“Eyewear. Designed well. Made well. Here.”
For half a decade Banton Frameworks have worked towards their goal of creating a line of British made eyewear that is both designed and built to last. From their workshop in Scotland, co-founders Jamie and Lucy have tirelessly honed their craft and are now reaping the rewards of all that hard work.
Following the success of their Profile sunglasses collection, Banton Frameworks have just recently launched their OneThree optical range. We caught up with the pair to talk about their journey so far and find out a little more about how it all started.
– –First things first – who are Banton Frameworks and what was the inspiration behind it?
Lucy : Hi Shaun. So in my last year at University, my end of year project explored the influence of design and materials used for eyewear manufacture. I was experimenting with different material types which could be used for making glasses frames from. At the time, I was testing all sorts of substrates such as old record vinyl’s, milk cartons and wood. My class mate at the time, Jamie, helped me to make our first frames using the University studio equipment.
Jamie : Graduation came and went. Our time at University was at an end but we were only just getting started. That’s when we realised we wanted to keep pushing and progressing. We had only scratched the surface of what was possible. Since then we have moved into our own studio workshop where we manufacture our frames today.
How much of the design and production have you been able to keep in the UK. I know yourself and Lucy do quite a bit yourselves?
Jamie : It would be easier to tell you what we don’t do ha ha. The hinges and rivets come from overseas. We have tried to find suppliers here to no avail. As for the rest of our components they are made here in the UK.
Lucy : Sheets of acetate (glasses plastic) arrive at our workshop doors and they leave as glasses frames. From start to finish we cut, polish, rivet, heat, curve, and assemble our frames from start to finish. Since 2012, we’ve been learning not only how to make our eyewear, we’ve been designing a sustainable infrastructure for growth. We intend to have a larger factory one day where we can impart our skills to those who wish to join our endeavour. Designing and making eyewear here in the UK.
Jamie : Learning how to make eyewear hasn’t been easy and doing everything ourselves has taken a very long time. We’ve often built our own machinery and equipment, spending months on a single production process. Of course, it would have been easier to outsource our manufacture overseas, however we are hugely passionate about creating an affordable eyewear here in the UK.
What have been the benefits of keeping these manufacturing processes in house?
Lucy : In house manufacture means everything to us. We can move stop or start production whenever we want which makes us very nimble. After years of honing our processes we are in a position to work on limited runs in certain acetates. Very shortly, our ‘Members Club’ will be able to access limited edition frames. It’s exciting to be able to offer these when other UK eyewear brands are at the mercy of their Eastern minimum quantities.
Jamie : We are working towards becoming the leading eyewear manufacturer in the UK. Making eyewear in this country is difficult however we believe whole heartedly that we are offering something to the market that very few others can. Many UK brands out there will tell you their eyewear is handmade. They won’t be so keen to tell you where their frames are handmade.
Given your hands-on involvement in the manufacture of each frame, you must get great pleasure out of seeing your product used and enjoyed by your customers?
Jamie : We had a customer-email last month after having received his new pair of glasses. We thought there was a problem but he said he was “surprised and delighted” with their overall quality. We like those emails.
Lucy : Those are the emails that make it even more worthwhile. When we were struggling in our early days to even make one frame, we can reply to that customer and tell them how much it means to us. The late nights are paying off and it’s a feeling we cant even describe.
I read your ‘wake up call’ piece a while back in which you referenced Dieter Rams and quoted ‘as little design as possible’. How has this idea influenced your work?
Jamie : Thanks for reading it and thanks for bringing it up. I think Dieter’s ideologies will and have already transcended his lifetime as an Industrial Designer. I am completely on board with his ideas and when it comes to design, consumerism and environment. ‘Wake Up Call’ is my written homage to Dieter’s idea; we seriously need to re-address our throwaway culture and promote better, longer lasting products for the sake of future generations.
Lucy : Our eyewear is intended to surpass more than a ‘season’. Utilising timeless frame shapes, high quality acetate and robust components, our eyewear is simple with less components’ As little design as possible.
NB : Have a listen to the podcast with Vitsoe’s managing director, Mark Adams regarding sustainability and Dieter’s influence on the company. It’s a great half hour : Listen to the podcast here.
If you weren’t producing eyewear, what product (if any) would you like to try your hand at?
Lucy : Ohhh that’s a great question. As a couple and as business partners, Jamie and I share a great interest for food. We have always had the idea about venturing into well designed, well made food utensils. We loathe these single purpose, plastic gimmicks.
Jamie : Food is at the centre of life. I have a great distrust for people who don’t relish in the cooking and eating of great food. Good quality, everyday utensils can enrich and improve this experience and we’d love to venture into things like tableware, pans or cutlery…
We’re a huge fans of Campbell Cole and Instrmnt, both UK based companies. Are there any homegrown brands that stand out for you currently?
Jamie : Pete and Ross at Instrmnt have done an incredible job. Instrmnt are quintessential amid the growing design community in Glasgow. As for Campbell Cole, Ian and Felicity have an incredible collection of UK leather products. Like us, they are a design-couple; the nicest people you can meet.
Lucy : Jamie and I have a very long list of UK brands we are hugely fond of. Some of our heroes include Trakke, Ajoto, Alice Made This, Hancock VA, Hiut Denim, Filmore Skincare, Sunspel, Brooks Saddles… Check out our blog series ‘NATIVE’ for a browse.
There may be countless glasses/sunglasses with a minimal aesthetic on the market today but for us, it’s Jamie and Lucy’s passion for craftsmanship and UK based manufacturing that sees Banton Frameworks rise above their competition.
You can shop the Banton Frameworks collection here.
Photographs courtesy of Banton Frameworks