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Best of Silmo 2012 - Optical Frames

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Best of Silmo 2012 - Optical Frames

We came, we saw, and we were absolutely conquered by the innovations and imagination that went into debuting the upcoming season's optical frame collections at Silmo 2012. Sure, beauty is in the beholder, but even more so when you garnish your face with a gorgeous pair of eyewear.

The stars were out in full force on the main floor. Whether it's ELCÉ in its always-classic splendor or Nike upgrading its style so the same pair of glasses looks just as at home on or off the court, the big names didn't disappoint, even if most of them tended to stay on the safe side, a strong indication of the mellow state of affairs still in Europe.

For the true spectacles, literally and figuratively, we headed to Silmo's Village section, where the world's most design-driven, forward-thinking, creative eyewear designers showcase collections you might never dream of seeing.

Entering the Village is like going from Wall Street in New York to Greenwich Village—all business to no-holds-barred artistry. You feel like you're entering an Alice In Wonderland of color and splendor, and in most booths, you feel like a kid in an eye candy store. ic! Berlin's trailer dishing out American-style fast food and retro-styled picnic area doubling up as show counters is always something to look out for, and each other, you wonder how much more fun eyewear can be in these settings.

Here are our favorites from what we saw.

Best of Silmo 2012 - Optical Frames

Let's cut to the chase and start from the very best, Lucas de Staël's "Once Upon a Time" collection, which beautifully mounts real wood such as maple and walnut and genuine leather such as goatskin onto stainless steel frames coated with colored titanium. Although each complete piece is meticulously handmade in a Paris workshop, the frames are chemically cut in Italy, welded in France and colored in Germany; the wood and leather are carefully chosen, prepared and cut in France.

De Staël's vision is to revisit conventional industrial processes by using unexpected materials that don't usually belong on optical frames, but when you hold these Silmo d'Or-award-winning gems in your hands, you'd think that wood and leather were always meant to be worn on a frame.

Whether you're going for a more classic look with the wood or something vibrant with leathers—think bright red, pink, turquoise, green, and a luminous option—you'll swoon over the collection's seamless craftsmanship and fitting, the result of passionate collaboration between designer and engineers.

Best of Silmo 2012 - Optical Frames

Hands down, the Japanese design and make some of the best eyewear in the world. With the pride they take in their creations, their ingenuity in solutions and playful imaginations, you'd be hard-pressed to find a badly-made Japanese optical frame. It's the same reason why it's a given that any eyewear proudly stamped "handmade in Japan" is of the highest quality, as well as price—for most, it's well worth it.

Kamuro has been showcasing this philosophy since 2005, inspired by a combination of "beauty/look/fun & play". What we have always loved about Kamuro is its attention to detail—as beautiful hues light up the frame front, others' eyes are inevitably drawn to take a second look because of intricate details on the temples. We've seen rainbows, city skylines, musical notes—it's a little bit Kawai at times, but always elegant with a twinkle.

This season, the sparkle shines even brighter as we saw more colorful gems dotting the designs. The temples are more abstract, but no less attractive and allows for more interpretation and patterns. We can't wait to have even more fun with the new collection—you don't even have to dress up, when the frames have already done their work.

In the early 1970s, Francis Klein set up his optical practice in Paris and found slim pickings when it came to filling his shelves with beautiful eyewear. When he decided to create his own, collections evoking beautiful vintage shapes and adorned with decorations like you won't see on any other frames in the world were born—think cat-eyes, Jackie Os and other classic shapes bedazzled with Swarovski crystals, colorful beads and flowers and trinkets.

Each piece is hand-made to order by an artisan, so two frames never look exactly the same—you can even customize your own design, as long as a color, shape and decoration already exists. Often, real silk, laces, feathers, and other unique elements are embedded into the acetate of the frame—undoubtedly, Francis Klein's flamboyant collections belong nowhere than Paris' 6th arrondissement, where the spirit of the Belle Epoque lives on.

New for the first time ever are hand-painted details on Francis Klein frames, which opens the floodgates to a new wave of artistry. It's even possible to have your own design or a picture you like painted onto the frame, as long as there is enough room and a proper replicate can be produced. To keep things interesting, each side features its own pattern, although both complement each other in making up the overall look of the frame. The collections may be retro, but new ideas each season keep moving things forward.

When the frame is entirely handmade in Italy, to the extent that designer Oliviero Zanon can tell you exactly which region of the country each part is from—that's amore! Starting with the inspiration for each Res/Rei frame through every single process of its production, Italian craftsmanship is shown off in every piece, each named after a Roman emperor. Not only is the line celebrating its first birthday with its second Silmo show, it also toasts to the highest quality of frame-making fit for a king.

We love best Res/Rei's limited edition collection. This season, there are five different sets of five frames, and only 20 pieces of each available (each frame is numbered from 1 to 20). Zanon carefully selects which opticians will carry these precious babies around the world, so they are truly hard to get. If you're lucky enough, you'll get to wear something like the Limited Edition IV, produced from acetates found from the 1980s and 1990s, and nothing left from where they came from. We can't wait for ours to arrive—we've left 19 more sets out there for you.

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