Interview Brittany Chang
Founded in London by British designer Freddie Elborne, MONC is an independent eyewear brand celebrating the creative process and championing the people behind it.
With a strong stance against throwaway culture, MONC supports international artisanal makers while creating beautifully considered products that last a lifetime.
We discuss with Freddie the importance of transparent manufacturing, cultivating a community around great design and how travel continues to influence MONC.
How was your journey to start designing an eyewear brand inspired?
I fell into designing eyewear purely thanks to my family. My dad used to sport a pair of original Persol frames, which my eldest brother pinched when we went on holiday. That was the moment sunglasses really came on my radar. I had a realization with the way in which you could style a product and the intimacy between a person and their frames.
What are your thoughts with contemporary consumerism and the importance of tracing the supply chain?
I grew up during the 90s and 2000s at the height of throwaway culture. The emphasis was on seasonal trends and constant consumption. Awareness was definitely not a consumer habit, nor do I think much of a life cycle considered during most product’s production.
Luckily, I believe as a society we’re finally starting to become more educated with our choices, hopefully moving away from mindless consumption and towards shopping with a more conscious outlook. This is definitely something I personally try to practice. Whether buying clothes or doing food shopping, I want to know where my products have come from, who has made it and the process and materials used. I apply the same sensibility with MONC.
Italy is where I settled for our eyewear production because it has a huge heritage within the industry, our maker in particular has a family-run workshop. PierGuiseppe inherited control of the workshop from his father Gaudenzio, and they work together with five to ten artisans producing specialist collections for a small selection of luxury European brands.
Can you elaborate on the quality control asserted and the uniqueness of hand-craftsmanship?
After months of research and countless emails , I finally connected with PierGuiseppe. After hopping on a flight to Italy, we drove to a small town outside of Naples where PierGuiseppe is based.
An espresso and combination of broken English and Italian later, he took me into the workshop. It’s a compact space with a minimal amount of machines and a selection of artisans who he has known for years, most of them family.
It’s this intimacy with the craft and product that I respect enormously, and I firmly believe that each factory, manufacturer or maker has their own finish that subconsciously is so important in creating a product of quality and longevity.
What stands out for me, and I think is unique with our factory, is they use hand stamped foiling for the inner details of the frame. Our makers use gold or silver foil and individually stamp each one, which creates a very special finish to each individual product.
Your first collection is inspired by five neighborhoods around the world. How did this concept transpire?
I think being part of a large family has meant I’ve grown up surrounded by a strong sense of community and collaboration. This carried over into my vision for MONC, which is all about creating a community for people who value design and craftsmanship.
The five neighborhoods are places where an ethos of local craftsmanship and artisanal community are in renaissance. The first five cities are just the start. I wanted to begin with a solid selection of European locations that I could visit and meet the designers and makers in person. We plan to add more in the future, many more!
The brand was originally to be named Folklore, can you elaborate on this?
Finding a name that fit the brand wasn’t instant. It took a long time to think of something I was happy with. The concept behind the brand is about a community of like-minded individuals around the world who are like me — people who love the design and making process. I knew that in every country and city there were people ‘folk’ that had the same values, that’s were the initial name ‘Folklore’ came from — terrible I know.
However Folklore was set to be the catalyst for naming the frames after neighborhoods. It was about design communities around where people were designing and making products in a similar transparent and inspirational way. The original name felt wrong —maybe a little too Lord of the Rings, so I went back to the drawing board for a few weeks.
One weekend away at my parents, I was brainstorming around the table with the same brother who inspired me originally. Him and his wife were asking me about the brand and what kind of name I wanted. I wanted something simple that could express the community but also have an underlying meaning. And in the middle of the conversation their nickname for each other came up — ‘Monc’. Monckton is a middle name that myself, this brother and my dad all share, as well as being a nickname within the family. Along with all this it’s something that binds us all together. So MONC it was to be.
Can you give us some insight into your creative process?
As a designer the most exciting thing for me is the design process — seeing concepts and sketches that eventually form a product. My design process isn’t focused on trends. With our first collection, I set a goal to design a collection of styles that would fit a wide variety of face shapes as well as being unisex, mixing inspiration from vintage styles that I love.
With London Fields, for example, the frame is a rounded shape inspired by 60s John Lennon, but with quirky features and and outlandish details such as the geometric nose bridge and hooked temples.
Kreuzberg frame is inspired by a classic aviator shape, but much bolder, similar to the brutalist architecture of Berlin and the colorful diverse culture that is on every street corner of Kreuzberg.
MONC x majestic disorder