interview & photography yasmine ganley
When designing, what are some fundamental requirements or creative boundaries you set for yourself in order to refine your ideas?
Kristen Our eyewear is built to last and, in order to respect this, we design so that our styles won’t date quickly and stay relevant to our customers and their lives beyond the standard fashion cycle.
This desire to create something long-lasting aesthetically forms a fundamental requirement for our eyewear to be classic and flattering. Finding harmony in just the right dimension or angle to bring out the best in a face is what we aim for. In the early design phase, we try our designs on ourselves and then later, on friends to get a sense of how the shape is working on different faces. This may seems obvious, but the design is never judged in isolation from the face.
While we like to create classic designs, we also don’t want to fall into the trap of making something so classic it is bland, so we always try to ensure there are small quirks or elements that make it different to what is on the market, even if those details are sometimes subtle.
Claire When Kristen and I design our eyewear, the form of our frames always embodies simplicity, quietness and ease. There is a layered process to achieving simplicity, which involves stripping down a frame to its bones through a series of steps. We start with the skeleton or line drawing of a design and then deconstruct it. Whether that’s eliminating, expanding or extracting an element of its shape. This is quite a detailed procedure which involves looking at each section of a frame in immense detail, and relying on each other’s visual, creative and intuitive judgment to know whether a design is working or when it has reached completion.
I think the fundamental requirement to refining our ideas is to make sure that the end design is flattering whilst achieving the overall aesthetic we are striving for in any one design. This means that we always need to find the right dimension or angle to bring out the best in different face shapes.
Our designs aren’t loud or super avant-garde but we try to ensure that each design has its own unique qualities from other eyewear on the market. Our designs are ultimately the result of collaboration and the push and pull of our different tastes and interests.
How do you explore the idea of making a hard product, like eyewear, appear soft conceptually through your designs and brand imagery?
Kristen When we first started auór, we noticed that a kind of shiny, masculinity seemed to dominate the aesthetic for that kind of product photography. Eyewear is a technical product so I can see how people would photograph it that way, but it never appealed to us. So right from the beginning, we wanted to evoke a softer and more ‘real’ atmosphere. This softness comes naturally to us and is obviously something we crave, so this concept stuck right from the start.
Because it feels intrinsic, it is linked to everything we do, but I think we explore this concept the most in our photography. We really enjoy the process of planning and executing shoots together, and feel this is really where everything comes together. We have always preferred styling the sunglasses with whole outfits, rather than just focusing on the face and find ourselves often honing in on the clothes or textures that are also in the photo to balance the shiny hard object and tell a more elaborate story visually. Natural light and settings lend themselves to this concept, as does film photography which never has the hyper realism of digital and always the exciting potential for those lovely in-between moments.
Claire I think the softness of our eyewear draws from gesture, line and form. It’s the subtle curves, the feminine shapes and the contouring of our designs that gives them that ease. For our brand imagery, we strip the harshness of our aesthetic through feminine compositions and quiet, subdued styling. The use of film in our photography leans into this, as it cuts out the ‘shine’ (as we call it) and allows for more moody and interesting imagery. You also get all the beautiful happy surprises with film photography, which really energises us visually. Waiting to get a roll of film back is such a beautiful romantic process.
Softness could be said as something that exists at the core of both of your personalities, too. How do you feel this quality reverberates over to your audience?
Kristen I feel that we are fairly consistent with how we engage with our audience visually, as well as our tone of writing and even in our day-to-day dealings with suppliers or customers. Claire is largely responsible for the lovely voice of the brand and also the curation of images in our marketing, which paints a cohesive picture for our audience of the softness, we are trying to communicate. Ultimately we hope that this quality comes across as easy and honest because it feels natural to us.
Claire I hope when people tap into auór they sense a genuine, honest and sensitive tone in all that they see. Because the brand is ultimately a reflection of whom we are as individuals, which is a combination of all of those things. In all aspects of our business, we just want things to be soft. Soft in what we design, in how we communicate to our audiences, and in how we conduct ourselves as a small business.
Whilst each day can present new challenges, coming back to this idea of softening provides us with much calm and clarity for auór, and it’s this quality we want our audiences to feel and experience too. Whether that reverberates through language, design, imagery, philosophy, art, creativity, community, or us just in the presentation of a thought or idea.
What do you feel your social responsibility is as creatives in the industry’s current climate?
Kristen We care deeply about our impact on the planet and everything we do is connected to our need for honesty and integrity in our own lives. We take care in choosing sustainable and ethical manufacturers, producing small quantities so we don’t have excess, in the way we run our business or who we deal with, how we encourage repairs rather than buying new each season — it filters out to everything. It is an important time to walk your talk because, at this point, everyone is accountable, even a tiny businesses like ours.
Claire We just have to do every little thing we can to support the planet right now. There’s no room to question the importance of that. Kristen and I are doing everything in our power to look at how we can reduce our environmental footprint as a business. This includes continuing to produce short runs of our eyewear, using recyclable and compostable materials in all aspects of our packaging, and supporting quality handmade craftsmanship.
We recently launched our Nature Tee as a response to the current environmental crisis, as a way to communicate how critical it is that we protect our planet and humanity at large. For every Nature Tee sold, we help fund the planting of two trees with the organisation Trillion Trees. Trillion Trees have planted close to 15 million native trees across Western Australia, to combat salinity and soil erosion, improve biodiversity, and provide habitat for thousands of native species. This is a project both dear to our hearts.
We are also currently researching and exploring new advancements in sustainable eyewear materials, which is something we really hope to see more of in our industry. It’s important for us as creatives to be leaders in our field, and finding and implementing materials that can be produced in more environmentally friendly ways is our focus and our future.
In addition to this, we really care about the longevity of our frames and we have made clear design and material choices to make them last longer. We now have a repair service for our frames in Australia and New Zealand so that customers can have them refurbished so that they continue to last. It’s important for us to educate and communicate the long-term use of our products and to encourage a more circular and environmental approach to purchasing.
How do you both like to fill up creatively?
Kristen One of my most favourite things is good conversation, whether with a loved one, stranger or listening to a podcast. The exchange of ideas is really exciting to me. I get the same kind of thrill reading great books or watching beautiful films. I find the more engaged I am with different types of art, the more inspired I am for my own creative pursuits. The treasure hunt that is op shopping and the daily act of dressing are everyday creative acts that bring me joy, along with photography and doing little art projects with my family that are just play.
My son is four and, since he was a baby, I’ve marveled at his art-making process and how it is completely unselfconscious and with little care for how the end piece turns out. It’s pure process and I think that’s an energising thing to get back to in a society that tries to monetise everything we do.
Claire Like many, 2020 to 2021 has been the most personally challenging creative time I’ve faced. I was set to finish my Masters in Fine Art in London this year but I’ve had to postpone my studies due to Covid-19. My second love, the theatre, is where I most like to fill up creatively. I’ve worked in the theatre industry for 15 years, so I am patiently waiting to get back to life around the stage when things improve here in the UK.
After a lengthy hiatus of not producing my own creative work, I am slowly finding my feet again. I studied Art Therapy many years ago so I’m doing a lot of guided drawing during lockdown. Guided drawing is a body-focused drawing technique that applies to the philosophy of Jungian Depth Psychology — to universal, formal elements such as a line or a circle or square.
You do this with closed eyes and both hands, using chalk or crayons or paints on large sheets of paper. I’ve found it a great place to just start activating creativity again. I’ve also recently completed an online class with artist Jenny Nelson to expand my skills in abstract painting and composition.