What makes an object collectible?
Is it merely the outcome of a refined manufacturing process; the quality of an object's fabrication; or the result of strategic scarcity? Is it more about what Brancusi imagined when he said, “What is real is not the external form, but the essence of things”? Is it a product of history, or a projection of the present?
Jerome Mage will tell you: Its the sum of these stories.
“If you look at a piece of Napoleonic memorabilia,” says the founder-designer of Jacques Marie Mage, “its craftsmanship is immediately noticeable, its colors, its materials, but it also tells you about the era, the geography, the political hierarchy.”
In other words, its not just the quality of an object, but the underlying narratives that imbue it with layers of cultural context and collective memory. Together, these give an object, whether it be an avant-garde sculpture or a pair of modern glasses, a depth of meaning that permeates and extends beyond its physicality.
“When you look at a pair of J.M.M. spectacles—its shape, construction, and materials—it too references a mix of particular times, places, and sensibilities, uniting these elements into an utterly unique statement regarding historical happenings and present-day attitudes.”
Mr. Mage has long been thinking about the essential value and power of objects. He's spent the last five years designing and creating small batches of exquisitely produced eyewear that reflects the designer's matured vision and refined aesthetic vocabulary.
The Vanguard Collection represents the height of Mr. Mage's imagination as a designer and a manufacturer. In the same way that it was so important for Brancusi to work at using material and surface as an expressive form, Mr. Mage experiments with the fundamental construction and design elements of eyewear to create glasses that are undeniably beautiful, provocative, and technically excellent.
How would you characterize the Vanguard Collection as a whole?
Jerome Mage: As a whole it is a laboratory for design concepts and volume research. A lot of what the Vanguard Collection was when we first started was really a place to experiment with creative ideas that were a little outside of what we would normally do.
Its about Process, developing specific industrial processes that haven't been used in the eyewear world before. And its also about Story, about how we convey the sensibility of an especially inspiring art period, piece, or individual. That's why we name the actual frames after the artists we admire, which are those that confidently blazed new trails and broke the mold.
You speak of the Vanguard Collection as a laboratory. Who are the “technicians” that have most influenced the laboratory's direction?
Jerome Mage: The Vanguard Collection is heavily influenced by early-to-mod 20th century sculptors like Jans Harp, Barbara Hepworth, Miro, Brancusi. They all are employing a very abstract, geometrical approach.
But the collection also draws a lot from the art deco and neo-cubist periods of the early-20th century, and those artists that sought to balance and combine geometrical shapes and mixed materials to create new aesthetic forms.
What role does “sculpturality” play as a central theme or concern for the collection?
Jerome Mage: The overarching approach of the Vanguard Collection is bold, sculptural, and geometric. Sometimes that manifests as a 2d shape, but lately its been more about the actual volume.
In fact, the latest collection utilizes thermoforming, which normally isn't really done with acetate. Basically, we heat up the acetate and stamp it with a mold. Take “The Ray” for example — you could not make that using a CNC machine. With thermoforming, we are able to create this really bulbous, geometrical volume to the temple.
Just as a point of reference, the time that a CNC machine takes to cut a standard industry frame front is around 5 minutes. The time it takes to cut a front for the Vanguard Collection is 9-10 minutes.
You mentioned thermoforming. What other technical innovations have you developed while creating the Vanguard Collection?
Jerome Mage: Our approach is to try and find new ways of doing old things. Take for instance our eyewear's wire core. We've been laminating the wire core, exposing the wire core, utilizing a double-wire core, and even a floating wire core. We've been doing all these different treatments that 99% of the industry always treats the same way.
Same thing with the hinges: we've implemented hinges that lock like a car door, hinges that lock like a car door and have a spring-hinge action, and now hinges that just have that click in them. Same with the way we mount our lenses.
So, its about that constant research around the details of eyewear and eyewear construction. Not necessarily to revolutionize the world of eyewear, but to offer a new perspective on how to do things that have been done the same way for too long.
How has the Vanguard Collection evolved?
Jerome Mage: The collection is like a butterfly, its supposed to have a short life span. We do beautiful things that appear one day and disappear another. So I try not to repeat myself too many times within the collection, and try to every two seasons to d' a refreshing concept around the collection.
With each new concept, the way we manipulate the elements definitely evolves. Its gone from a focus on Materials to Colors and now on Volumes. And I think with each new focus we've developed some kind of construction that had not been done in the industry ever before.
Can you give an example of how you pushed the boundary with Colors?
Jerome Mage: Basically we play with the different layers and colors of acetate to highlight different portions of the frames. In order to assemble the colors you have to create a mold and cut out each piece of colored acetate.
If you look at season 3 and 4, the amount of color lamination was absolutely insane. We used 6 different sheets of acetate to make a front frame; with some of the frames, we added up to 30 Euros just in the cost of acetate assembly.
But this kind of complexity is necessary if, like us, you're interested in being as intricate as possible, in this case taking different pieces of acetate and skilfully bringing it all into one volume. It led to a signature look, and we've since tried to apply that same intensity to the sculpturality of our frames.
Which of the features you've developed over the years are you proudest of?
Jerome Mage: I think over all what I'm most proud of is that over the last 5 years we've really developed interesting, groundbreaking, and individual designs that came as a result of real technical innovation and design integrity. Whether it's the acetate treatments, volume details, or wire core construction, the Vanguard Collection has consistently delivered breakthrough design with breakthrough construction.
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