For the daring eyeglasses wearer in search of a new signature pair of frames, a potential soulmate could be found within Anne et Valentin’s collection. The French independent eyewear brand was started by a couple in the 1980s, and has been producing eclectic frames in bold shades of turquoise, purple or red acetate ever since. The designs are conceived in Toulouse, and then manufactured in Jura (the French region known for acetate production) or Japan (an uncontested leader in titanium production). Now, they’re bringing the final product to Brooklyn.
The newly opened Carroll Gardens location marks Anne et Valentin’s fourth stand-alone store (they sell worldwide through independent boutiques)two in France, and now two in New York. With plenty of areas to sit and muse, the space (aside from the occasional rumbling of the F train below) is serene. Aardvark Interiors, who did the walnut drawer units for Anne et Valentin’s Prince Street store, created another version for the new location. The rest of the shelves and furniture, including the three beautiful resin tables, were designed by Anne et Valentin.
Most of the frames are tucked away in the drawers. Rather than the customer sifting through the more than 1,000 frames in stock, the search begins with a one-on-one consultation as they help find the perfect pair “with you and for you,” managing retail partner Gabriel Gestin tells CH. Beyond fit, it’s about finding glasses that show your unique personality and stylelike an architect who wants to communicate a certain aesthetic. In addition to the in-house collection, the store also carries other quality independent brands that complement the Anne et Valentin selection, such as Belgian brand theo, France’s Bruno Chaussignand and California’s Garrett Leight.
Curious to learn more about the brand’s approach to design and how it’s changed over the past few decades, we spoke with Anne.
What was the impetus of designing your own eyewear?
This is all about compatibility. We opened an optical shop in the ’80s and realized that creativity was very narrow at this time. So we simply thought that we should try designing our own line to fill the empty shelves and bring the eccentricity that was missing.
What kind of person are you designing for?
Our collections are meant to be worn by people who have a free will, are open-minded with the world but also themselvesand get continually inspired by what surrounds them. Basically, we are dealing with people who are not afraid of reinventing themselves throughout their lives.
Have you ever visited Brooklyn? Why did you decide to open a store in Carroll Gardens?
Oh yes, I did. The first reason we chose this borough is because it was a historical place of Brooklyn. Here, you find the past, the present but most importantly: a future. I like places that have a history, but also that are able to evolve over time and give birth to thousands of human initiatives. This is what we wanted to be part of.
How did you want to design the Carroll Gardens store?
The place is big so we decided that we should invest in simple, understated seating and very big tables made of resin. At the same time, we really wanted this place to remain cozy and welcoming by playing with shades and lights. We are very happy of the result of this mix and we hope that our customers will enjoy it too.
After decades of designing eyewear, how has your design aesthetic changed?
The design team is young but we still follow the philosophy that we initiated 20 years ago in matter of creativity, but also technological standards. Comfort remains an important part of our research. It has always been a long and meticulous process including the choice of the materials that had a big impact on our design over the years. I would say that our motto is being able to evolve constantly in order to always remain able to reveal everyones inner energy.
These days, what are you drawing inspiration from?
I guess our inspiration comes from everywhere and nowhere. It is more about expressing our philosophy of eyewear design through times. No matter what the trends are, we always end up making a stand on how to reflect our personality through our times and it becomes the direction of our next collection.
The next eyewear fair will start in few weeks in Milan. We will show very surprising designs made of twisted mechanics and a bit of irony. Our sunglasses will be more of a glamorous inspiration mixed up with minimalism using large glasses for a mask effect to enjoy the sun. The entire team is very excited about it.
I used to own a pair of bright purple Anne et Valentin frames (the Fairy U 85), which I wore until the screws wore out because I loved them so much.
What touches me the most is that you didnt forget it. This is exactly what we are trying to do every single day.
Visit Anne et Valentin’s new store at 200 Smith Street, Brooklyn.
Images by Nara Shin