It took me 18 months to get back to Paris for the fitting and collection of my sunglasses from Maison Bonnet. My fault, and part of a range of headaches which come from living so far away from Europe, when so much of what I write about is there.
In short, I love these glasses. The design suits my face perfectly, the different hues in the mottling of the acetate suit my skin tone and their proportions (frame width, thickness, overall dimensions) are ideal. They are, aesthetically, the best pair of glasses I’ve ever put on. I also haven’t worn them in 8 months since arriving home. More on that further down.
There are effectively 2 stages to the process (from a customers point of view). The initial making of the glasses, which utilises the measurements which Steven took at the first appointment which also sets the proportions of the frame (how wide should the arms be? should they taper? If so, by how much?) which are all designed to achieve both an aesthetic balance with my face, as well as being the best fit possible. Once the frames and lenses are manufactured, the second stage is the fitting. As mentioned in the original article, you can see how the process bears hallmarks to bespoke suits and shoes; measurements, design, construction, fitting. The difference at this stage with glasses is that the adjustments happen in real-time, with the customer present and involved in the process, providing feedback and input on comfort and positioning.
Acetate is a highly responsive material, and with the application of brief bursts of heat, becomes malleable, able to be adjusted instantly. So the process for the fitting involved going back downstairs to the workshop and working with Franck to see how they fit and then make the necessary changes to dial things in. So, first I try the sunglasses on to get an initial sense of the fit. To me the fit seemed OK, but after a few seconds waiting, as well as shaking my head side to side, they slid down my nose, needing to be pushed up. To make adjustments, Franck put the relevant part of the frames into a heater (see image above) to soften, then bent the frames as required, before resting them in a water bath to cool and set the changes. It’s a fairly rapid process of heat, bend, cool, fit (which sees Franck stand 4 metres away to check if they’re level), repeat. This only took about 15 minutes to make a number of changes which had the frames sitting more securely on my face.
Once the fit was adjusted, Steven put the lenses in, made some final checks and I left to give the frames a few days of wear to see if any improvements could be made.
The first thing I noticed, after heading outside (it was a sunny mid-summer day in Paris) was that sunlight came straight in through the gap between the top of the frame and my brow-line. It’s only a small gap, but on a bright day it was enough to stop me wearing the glasses pretty quickly. I also noticed that as soon as I got hot, the small amount of moisture on the bridge of my nose and behind my ears, allowed the glasses to slip down my face, requiring them to be pushed up every 20 seconds. I kept trying them on intermittently throughout the day, but the results were the same, so I went back in later in the week to see if we could further adjust the fit to eliminate those two issues.
Franck and Steven had left for holidays, so Arnaud handled the fitting and we made some more aggressive changes to the frames, which saw a file come out to shave away fractions of the frames (it’s an herrendous thing to watch the glasses be hacked at with a file, but they polish up like new after a few seconds on the buffer). We agreed to give them a couple of hours of wear and to come back if needed. The changes helped and sunlight was stopped from getting in behind the frames, but the continued slipping was still an issue (though better than before). We went back in after lunch and Arnaud made further changes to the frames which fixed all the issues. They stayed securely in place, were comfortable and no light got in behind the frames. By that point I’d regard the fit as perfect, particularly in terms of comfort.
The problem was that by the time I got home to Australia (a day and a half later) most/all of the changes had straightened themselves out and the frames were largely back to their original shape. At this point I’m not sure why the changes didn’t stick. Heat would be the only likely issue, but from the time I left Maison Bonnet, until the time I arrived home, they hadn’t been exposed to anything above room temperature. I also kept them in my carry on luggage for the return flight and they were in a secure case where they couldn’t be bent.
Upon reflection, the only change I’d make (aside from fit) would be to possibly change to a darker lens to block out more sunlight. But the colour of the current lenses suit the frame so well, that I’d be giving up some of the aesthetic appeal, for added practicality. It’s just a case of priorities in that instance, but I’d take the form follows function wearability of a darker lens.
There’s a decent chance that I’ll be back in Paris next month, so I’ll try to see if there’s anything that can be done which is a more stable solution for the long term and then write a follow-up article. It’s a shame, because the process has been really enjoyable and aesthetically the glasses are perfect, but with the fit as it is currently, I can’t wear them.