From 2017, optician Leo Girod is practising his craft in a novel way. He proposes vintage spectacle frames, restored or customised based on his customer’s preferences. Like this, instead of wearing a mass produced product, people leave his shop with a piece of history, both old and furiously modern. By @newschoolvintageshop
After working for nine years in conventional optical stores, and before establishing your shop, you left everything to learn the art of spectacle frame manufacturing. What led you to to take that step?
Well, working that way was extremely boring (laughs). I felt the need to reinvent my profession, and the first step was to bring back the craft of traditional spectacle-makers. That’s why I moved to Oyonnax, cradle of this craft in France.
I was trained by a prototypist who learned me the whole process of making an acetate frame: from the first sketch to the final polishing. Between “lessons”, I kept practising with vintage frames, and while doing this the idea of creating Retroviseur Workshop came to my mind.
What were your main sources of inspiration to create your universe and your working approach?
I’ve always tried to look into different “disciplines”. For example my way of work, as you surely can tell, is heavily influenced by the world of tattooing. Also, the boom in DIY culture inspired me to experiment, to push my limits to create custom frames. Music is also very important to me, as it helps me to define the mood for every new collection.
Besides that, I feel lucky to be able to collaborate with artists, painters and photographers in a regular basis… I think that every person we work with helps us to grow and evolve.
Recently, you have started to work by appointment, customizing your vintage frames with input from your clients… How did you came out with this idea?
At this moment, i have more than a thousand frames in stock, classified by shape and era, so working like this became essential to be capable of finding the perfect pair of glasses for every customer. They live this experience like something beyond a regular sale, because we work side by side in a made-to-measure project.Appointments take roughly one hour. Before all else, we talk for a moment about the style they are looking for, so we can start digging until finding the perfect one. From there on, we can discuss about customisation, and of course about graduating their eyesight if needed!
What kind of customisation do you propose to your clients?
For every frame, there are many possible modifications that we can apply. From an straightforward change of color, to a modification of the frame’s shape. We can even re-sculpt them using a soldering iron, or drill holes on the frame, adding metal rings or punk-style nails. We work with our customers to make each frame unique… the possibilities are endless!
When we speak about vintage and upcycling, there is often talk about its ecological value. What importance do you place on this?
Right now, this is an important and necessary conversation. They’re countless used and unsold spectacle frames all around the world that aren’t put to use… so many, that we could actually open a shop like mine in every city. Instead of fabricating more and more, we should give them a second life. Upcycling is a fundamental weapon if we want to start doing something for our planet, it’s time for an ecological transition, and I’m proud of being able to play a part on it in a domain that is yet quite unexplored.
Let’s finish with a more personal question: what’s your favorite vintage object?
My “cult” vintage item is a green checkered shirt, thrifted in a second hand store in Montreal five years ago. The shape is perfect, the style timeless, and the quality of the fabric is amazing. Also, it reminds me of my love for that city, where I actually had the idea of creating my shop… who knows, maybe one day Retroviseur’s adventure will continue in that wonderful city.