ROLF - Roland Wolf GmbH
There are very few products more personal than eyeglasses and in this area most everything has been explored. Going new different ways in is product category is especially difficult and therefore we appreciate how Rolf created a completely new structure out of wood, including the connection part and pivot points.
The wood is not used as a superfluous decoration material but as the structural element of the product itself.
This is then a completely different material experience than what is on the market today.
A small, family-run business situated in the heart of the Tyrolean Alps, ROLF Spectacles produces hand-made, lightweight wooden, bamboo and woodstone eyeglass frames. One of ROLF Spectacles company goals is to set new trends in design and to realize new ideas. ROLF’s research and development team has created an innovative hinge for its eyewear made of wood and a specialized ROLF lens-glazing system. The ROLF wooden eyewear is produced completely in wood and without any metal parts or screws. Each ROLF frame is produced by hand requiring many work steps at the plant in Tyrol / Austria.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
Full of passion - but lacking in credit - the four founders bank on the simplest resources and their expert craftsmanship to realize the design and production of eyewear frames made 1oo% from wood. In the basement of their parents‘ house, the four labor for months with jigsaws and an old, repurposed mechanical milker to get their creative endeavor, ROLF Spectacles off the ground. In the following two-and-a-half years, the team members test, saw, rasp and hack their way into their own style. Through trial and error, they hold on to their vision; also because of the sustainability angle. There is no doubt in their mind: Wooden eyewear frames are the future. ROLF Spectacles always tries to push their frames to the next level by fusing designs inspired by classic cars and the natural environment in Tyrol. This obsession with natural materials allows them to create unique looks and technical innovation. ROLF boldly show the next level of wooden eyewear, the ROLF „advanced“ line. Three dimensional design, adding natural texture to our frames which are polished to perfection in 78 working steps by hand.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
We want to honestly communicate who we are and what we do. We are just having fun with what we are doing. Also, it‘s not „only“ about eyewear for us. There is much more behind it. ROLF not only produces and designs eyewear frames, but also the sample cases, photos and the trade show booth are conceived and produced by the team. We are willing to fight against the global players, who try to force the customer to buy cheaply produced products only because of the brand. Our society gets sick and we need a change. We should ask ourself if it is necessary to attract attention only because the product was expensive and worn by famous person. We try to keep our designs as pure as possible. We often spend hours discussing whether the inside of the temples should feature additional information and most of the time we all agree: the frames should be „hurt“ as little with information or branding as possible. We think there is no need for special marketing camapains or a huge logo placement. We try to transport a kind of understatement. It is important that customers value the products, and do not spend lots of money because of brand attention. We try to transport a story – not a brand. We prefer to spend the money on research and local production.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Throughout its long growth phase, each tree develops its own unique structure that is different in terms of consistency, size and texture. Which is why the material needs to be treated on an individual basis. Wood is not a homogenous material. You need to choose the right tools for optimal results in order to get the material into shape and process it. Wood is alive. This characteristic also makes it interesting. Some kinds of wood will lighten over time, others assume darker shades. And when wood collects moisture, it will swell. If moisture is extracted, the wood will fade away. So in order for eyewear frames to maintain their shape, raw materials need to be chosen with great care. We have developed our own technologies to bring wood into the desired shape while eliminating warping and torsion of the material. We take no compromises when it comes to realizing our ideas of perfect wooden eyewear. Neither in the choice of materials or in the functionality of the hinges. The latter are crafted without screws, maintenance-free and replete with a stop-function to stop the temples from touching the wood. Additionally, the hinges also stop the temples in the right position when they are closed or unfolded to stop unwanted movement of the temples. Our glass fitting method affords tension-free fitting of the lenses without opening up the frames. We also excel through the precision with which ROLF frames are crafted. The size of our collection, our design, our image and continuous progress are also distinguishing factors.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
We are convinced that the young generation focuses more and more on products they know who made them and where they come from. There is a change happening out there - back to traditional craft and cultures - and the willingness to pay more for honest products. Not only the materials we choose are good for the „human body“. Also the story and how the product is realized are important steps for a good and better society. We are banking on regionalism. It is important for us to show people who we are, where we are and that we are connected to this picturesque landscape. Regionalism is more than just a marketing tool for us - it is also backed by our in-house production and regional jobs at the company. Our motto is: „Where others stop, we are just getting started.“ We are delighted to show other creative minds that you can build something from the circumstances here and even contribute to the entire region. Outsourcing is not always a requirement... Our product needs a lot of handcraft and the costs for workers are really high in Austria. Between the blank stages to completed set of frames there are 78 working steps. But we are convinced that this is a long term investment and the future will reward our attitude.