Editorial

shades
that tell
a story

A brand of unique artisan made-in-Italy shades born from the incidental find of a box of colonial period sunglasses in an Asmara warehouse
T

he story of Luca Gnecchi Ruscone and his grandfather Raffaello Bini has all the charm of a vintage novel set between Italy and Africa. It begins in 1936, when Raffaello was sent to Eritrea, then an Italian colony, to photograph the war effort for Istituto Luce. Raffaello literally fell in love with the place, and later opened an optical store and remained in Asmara until 1956, when he was forced to return to Italy because of the war. Fifty years later, accompanied by his nephew Luca, Raffaello returned to Asmara to collect his family’s belongings, and on that occasion Luca, browsing through his grandfather's old warehouses, found a box of sunglass frames from the colonial era. Fascinated, Luca brought back them back to Italy, tracked down the original manufacturers and began a small production of the authentic frames, respecting the traditional artisanal methods of the past. It was an instant international hit.<br /> We asked Luca to tell us something more about his incredible enterprise.

The grandfather Raffaello's shop, opened in 1936

 
Fifty years later, accompanied by his nephew Luca, Raffaello returned to Asmara to collect his family’s belongings, and on that occasion Luca, browsing through his grandfather's old warehouses, found a box of sunglass frames from the colonial era. Fascinated, Luca brought back them back to Italy, tracked down the original manufacturers and began a small production of the authentic frames, respecting the traditional artisanal methods of the past. It was an instant international hit.<br />
Some drawings

We asked Luca
to tell us something more about
his incredible enterprise.

What was so special about the old shades you found in Asmara?

LGR: They were made-in-Italy glasses worn by Italian settlers and soldiers in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Libya in the 1940s and 1950s.

Are they still part of your catalogue?

LGR: Some are, yes, particularly the Asmara and Keren models.

What do your collections draw inspiration from?

LGR: Our permanent inspiration is a mix of colonial Africa and 1950s Italy, the latter being a synonym for economic boom, dolce vita, beauty and sophistication. Our secret lies in mixing and juxtaposing these two different worlds.

How do you balance your love for timeless beauty with market trends?

LGR: A pair of shades is a very simple object - you should never overdo it. Personally, I create my models according to my own taste and to the taste of the people I like: I always ask myself what kind of shades I would wear, or what kind of shades my mother and my friends might like. That is why L.G.R belongs to world of its own, enclosed inside its unique taste and style.

Is there still hope for authentic made-in-Italy quality?

LGR: Globalization has led to a certain decline of Italian craftsmanship in all sectors, but there are still a few niches where artisan skills are a plus. It is up to entrepreneurs to promote this mastery and convey it to consumers, educating them to a different concept of quality and value. I believe that quality always wins, and my customers know this - which is why so we continue to grow in a global marketplace.
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