INTERVIEW // MONC FOUNDER FREDDIE ELBORNE
Founded in 2016, Eyewear brand MONC is a London-based label committed to craftsmanship, quality, design and affordable frames. Fully aware that he was up against many in a highly competitive industry, the British designer Freddie Elborne founded his business with a specific angle – producing only responsible product design using ethical production methods that would be of the same importance as the aesthetics of the finished item. Each frame is hand-crafted in Italy, by one of the few remaining traditional family-run manufacturers. This means when you pick up a pair of MONC London glasses, it is truly one-of-a-kind. We met with Freddie Elborne to talk about his brand, inspirations and values.
Tell us a bit about the history of the brand – when did it all start and what was the initial idea behind it?
Freddie: The idea started in 2015 when I was designing sunglasses as a passion project after I finished University. As I did more research into the industry I was surprised by the scarcity of interesting and independent eyewear brands out there, and the lack of transparency that I believe people like myself crave. So I decided to start designing frames on the side, and the passion became an obsession. I then quit my job in retail design and started planning to make my first collection! We launched that first collection in August 2016.
What makes a MONC frame so special / stand out?
I think a combination of things make our products stand out. The use of the contemporary, high quality materials and a meticulous design process give our frames an immediate recognition. Many of your readers know that there is a sense of this when you see a product of quality that stands out.
You decided to work with the best of the best in Europe, especially with Italy. How did you end up with these manufacturers?
This for me was the hardest thing to find, and I think is the most important relationship for any brand. When I decided that I wanted to make our first batch, I went to trade shows – Silmo in Paris twice and Mido in Milan – to find producers… but they were demanding way higher MOQs than I could afford. So as a last resort I actually decided to go on Social media to see if I could find a manufacturer. I searched for the hashtag #handmadeinitaly and outlined 20 brands that I thought had the nicest products. I contacted them and got 4 or 5 responses that all said ‘there is no way we can share this information with you’… well along those lines. After another few weeks I reached out again and a brand accepted to make the introduction. They invited me out to Naples, and just outside the city is where we met our first workshop.
Now after being in the industry for a few years it’s less difficult! I was introduced to our latest workshop by a friend who is from Italy. He’s got eyewear in his blood and has worked in London for a number of years. He took me to meet his family and one of their friends who owns on of the last remaining family run manufacturers in Cadore. This new workshop is producing the highest quality acetate frames in the world. They agreed to collaborate, and have an open partnership about building this new collection but also tackling the problem with sustainability in the eyewear industry.
Which criteria helped you choose the neighbourhood for each collection? Will there be more?
We find the neighbourhoods from either a lots of research or through word of mouth. The places we choose always have people with common values. The people in each neighbourhood can be from extremely different cultures, what links them is a passion for craftsmanship and quality. This is the passion which I wanted to encapsulate in each frame style. There are 3 more being introduced this year, and there will be many more in the future.
How would you describe your customers?
They are looking for something different than the mainstream. Our customers are subtly stylish and design conscious, they are cultured and creative and also have a passion for craftsmanship and sustainability. They usually spend their money on travel, fashion, food and homeware.
There are so many independent eyewear brands out there, how are you going to stand the test of time?
We have to keep designing beautiful frames, and making conscious products that stand the test of time!
We all get inspired by others… which brands or brand spirits inspired you in the creation of your frames?
My love of sunglasses stemmed from a vintage pair of Persol frames from the 80s that my Dad has worn all his life. The brand spirit of Persol, before it was sold. A new brand I think produces really interesting frames is Jacques Marie Mage from Los Angeles.
Looking at your early models, what do you care to improve in the future?
We are subtly making improvements to the products every time we produce a short run. Our new collection is manufactured in a new workshop because I found the quality of these makers to be the best I have ever seen. We are now planning make improvements not just to the products but the responsibilities that come alongside manufacturing and running a brand. This is why we have launched ‘Our Goal For Zero Waste’ – a scheme to recycle the 80% of plastic waste created in each production run of acetate frames by all brands producing using sheet acetate. Watch this space.
What are the next steps for MONC? What’s to be expected?
We are currently launching our new Conscious Collection an Eyewear Revolution. We have stripped back all of the materials within our product offering and found a solution for each which is naturally sourced, recycled and recyclable at the end of its lifecycle. We believe that it’s our duty as designers to take step towards a more sustainable future, so we have adapted to combine sustainability with craftsmanship, to bring a stunning new collection of frames to the world.
Thanks a lot Freddie. Good luck for the Future!
For more information, visit the Monc website.