LITHE EYEWEAR is a relatively young German brand with a clear focus on lightness and discreet, subtle designs. Unsurprisingly, they rely heavily on beta-titanium for their work. Going further, though, LITHE is developing technical features that contribute further to the lightness that they aspire to in their designs. We spoke with founder Ralf Kmoch to learn more.
Hello Ralf, let’s go over LITHE’s origin story. When and why did you create LITHE?
Over three years ago, we realized that, while we’d been offering a wide range of titanium models in our collection, we hadn’t really approached its true potential in terms of lightness and flexibility. So, I sat down with Viktor Kammerer and Volker Beck—both very experienced designers—and really engaged with the topic of beta titanium intensely and with great enthusiasm.
Did you have the sense that other brands aren’t engaging with the topic enough?
We’re not alone in this niche, of course. We saw a chance to set ourselves apart and to develop a new design language for ourselves because of our innovative mounting options.
What’s LITHE’s philosophy?
The slogan “Visibly invisible“ is an important core statement for us. To us, it means putting the wearer in the foreground and making urbane, tasteful and pragmatic designs that are adapted to our contemporary needs. And all that made fairly, long-lasting, and for constant use.
How do you achieve that lightness that’s so important for your models?
Japanese beta titanium can be made very thin without losing its strength, giving the material a lot of flexibility and making it comfortable to wear. Of course, that also requires unique manufacturing conditions to keep everything precise and free of defects. That’s something we worked on intensively.
Besides beta titanium, you also use bio-based acetates for some styles. What possibilities does this new material offer?
It gives us new and sustainable options for colorful and structured lightweight designs. Viktor and Volker used it to open up a new world of possibilities for LITHE, while also opening the door to greater sustainability for our brand.
Besides the materials, you have a range of technical applications in your repertoire that have also contributed to the lightness of LITHE models. What are those?
Yes, for example, we have “the ring”—our patented optical mount. This allows us to use nylon threads in a variety of colors to make glazing simple and easy.
For acetate models as well?
Absolutely. Combining thin acetate designs with “the ring” patent allows for a range of new interpretations and techniques. Bio acetate and beta titanium are both future-oriented solutions.
You also manage without using any screws. How?
One interpretation of the full-rim version makes a solution without a rim lock or screws possible due to the tension on the wire along the bottom of the rim. It’s a very exciting feature and allows us to keep the weight down.
Is weight also being reduced at the temples?
The temples can be individually shortened, and we ensure a high level of comfort despite the delicate wire with our rubber temple-tips.
How important would you say sunglasses are in your new collections?
The focus for LITHE is mostly about optical frames. That’s where we see our future.
How would you describe the LITHE’s design DANN? Are there design aspects and color schemes that are recurring or typical for your models?
We very purposefully and mindfully want to embrace the Zeitgeist of this very minimalist, urbane, and cosmopolitan niche and work in line with it. The designs are flattering rather than provocative—we are looking for pragmatic, appealing designs that are visibly invisible.
Your models are very delicate, but despite that you mentioned their impressive sturdiness. How did you achieve that?
Ensuring that these delicate designs are durable and long-lasting is just a prerequisite inherent to this kind of design. For us, beta titanium and their structure—including our hinges—are the solution to that requirement. The ultimate test is for a pair of glasses to survive my use for a long time—and mine has passed with distinction.
You sent us four new models for our shoot. What do you especially like about them?
The Women‘s Full-Rim Version is very flattering even for more petite wearers, with colorful accents on somewhat wider temples that make them a wearable piece of art.
The Women’s Combo-Bio-Acetate is impressive in all four color-variants, each of which flatter the wearer in a different way.
The Men’s sheet version offers a sporty look with a slight curve to underline the masculine character of the wearer.
The full rim version uses its aforementioned invisibility to provide an eloquent and elegant appearance. Pure understatement.
You’ll be launching a new ad campaign alongside the new products. How does the campaign reflect your brand’s identity?
The shooting location—a limestone quarry—creates an exciting contrast to our technical and aesthetic products. Nature meets technology, eternity meets Zeitgeist, and the photographer and the models meet their limits with wind, dust, and glaring sunlight. The result is just incredibly aesthetic and came out just the way we imagined it. The models were also quite impressed by the archaic-seeming 80-ton mining equipment.
photos RAPHAEL SCHMITZ