Big news: The relatively young eyewear manufacture VOYOU from Munich is changing its name to KLENZE & BAUM. With the rebranding, the two founders, Aurélien Mierswa and Stefan Roesinger are not only looking to elevate their brand positioning to a new level. The specialists in 3D-printing are also raising the bar on the technical side. Many opticians already found the patented screwless hinges featured in previous collections irresistible. Now the label is upping the ante with two entirely new, tech-driven collections, explained by the two founders in our interview.
Hallo Aurélien und Stefan, Ihr seid in Sachen Brille noch recht unbeschriebene Blätter. Seit wann agiert Ihr in der Branche?
A: Der Launch unserer Brand war 2018 auf der opti. Die Entwicklungszeit ging fünf Jahre lang. Davor war ich nur begeisterter Brillenträger ohne Kenntnisse in der Augenoptik.
S: Ich bin vor vier Jahren zu Aurélien hinzugestoßen. Auch ich bin Quereinsteiger und hatte nur im Bereich des Marketings Berührungspunkte mit einer Brillenmarke.
Hello Aurélien and Stefan, you’re both relative newcomers to the eyewear business. Since when have you been in the industry?
A: We launched our brand in 2018 at opti. The development period had been five years. Previously, I was a passionate wearer of eyeglasses without any knowledge of the optical trade.
S: I joined Aurélien four years ago. I also came into the business via a detour but had previously been in contact with a eyewear brand while working in marketing.
How did you two meet and what were you doing previously?
A: I was a product designer at sports equipment manufacturer Boards & More with a lead role in development. Stefan and I have known each other since our youth when he was dating my sister.
S: I come from an advertising background and worked as an art director at Jung von Matt and before joining the company was running my own agency. But the dream of advancing a product into bringing it to market had always been there for both of us.
When did you discover the optical industry?
S: Aurélien had this idea for 3D-printed frames that could combine so many unique benefits that we dared to advance this concept further and take a leap into unknown territory.
A: When I was a student, I already produced my prototypes via 3D-printing. And since then, I had been wanting to create a serial product with this production method. I soon realized that eyewear made the most sense for applying this technology. We ended up taking longer to achieve market readiness than other brands. But this additional investment into development is now paying off, since our relevant quality criteria now position us amongst the innovative drivers in the segment.
Aren’t there hundreds of pitfalls in the process of positioning a technically novel product on an unfamiliar market?
A: There were lots of question marks, but we still decided to latch on and just went all-in. We also consider our outsider status to the in the industry as a strength. We were able to solve several technical challenges for features that others had given up on, exactly because we think differently.
S: The learning curve was pretty steep in our case, of course. But we had a good circle of supporters, which we would like to thank on this occasion, including Thomas Hobmaier and Fred Utz, owners of Steingasse 14 optical store in Heidelberg.
What do you find positive and refreshing about the eyewear business?
A: Our experience with the industry has been very charming and we are thankful for being welcomed so nicely.
S: As part of a small group of independent brands we see ourselves a bit as David, challenging the Goliath of globalized mega brands. In this industry you can still be a pioneer ahead of the big players with the right quality, innovation and sustainability in place.
You’re headquartered in Munich’s buzzing Glockenbach neighborhood. Are you inspired by the hip vibe of your surroundings?
S: Of course. Our office is located in the creative heart of Munich with countless small boutiques, design agencies and fashion creatives. Simply watching people out on the street can be pretty exciting. We feel strongly connected with our neighborhood and celebrate this bond with our brand’s new name, among other things.
What’s the connection?
A: Our manufacture is located at the corner of Klenzestrasse and Baumstrasse. Thus, the name KLENZE & BAUM.
Usually, people would expect the brand name to be based on the two company founders. So now you can never move headquarters, right?
S: The Klenzestrasse was named in honor of classicist architect Leo von Klenze, who left a strong mark on Munich’s urban landscape. And the Baumstrasse used to be the place where rafts for the river Isar were built. We are overlooking the Isar directly and like to swim out to Weideninsel island in the summer. So no, we probably never want to leave this place!
What exactly inspired you to relaunch the brand?
A: We just felt the need to have a name that sounds like we were feeling after two years: As a high-quality eyewear manufacture based in Germany without needing a fancy English name.
Let’s talk about the essence, the products. How would you describe your design language?
A: Aesthetics-driven without compromise and with a manic focus on functionality.
You have been specializing in the 3D-printing process from day one. How come?
A: In 3D-printing, we can realize things in terms of form language and technology that would otherwise not be possible from a manufacturing standpoint. What’s more, the 3D-printing segment has a few surprises in store over the next few years in terms of materials and their properties. We’re at the cusp of a revolution, and we want to be part of it.
Speaking of materials, what are the fundamental advantages of polyamide powder used in your 3D-printing process?
S: The material is about 30 percent lighter than acetate and a lot more flexible.
But you also choose to implement metal inserts in the temples of your frames. For what reason?
A: This allows for adjusting the temples precisely and for the long-term, much like an acetate frame. Otherwise, adjustment to the wearer is one of the inherent deficiencies of 3D-printed temples.
Let’s talk about the key feature, your patented hinges. What inspired the idea?
A: It was clear to us from the beginning that we need a USP and recognizable feature. That ended up being a rather long-winded process. We conceptualized around 25 hinges and created multiple prototypes. Ultimately, our current solution was the most convincing approach.
It has been extremely well-received among opticians. What’s special about your hinges?
S: Our screwless hinges are based on fitting a flattened ball-head top at the end of a spring to create a spherical joint with just the right amount of variance. It allows for the necessary amount of tension at the tip, but most importantly features overload protection.
How does this protective mechanism work?
S: When the temple becomes overstressed, it folds away and, in extreme cases, can also detach entirely. Afterwards, it can easily be reattached with a simple hand movement. This has literally saved several frames already, for instance when wearers accidentally sat on them.
A: We also issue a five-year warranty on the hinges, because we are highly convinced of their robustness.
Also sounds well-suited for athletic eyewear, right?
S: Yes, we have developed a kind of interchangeable temple specifically to serve this segment. The hinge allows for swapping the standard temples with a sports version, immediately transforming regular prescription frames into athletic frames.
What is your general approach to colorways?
S: We tend to approach it in rather bold fashion. The colors of frames, temples and lenses will often go against the grain and defy expectations, for instance our rainbow-colored hinges. That also strengthens our brand profile.
By principle, 3D-printed glasses are predestined to be adjusted to individual wearers. What is your offering in this segment?
A: In our serial collection, we offer two sizes in up to six colors. The hinge and lens colors can be adjusted according to customer preference. What’s more, we offer a custom frame that allows for controlling all key parameters: Width, temple length, inclination, nose width and so on.
How are these frames fitted individually?
A: We have developed a specific frame for taking measurements, which allows opticians to obtain all necessary parameters right from the wearer’s head, who at the same time can get a feel for the tactile qualities of his or her future glasses. This also emphasizes the optician craft, which we consider as irreplaceable. So that’s an important factor for us.
What’s the wait period for receiving a customized KLENZE & BAUM warten?
A: Four to six weeks.
How would you describe your typical customer?
S: People on the same wavelength, who define themselves more by their attitude than age or income level. With a preference for quality, design and slow fashion. Which means buying fewer products, but those which last longer.
Sounds like sustainability is also important to you. How does it factor into your business model?
S: Our frames are ‘Made in Germany’, which means really short transport distances between processes. We also produce significantly less waste and our hinges are an antidote to disposable consumer culture.
What can we expect from you in the future?
A: For opti we will be introducing a blend between a 3D-printed front section and perfectly adjustable titanium hinges, once again constructed with robustness as a priority. Also an ultra-thick collection of frames, printed with hollow insides to achieve a stunning degree of lightness.
We look forward to seeing it. Thanks for the interview.
Find out more about Klenze & Baum.
Brand Profile on Spectr.