KERL // MASTERS OF CARBON
KERL EYEWEAR – THE FUTURE IS “LIGHT”
Five years ago, KERL EYEWEAR entered the international eyewear stage. Ever since then, the specialists for carbon frames have designed plenty of premium and, most of all, ultralight eyeglasses. Company founders Jaromir Ufer and Johannes Dillinger collected their unique expertise with the premium material in the aerospace industry. They have successfully implemented this rich know-how in their eyewear designs. Plus, with the innovative Flexarbon material, KERL even introduced a unique version of carbon specifically engineered for the requirements of optical design. Aside from cooking up marvelous material creations, the two self-proclaimed carbon ‘top chefs’ are also charting new territory in terms of technical features and brand marketing. In search of the special recipe, we speak to co-founder Jaromir Ufer.
Hello Jaro, judging by the name, KERL hails from the German-speaking region, right?
Yes, KERL is a label entirely based in the DACH region. Our team comes from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
What provided the spark to launch the brand?
The idea to launch KERL and our ultralight eyeglasses was created by Johannes Dillinger and myself. Inspiration came from carbon as an ultralight material successfully implemented in aerospace and racecars. This led to the idea of using carbon for eyewear frames. Over the years, we have continuously optimized our process. In 2015 we met Markus Moser, an eyewear designer and distribution professional who was amazed by our prototypes and wanted to help bring them to market. For our branding and marketing, we brought another specialist on board with Philipp Kanape – and that was the start of KERL.
Do you have a personal background that qualifies you specifically for working with carbon?
Johannes and I met while working at the German Aerospace Center (DLR). As material sciences engineers in the aerospace segment, we worked together researching high-performance carbon structures. Since we both relied on wearing eyeglasses and shared a passion for product design, we realized that carbon would provide the perfect raw material for eyeglasses. We took a good look around the market and realized that nobody had yet fully pursued this approach in our industry.
But there were already carbon eyeglasses on the market, right?
Yes, but all the existing models were crafted from a standard type of carbon, which does not reflect all advantages of the material optimally. The key to success in working with this material consists of adapting it to a specific application. It is even possible to tailor these characteristics exactly to a use case. That’s actually the only way of realizing the full potential of carbon.
Speaking of full potential, what are the special advantages when it comes to constructing carbon eyewear?
Carbon is actually the most high-performance lightweight building material out there. As opposed to metals, the material itself is designed from scratch for a specific application. You may compare it to a top chef, who can create an extraordinary meal from the same ingredients that an amateur cook would attain mediocre results with. We see ourselves as carbon top chefs and have cooked up a special version of this material specifically for eyeglasses: Flexarbon.
What are the special properties of your creation?
Flexarbon is much more flexible than conventional carbon, but still extremely lightweight and solid. Staying with the metaphor of the top chef: A decorated cook does not purchase his meals as ready-made frozen foods. Much rather, he sources the perfect ingredients from the best suppliers and uses all his skills and rich experience in creating his dishes. It is very much the same with Flexarbon – we purchase the best raw materials from aerospace and Formula One racing in order to create the best eyewear components ourselves. That’s the only way to attain these specific material properties and our level of quality.
Does the material also unlock new possibilities in terms of design?
Yes, because Flexarbon is only 0.7mm thick and consists of up to eight distinct layers of carbon fibers. Each of these layers is composed of different types of fiber, that have been embedded in a high-performance material matrix at specific angles. The result is the most lightweight carbon eyewear available on the market. Additionally, we have developed a unique coloring process for the surfaces in order to render the fibers in a variety of colorways.
Overall, our Flexarbon is marked by a distinct structure that is significantly different from conventional carbon patterns. Another unique feature is our modular temple system that allows for completely adjusting the frame to the anatomical shape of the customer’s head.
Wo produziert Ihr Eure Brillen?
In Osterode am Harz haben wir eine eigene Produktion für die Flexarbon Parts aufgebaut und in Bernkastel-Kues, zwischen Weinbergen an der Mosel, entstehen daraus in unserer Manufaktur die fertigen Brillenfassungen.
That sounds like a nice setup. Does your company follow a specific philosophy?
Yes, it is our vision to manufacture the world’s best eyeglasses. By implementing state-of-the-art material technologies paired with aesthetic designs, we are able to manufacture absolute premium products. Although our frames are rather ‘fat’ and bold, they range among the absolute lightweights on the market, comparable to rimless frames.
Our specific focus consists of superior comfort of wear, achieved by extremely lightweight materials and the perfect weight distribution. It is rather complicated to construct frames that are lightweight in the exact right spot, meaning the front section, and still achieving a characteristic design. But our frames are engineered to the most miniscule detail. It’s the only way of realizing our vision and manufacturing the world’s best eyeglasses.
This premium focus also comes at a price. Who do you envision as your typical customers?
Quality, high performance materials and ‘Made in Germany’ manufacturing come at a price, indeed. But they also offer superior performance to our customers: light weight and comfort of wear from the most exclusive materials – that is something only KERL can deliver. Our typical customer is a producer, someone who keeps things moving. In many cases these are competitive individuals who excel in their professional or private pursuits. For instance, successful managers or high-performance athletes.
Carbon is mostly interesting to male customers, right?
Most customers are men, but the share of female customers is larger than we expected. Initially our frame designs were headed in a clearly defined, masculine direction. But we have also gradually introduced several unisex models into the collection, with a great response from our female audience. Due to our rather technical aesthetic, delicate and feminine shapes are not really our playing field. But any woman looking to make a clear statement with her eyewear will find our bold frame designs just right. After all, every woman is looking for a solid companion that she can rely on.
With the current collection you are introducing a number of new technical features. What are they?
We have developed an entirely new hinge system: the Smart-Hinge. It is entirely compatible with our existing system and offers the same features, including adjustable inclination and screw-less assembly. The new highlight feature is tool-less assembly.
Which advantages does Smart-Hinge offer to opticians?
Until now, assembling our temples required a small specialized tool. But the Smart-Hinge makes all kinds of tools superfluous. The system is simple and intuitive. Nowadays, nobody wants complicated instructions or special tools, and we are serving these demands down to the last detail. In order to assemble and disassemble our frames, you only need a small pin, like a toothpick, for instance.
You have not only evolved your product offering, but also gave your overall concept a facelift recently, right?
We wanted to create an online experience around KERL. And from a retail perspective, we wanted to connect our online business with brick-and-mortar retail.
What prompted you to take this step?
Due to the rather high entry level price points of our high-tech products, opticians are often hesitant to fully commit to us. With a symbiosis of online and offline business channels, we bridge the gap and support our partners with a brand experience that hasn’t been seen before.
What exactly is new about this experience and what are the advantages?
We address our target group directly with specific marketing, and then offer a real brand experience via our own website. This is the basis for sending potential customers to our partner opticians where they can have a physical experience of the world of KERL and make a purchase. Plus, our partner opticians can use the configuration tool on our online shop to create customized frames for the customer and thereby sell a far more personalized product. As a result, we are able to offer an absolutely premium shopping experience without equal.
We look forward to it.
Find out more about the Brand KERL: Kerl-eyewear.com – Kerl Eyewear
You can find the Brand on our platform FAVR as well!
Brand Profile at SPECTR.