LUNOR // 30 YEARS OF LUNOR
The traditional way of being modern
German eyewear label LUNOR celebrates its 30-year company anniversary this year. Since 2005, the company has been headed by the Fux family with headquarters in the Black Forest region. The label is as diverse as they come: On one hand, LUNOR remains grounded and focused on classic styles as well as traditional manufacturing expertise. On the other hand, the label has built considerable international fame over the last three decades. Need proof? For more than 14 years, Apple founder Steve Jobs never wore a different eyewear frame than the label’s Classic Rund model, which tremendously boosted LUNOR’s growth and worldwide success. In our interview, we speak to Ulrich Fux and siblings Michael and Sophia about the family business and the role of their company headquarters and in-house manufacturing. On that note, the three did not show up to the interview empty-handed but brought along a significant milestone: LUNOR’s very first horn frame collection. Enjoy the talk.
Hello Ulrich, Sophia and Michael. LUNOR is celebrating its 30-year company anniversary this year. What are the company origins?
Ulrich Fux (UF): The brand was founded in a family home in Stuttgart. There’s almost a parallel to Apple as a ‘garage company’, at least in terms of origins. The idea was to take inspiration from vintage eyewear frames for new models. Not just in terms of design, but also quality. And that has remained a constant until today!
In what way does it factor into your brand identity at LUNOR?
Michael Fux (MF): New interpretation of vintage frames are certainly a part of our core brand today. We find inspiration in our eyewear collection with pieces from the past centuries. Our core brand values also include uncompromising quality, focus for special detail and classic, timeless unisex design.
You two took over the brand in 2005. What was the motivation and your personal connection to the brand?
UF: After 27 years as an independent optician it was time for a new challenge. When you also see great potential in front of you, the way forward is clear.
What prompted you to take over an existing brand instead of founding something new?
MF: With a new brand, you have the freedom to express yourself on a blank piece of paper with no boundaries whatsoever. But then you’re faced with the question: How can I position my products on the market? That’s one of the biggest advantages of an existing brand, because you can draw on an existing retail and distribution network.
How did the start work out for you?
MF: Although we met a bit of evaluation and questioning initially as the “new guys”, we got tons of support and it was a steep learning curve. We have seen great potential in the brand right from the start. The products were already amazing back then but lacked brand communication.
How did you go about it?
MF: We started promoting the brand with more targeted initiatives to raise awareness. Additionally, we expanded the product collections and broadened our focus. This helped us reach more opticians and end customers.
Was your background as a trained optician helpful in those stages?
UF: Certainly. LUNOR also took lots of know-how from customer care as an independent optician. When you’re constantly providing guidance to customers to make them happy with the perfect pair of glasses, you cultivate a perspective that an industrial designer might be lacking.
On the way towards becoming a global brand, what provided the strongest push?
UF: The substantial list of actors and celebrities provided great inspiration. So we wanted to run with it and further our success with the right kind of models. As a fan of Apple products, although the iPhone was not even released back then, counting Steve Jobs among our customers really was the icing on the cake.
You already hinted at your appreciation for Apple in your founding story. How did Steve Jobs actually end up wearing LUNOR pretty much permanently?
Sophie Fux (SF): Steve purchased the first rimless LUNOR Classic Rund model in 1998 in New York. He was so impressed by the craftsmanship and quality, that he ended up buying more frames over the years in antique silver and sometimes 18K white gold. While several celebrities wear LUNOR, the ‘Steve Jobs frame’ is the only one that’s purchased especially because of the wearer.
UF: The fact that the frame has been constantly available for 14 years is also testament to the longevity beyond fashion trends.
What was the impact of the demand for this specific model? Did you feel the push across global markets equally?
MF: Demand skyrocketed in 2011. It felt like everyone wanted the Classic Rund. We started selling our frames into countries that we had never even shipped to before.
Did the demand cause ripple effects for other styles? Or did other products suffer?
UF: No, none of our models suffered. But the Classic, especially the Rund version, will always life up to its status as our true classic.
SF: The effects have really all been positive, both for LUNOR as well as the entire Classic Collection and all of its styles.
In 2017 you built a new company headquarters in the Northern Black Forest region. What was the inspiration and your concept?
UF: The new building was important to us for several reasons. Initially we considered how we can simplify our processes and open up more space. But once our architect team presented the first drafts, the focus shifted to finding a harmonious way to live and work with the beautiful nature around us.
One year later you received the certification as a carbon-neutral company. What measures paved the way towards reaching such a milestone?
MF: The impetus was clearly our almost energy-independent new building featuring solar panels and geothermal energy. Aside from reducing the share of plastic waste, we compensated for the unavoidable rest of the burden via climate certificates.
UF: The real change for LUNOR was that we now also communicate our philosophy accordingly. We are grateful that there are opportunities today for compensating in a way that leaves no ecological footprint.
You have also been producing your own glasses in a manufacture since 2019. What led to this step?
MF: It was always our wish to manufacture eyewear in Germany in the long run. Plus, some of our manufacturers are approaching retirement and there were no mechanisms in place for succession.
UF: We were also motivated to make sure that know-how that exists in Germany does not get lost but passed on to future generations.
What are the advantages of having your own manufacturing in place?
MF: The fact that you’re able to allocate manufacturing resources in a targeted manner, without having to share with competitors who order from the same supplier. We are also better able to implement design ideas, since you can take more time tinkering with concepts until they ultimately fit.
You are also manufacturing stainless steel frames. These complement the LUNOR offering of acetate, metal and the brand-new horn frames. From an overall perspective across collections, what is your design DNA?
MF: Aside from classic shapes, we also place great emphasis on traditional manufacturing methods and countless small details. For example, our signature hinges are machined and cut from full blocks of metal. We do not implement any fake rivets or decorative covers. Every element featured on the frame serves a function!
What characterizes the stainless-steel models?
MF: So in our stainless-steel frames, we exclusively use semi-finished products that we have designed and developed ourselves. For example, the Classic frames have a saddle bridge that was perfected over several years until we attained the perfect fit. The M5 is also not machined from a sheet of metal, but all semi-finished products are manufactured traditionally and then soldered together. The clamp is also machined from a metal block or the metal rims are reduced to metal wire. It’s a technique that is hardly applied anymore these days in Europe. Ultimately, it’s all very labor and cost intensive. But we still think it’s worth it. The M5 is rounded out by titanium pads, which have been implemented into our frames in this exact shape for 30 years now. Their advantage is simply that they fit comfortably and add longevity to the eyewear frame.
Acetate also plays a strong role for you. What do you like about this material?
MF: It unlocks incredible variety in which to design frames: So for instance, the entire A5 Collection presents a classic, elegant expression, while we created a retro aesthetic for the A12 through lowered hinges. And in the new A13 line, we’re using coverings in the mid-section to bring the flair of the 1960s into the here-and-now.
Do you generally bank on proven classics or are you trying to continuously introduce new styles?
MF: It’s a mix of both. On one side, we’re staying faithful to the classic retro styles. But at the same time, it’s incredibly important to keep an eye on what the market is doing. When frames are increasing their size factor overall, we’re also gradually adjusting our sizes.
With the different materials in your collection, do they all aim at separate target groups?
UF: You could say that it’s the same groups but at different points in time. Whereas acetate used to be hip with younger customers initially, that has shifted towards older generations.
SF: Generally we are aiming at similar target groups with all of our frames. These are simultaneously men and women, as well as older and younger people. That’s rooted in our classic and timeless design approach and reflects in our customer demographics.
You’re now expanding your design scope by offering frames crafted from horn. What made you take that step?
MF: We were looking to release a special milestone for our 30th anniversary. There had already been a LUNOR horn collection at one point. But now we succeeded in integrating our signature hinges into a buffalo horn frame, which creates a highly recognizable look. Even though the manufacturing is rather labor intensive, it makes the LUNOR horn frames unique and we’re very proud of this achievement.
What do you find especially attractive about horn?
UF: Natural horn is a real comfortable and skin-friendly material, and also very lightweight. It’s just pure nature. Acetate is great to wear, horn takes it to another level.
In how far does horn fit into your overall philosophy?
UF: Before the invention of polymers, including acetate that is rather close to nature, eyewear frames often used horn as a material. So what could fit our philosophy better than horn?
MF: At the same time, our horn frame also carries our design DNA through the delicate form language and bolt hinges.
Is your horn offering opening up new customer segments or even distribution channels?
UF: Those looking for the highest quality AND natural materials, did not find that combination from LUNOR so far. Fortunately, that’s now changed.
SF: Horn frames are most often purchased by real horn connoisseurs. They appreciate the sustainability, lightness and longevity. We will sell our horn frames via the established distribution channels and our LUNOR partners.
How many models are part of the horn collection?
MF: Starting things off there are three shapes in two colors each.
That’s a manageable start. Are you looking to expand that collection over time?
MF: Certainly. The first expansion will be introduced as soon as Opti 2022.
How about other, innovative manufacturing methods like 3D printing. Many labels are catering to this trend…
MF: We solely rely on 3D-printing for prototyping purposes. 3D-printing technologies has evolved rapidly in recent years and will surely continue to do so. But in terms of tactile sensation of the product, the current state of the art does not meet our expectations. We also favor more traditional manufacturing methods.
That’s sticking to your guns. Another future trend is digital transformation. Where are you at in the process?
SF: We’re currently making great investments into the digitization of our processes. Over the last year, we’ve enabled the majority of our employees to work out of the office. We also want to retain this option in the future. This presents us with the challenge to maintain the communications, collaborations and team spirit despite the spatial distance.
In how far are you digitizing the cooperation with customers and suppliers?
SF: That’s another focus for us. We are achieving it for instance via our B2B online shop. The challenge lies in connecting the simplification of processes via digitization with the personal aspects of service.
Digital transformation is presenting a wide number of challenges to businesses. What mindset does it take in order to pursue this path successfully?
SF: It is crucial to remain open towards change and stay in the loop about the progress of digitization and the related opportunities. That applies to us on the executive level just as much as our employees. Openness towards change and progress are therefore a core component of our company philosophy. It helps us recognize and leverage digital transformation as an opportunity.
Overall, where is the journey headed for LUNOR? Where do you see the eyewear industry and LUNOR specifically five years from now?
UF: Five years are a rather manageable timespan. At this point we’ve been in our new building for almost five years now. So over the course of five years, not much is going to change. Perhaps the way our employees commute to the office… we’re currently installing a number of new charging station to keep up. And since the quality demands towards good eyewear are constantly increasing, our industry will be in a great position five years from now. Perhaps the demand for regional manufacturing and utmost quality will only grow stronger.
Let’s hope that will be the case. What will be a cause dear to your heart in the future?
MF: A real passion project and also a total necessity is the constant engagement towards even more sustainability. Without an intact environment, there is no future. So any type of long-term entrepreneurial outlook is absurd without it. What’s more, we’ve also cultivated our involvement in terms of supporter and donator of non-profit organizations. And as a designer, I’m passionate about timeless and functional design without being too strongly influenced by trends.
UF: Regarding our frames it is safe to say: LUNOR always represents the highest level of quality.
Thanks for the interview.
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More Info about the brand on: www.lunor.com