sized opticals line with the same color palette.

Two years ago, I wanted to bring something new to the brand and our products. I introduced a different expertise and craftmanship through a Studio line made in Japan. Combining titanium and acetate, the frames bring a fashion twist thanks to powerful colors and shapes.

Can you name other particular elements that represent the brand?

The use of acetate and the EK signature are some distinctive design elements as well as the accessories that come along, such as the cases and chains that we propose as a full “eyewear closet”.

Is EK a purely female brand or do you also cater to male tastes?

Both bold and playful, our most iconic frames have been worn by famous men like Ray Charles and David Bowie. This year, I launched our first men’s collection to offer five dedicated frames designed to be strong, masculine and elegant. I like to think that women will also like to wear them, as today the limits between male and female styles tend to fade.

What is specific about the new collection?

We’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the brand. For the occasion I worked on creating a subtle but discerning silhouette with the EK monogram. Other than that, we’re also working on our “perfect matches” which are composed of a frame and its matching, 1980s-inspired eyewear chain.

What are the materials and colors you work with?

I’ve been developing an exclusive range of acetate colors thanks to our very specific craftsmanship. These exclusive colors sublimate the products and reinforce the uniqueness of the brand. The signature colorways of the timeless EK style are the classic trio: black, gold and tortoise. My love of colors also made me look back on Madame Khanh’s work and the colors that would recur in her creations. The “Céladon” Green for example, inspired by Chinese porcelain, was an intimate color for Madame Khanh; the logo used to be rendered in this color as well as the ink she used to write with.

What are your favorite styles in the new collection?

The Zig-Zag frames (»EK 11500 «) with their thin but oversized shapes are my favorite. It’s a light and fashionable piece to wear. The movement of the temple is feminine and sculpted to welcome a chain with elegance and bring sophisticated details to the silhouette.

What are the next important milestones for EMMANUELLE KHANH? In order to grow internationally, we’re going to attend several shows in Munich, Milan and New York. On the product side, I want to continue aligning both heritage and creativity and pushing the boundaries of eyewear and fashion. Since ethical and environmental issues are at the heart of our society today, working on a more sustainable production process will be part of our next project for sure.

Find out more here: https://www.ek.fr/fr/

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