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theo history

What began as a memo... on an order form has developed into the slogan for the most headstrong Belgian brand of spectacles: 'theo loves you'. To this very day the motto connects everything theo does, every decision, every collection. It was the love for their clients that made Wim Somers and Patrick Hoet, opticians with their own store, decide to design and present a collection under the name of theo. Why? Well, simple: because they wanted to offer their clients something other than the mainstream glasses that were selling at the time. So, in 1989, the first theo glasses became a fact. And they were groundbreaking. With every following collection, it became increasingly easier to reach the consumer. Today, more than 20 years later, theo is sold in 1,400 stores across 50 countries... and theo loves them all!

Originally, theo only addressed the avant-garde. Later, however, the glasses began to appeal to a wider audience. theo always had a soft spot for the individualist, so in order to generate interest among trendsetters again, 'Eye-witness' was launched in May 1995. These spectacles were apparently unfinished and asymmetrical. Eye-witness wearers are often men and women who are kindred spirits. The Eye-witness line still exists today and every year new models are launched.

In 2004, theo announced its co-operation with the German-Belgian designer Christoph Broich. This cross-pollination between fashion and eyewear proved a hit. The sunglasses collaborated by Broich and theo were recognizable by the safety pin in the spring. Four years later, theo started collaborating with Belgian designer Tim Van Steenbergen on its new collection of sunglasses. The two Antwerp labels joined forces and have since been producing spectacles that radiate glamour and sophistication. In 2012, theo & Tim presented their forth collection together, already working hard on the next one.

To celebrate its 20th birthday, theo presented the ‘VinGtage’ collection at Mido 2007. theo is famous for its small glasses, of course, making this 'Vingtage' collection (vingt ans d'age! = 20 years in French - one of Belgium's official languages) quite a departure. The focus has definitely shifted from the eyes to the face. Yet these glasses are in no way similar to what people wore some forty years ago - these are spectacles for the present times, and indeed spectacular.

theo like to be unpredictable. For a new optical collection in 2010, theo started working with James Van Vossel, a creative spirit who was given carte blanche, resulting in a series with no equivalent. More models to come!

The theo headquarters are located in Antwerp. Mik and Toon, two of the three sons of Big Boss Wim Somers, joined the business a few years ago. The third son, Jan, joined his mother, Jamme, at the theo - Somers Optiek store. Nowadays, more than thirty people work for theo in Europe, the United States, and Japan. This small family business has developed into a major player in the international optics market. Patrick Hoet sold his shares to Wim about 15 years ago. Nevertheless, Patrick stays as an exclusive designer for theo. Meanwhile, theo has its own design team that works together closely with Patrick.

And so, theo keeps on surprising!

theo loves you!

theo likes to keep your brain on its toes!

theo likes to look at things from a different perspective. That’s how to spark creativity and keep your outlook fresh. In their everyday work, designers, architects and artists are constantly in contact with the literal version of ‘perspective’ or ‘representing depth in a painting or drawing’. By drawing an object on paper in perspective, you can create an illusion of volume. theo interpreted a drawing of a pair of glasses quite literally, added a whiff of magic, and voilà, the latest eye-witness collection was born. An optical illusion like no- thing you’ve ever seen before.

Eye-witness is theo’s playground. For both designer and wearer. Anything goes, no rules, no preconceived notions. That’s why they are not always the easiest frames to make, or to wear. It often starts with a long design process followed by an even longer production process. But that’s the whole challenge: defining and pushing the boundaries. And that’s exactly what the 5 new eye-witness models do.

3D in 2D
Our brains can be tricked to perceive a 2D drawing as a volume. We’re doing the same thing in this eye-witness series. Instead of giving the frames a certain thickness, the volume is created by simply outlining the front and back of the frames in lines, without ‘colouring it in’. Just like in a perspective drawing.

The 2 contour lines are always in different colours. theo combines a basic colour with its shadow colour. This results in a usually subtle, but occasionally intense contrast. Each model is available in 8 colour combos.

‘Sight’ happens automatically, but ‘insight’ takes effort. Eye-witness should never be too straightforward. After all, eye-witness wearers don’t exactly live their lives on automatic pilot.

View a PDF on the Eye-Witness Collection

Much has been written about who or what exactly the Millennials are supposed to be. Basically, the millennial generation refers to anyone born between the late 1970s and early 1990s. It was with this group in mind that theo created the Mille collection. Pared down forms in spectacular colours, with a typical theo twist, of course. The 4 new members of the family are the perfect complement to the collection and what’s more, they’re great for narrow faces and high dioptres.

Generation Y is none too fond of bells and whistles and they really prefer not to stand out. But that makes them all the more attuned to beauty. The new Mille glasses are young, and are not only well-balanced in form, but are highly ergonomic too. These frames look heavy, but the engineering of the inner structure gives them an original, thin edge and they stay lightweight. Since the acetate is extremely thin on the edges, it captures the light which brings out the transparency of the material, creating depth. Of course, this collection will appeal not only to the young generation, but to anyone who loves pure form.

Full-colour display
The beauty of this collection is not just in the form. The acetate material and the colours give an extra dimension to these frames. They combine matte and glossy acetate, different colours and even unexpected textures. It’s up to the wearer to choose his or her favourite. We’re all about diversity!

Hidden theo touch
There had to be a little theo twist in there somewhere, which is why we added a colour accent to the ear tip. The same colour appears on the front of the frames.

Millennial generation
Mille means ‘thousand’ in French, but it also stands for the ‘millennials’, aka Generation Y. This is the first generation to grow up in the new millennium. Members of this generation are said to be self-confident and critical, but also sociable and optimistic. They’ve grown up with all the benefits of information and communication technology and expect everything to move quickly. Mille is a perfect match for the trendy millennial.

View a PDF on the Millie Collection

Reinventing acetate frames!

theo invented an ingenious metal-folding system so that the frame doesn't have to come between the lens and the wearer's nose. Sound familiar? Of course, our models James 5 through James 19 in metal were a huge success for just this reason. But now we've taken it a step further. We've used the same system in 5 acetate models! The contrast between the heavy contour and the lightness of the nose section gives a striking, innovative look.

It was a simple trick; from a thin sheet of metal, the shape Of the frames and the nosepiece were cut all at once. The nosepiece was then folded back, doing away with the need for mounted nosepieces with attached pads. What's left, in other words, is an integrated nosepiece onto which pads can be attached directly. theo is now introducing the next version of these models, in acetate. The concept and even the models (with the exception of James 17) has been kept the same. But since we're using acetate, we had to take a whole different approach. Thanks to the ingenious metal-folding system, theo was able to create an open front which still holds the glass in place. The metal nosepiece has been sunken into the acetate. This means that Once again, there's no frame between the nose and the lenses.

Perfect fit
These glasses are made entirely of acetate, with the exception of the nosepiece, so they can be worn. with sublime comfort. Although the frames appear to be heavy, they feel light as a feather. It's the best Of both worlds.

Colour palette
The 6 models are available in 8 colours. The acetate is either glossy, or half glossy, or half glossy-half matte. From black to red, purple stripes to flou-orange, there are choices aplenty in this fresh original collection.

Who is James?
James Van Vossel started his own label 'James' in 2006, and in 2009, together With Tom De Vrieze, he launched 'FOX & Freeze.' This 37-year old designer has consistently shown himself to be a true jack Of all trades. In addition to eyewear for theo, he has designed everything from a whirling outdoor shower, to a rotating sofa bed, a book bag chair, a floor lamp (DARK) and a modular couch (DRISAG). His FF1 chair (FOX & Freeze) was purchased by both the National Gallery Of Victoria, in Melbourne and the Design Museum in Ghent. His designs are noted for original forms and clever functionality with a gimmick. The design is never for its own sake, but adds value to the product. What's more, he loves the challenge Of experimenting with all kinds of materials. For the past several years, James has been sharing his wealth Of knowledge as a professor Of Interior & Design at the Thomas More Hogeschool Mechelen (BE).

View a PDF on the James Collection

Welcome to the fold

The Belgian designer James Van Vossel came up with an ingenious new way of structuring a pair of glasses based on folding. That’s right, the new Plié collection is made up of frames with end pieces that have been folded first forward, and then back, seamlessly transitioning into the temples. The four James models offer folding in Dutch, French, Italian and Portuguese: Plooi, Pli, Piega and Plissado.

In the Plié collection, designer James Van Vossel plays with the qualities of stainless steel. Instead of attaching the temples to the front of the frames, James - never one to shy away from an experiment - wanted to create an entire pair of glasses with a single sheet, by folding it.

It goes without saying that it was no easy task. The end piece – the piece between the front and the temples – had to remain strong enough even after being folded. A real technical puzzle, but the result is worthy of the challenge! The frames were chemically etched from a sheet of stainless steel. The end piece was first folded forward, and then back over the outer edge of the frames. This way, the front transitions into an end piece that seamlessly becomes the temples! This outrageous Plié collection is already at the top of our wish list.

Colour tricks
theo and colour go together like pepper and salt. But for this Plié collection, we were faced with a bit of a challenge. After all, the end piece and the temples had to be the same colour as the inside of the frames, since it was being folded inside-out. By working with contrasting colours, we were able to emphasise the inside-out switch. And as for the palette: with everything from sober anthracites to bright hues, this collection runs the full gamut!

Mister Van Vossel
James Van Vossel is by now a familiar figure at the theo office. With his gift for converting diverse materials into design masterpieces, he has become indispensable to theo. Original design and functionality are always at the core of his work. And theo isn’t the only place where he gives free rein to his creativity. James is also renowned for his felt lounge chair, his floor lamp and the z-ball. From chairs to lighting to glasses, James is a designer-Jack of all trades.

View a PDF on the Plie Collection

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