Sarah Settgast by Hoffmann Natural Eyewear

Campaign Award // Like Yin & Yang

Berlin-based designer Sarah Settgast counts among the most familiar faces in the European eyewear business. This is not only due to her striking appearance – she is an officially registered image and word trademark – but also due to her professional career that has been closely linked to eyewear for the past 13 years. Her path to eyewear design included classic training as an optician and continues to find new creative outlets. The latest milestone is an eponymous eyewear collection, Sarah Settgast, in close collaboration with horn eyewear specialists HOFFMANN NATURAL EYEWEAR, which is the recipient of this issue’s Campaign Award. Here’s Sarah in our SPECTR interview.

Hello Sarah. Let’s start a bit off topic: You’re also an illustrator and author of children’s books. Is that a job or a passion?

It all started three years ago with a passion for painting and drawing, which I had rediscovered after a long-term hiatus. The desire to publish my own children’s book emerged from my private experience. I wanted to send my daughter on her life journey with a special story by her side. The book was manufactured in Germany’s last factory for cardboard books.

So sustainability is important to you?

Of course. But I’m also intrigued by leaving something behind for prosperity. My eyewear, my books, and all things yet to follow are manufactured in Germany according to the highest quality and environmental standards, in harmony with nature. I’m often called an ‘eco mommy’. Although I may not look like the usual ‘crunchy granola’ type of mom, I definitely am one at heart. I always have to know where and how something was manufactured. Which is also conducive to my passion for all things vintage.  

Your personal appearance also has a sustainable edge. After all, tattoos are forever.

That’s right, these tattoos have always existed in my mind. So they come rather natural in a sense. For me it’s sometimes strange to see photos on which all the tats are visible. I can’t help but think here and there: Wow, you’re pretty heavily tattooed!

But that’s how people know you in the eyewear universe, of which you’ve been an active part for years. When did it all start?

In 2009, I completed my training as an optician in Berlin. The city was a real mecca for eyewear design at the time. Almost all the great brands back then were based in Berlin. After my training I immediately made the switch into design and have been in the business for almost ten years now. I’ve always been attracted and fascinated by the multi-dimensional nature of this occupation.

How did you end up collaborating with HOFFMANN NATURAL EYEWEAR?

It was almost like destiny calling when I met Wolfgang Thelen at Noble Optic House on Kurfuerstendamm boulevard. I was deeply impressed by the craftsmanship behind the making of HOFFMANN NATURAL EYEWEAR and have always been a huge fan of horn. It’s such a natural and supple material and feels like a second skin on your face. You become one with a horn frame. No other material has been able to give me this feeling to this day. And I myself am just as multi-facetted as horn is in its colorways and material properties! So we are just the perfect match and the same goes for collaborating with the quintessential specialist horn eyewear brand.

How would you rate the overall importance of horn in our industry?

Horn frames were already all the rage in the 1920s. And even 100 years later, in 2020, not much has changed: People are looking for consistency and innovative craftsmanship realized in high-quality products ‘Made in Germany’. Every frame is one-of-a-kind, just like the wearer!

And how has the collaboration been so far?

It’s really the best that could have happened to me in the past few years! With HOFFMANN NATURAL EYEWEAR I have a partner by my side in development that’s backing me 100 percent in everything I need. 

You’ve been designing eyewear for years, what has changed due to the collab?

I am finally free to realize things just as I see them. The frames are now 100 percent Sarah Settgast, if you will. No compromises!

That hasn’t been the case before?

Previously, I was a bit limited due to the materials, the manufacturers, the employers and ‘what the market wants’. That’s all by the wayside now. Now I get to do what I like. What’s dear to my heart and also fascinates other people. And whenever a technical aspect in my designs turns out problematic or difficult to implement, HOFFMANN NATURAL EYEWEAR always immediately starts looking for solutions and alternatives to make it happen.

In your other projects, manual processes play a central role. Do you also draw all your eyewear designs by hand?

Yes, everything starts with a hand-drawn sketch. But as opposed to my illustrations, it goes far beyond that. The initial sketch is transferred to the computer where it is retraced in 3D-software and adapted to technical production requirements.

What inspires you in your creative process?

I’m not necessarily inspired by the here and now, but also take inspiration from bygone eras: Clothes, patterns, music, hats, design, interior decoration, the lifestyles of the 1910s and 1920s, the Art Deco age, Art Nouveau, Wilhelminian style, the Edwardian Era and so on…

In how far are your ideas limited by production-based technological requirements?

That can happen here and there. Sometimes I want to do more than is possible. Fortunately, that’s only rarely the case and we can find solutions to still make my ideas reality.

What aspect of your creative work gives you the most joy?

The freedom to realize my ideas and let my creativity run wild. Of course, it’s also nice to encounter people in the street who wear my glasses, thereby creating something that embellishes their look.

Let’s talk about the first collection by Sarah Settgast. How would you introduce it to our readers?

The collection is a homage to the 1920s which are now exactly 100 years in the past! The era was defined by a new zeitgeist, the sense of new beginnings at the dawn of the Industrial Age, the wish for escape, dancing on a flaming volcano. In 2020, we’re also at a new beginning, longing for stability while also looking for technological progress. We are searching for a foothold in this digital world with its seemingly endless possibilities. These desires for stability and footing are fulfilled by hand-made goods and products, the same way they’ve been made 100 years ago.

How many models are in the collection and what are defining characteristics?

The inaugural collection encompassed twelve designs in total that are not necessarily defined as male or female styles. Good taste, a sense of elegance and aesthetics as well as a highly individualized lifestyles are not necessarily gender-specific characteristics, anyways.

The implementation of horn in the collection is a no-brainer, but do you also play around with other material combinations?

We created a nice mixture of extremely rare light horn with genuine mother of pearl inlays, as well as gold and silver applications forged manually by a goldsmith.

That sounds rather elaborate, are the models positioned in the upper price segment?

These are frames in the high-luxury segment. Every frame is produced manually in a 300-step process at HOFFMANN’s workshop in the Eifel region. Each frame is a one-of-a-kind item and crafted from the world’s highest-grade materials.

Will this be a one-time project, or can we expect a long-term partnership?

In all of my projects, including this exclusive partnership, I am interested in long-term cooperation. That’s also why all factors need to align bevor establishing the connection. And these prerequisites were in place with HOFFMANN NATURAL EYEWEAR right from the start. With Wolfgang Thelen and Jutta Kahlbetzer, I have two genuinely amazing individuals by my side.

Which frame is your favorite model?

My favorite frame is the »Buster Keaton« with a golden Art Deco arch on the upper rim of the lenses and mother of pearl inlays on the front of the temples. The blend of light-colored horn and gold lens this frame an absolute sense of elegance, the likes of which I’ve never seen before in a piece of eyewear.

Find out More:

Brand Profile at Spectr.

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