There’s an eyewear brand that Grammy-winning musician John Mayer is crazy about. The name of the brand is “Max Pittion.” Mr. Mayer acquired the manufacturing license for the brand, which went out of business in the 70s. The artist teams up with Tommy Ogara of The Light Co. Ltd., who designs eyewear for numerous brands, to revive the legendary brand.
The French eyewear brand was founded by Max Pittion in 1921 in Oyonnax of the Jura department. Oyonnax was a large producer of eyewear at the time. Taking on the factory started by his father, Max expanded business by manufacturing designs for luxury brands such as Lanvin and Azzaro under licensing agreements. Exports also increased, but in the 70s, with the flourishing of the industry in Japan, production of eyewear in Jura began to decline. Max withdrew from the business in 1981 and enjoyed life after retirement until his death in 2009.
We interviewed Mr. Mayer, who was visiting Japan, and Mr. Ogara about the “new” Max Pittion and its charms.
- What led to the acquisition of the manufacturing license of the brand?
Mayer: One day, I was surfing the net to look for some vintage designs and I came across the Politician sunglasses. I really liked the design and I purchased it, but unfortunately it was too small for me. But I didn’t want to give up on the chance of wearing them so I decided to obtain the manufacturing license to revive the brand.
I like designs which are created by hand with profound meanings. They don’t need to be too fancy. What I love is usually popular amongst others too.
When I found out that the brand no longer existed, I asked myself if I would be able to revive it, and the answer was “yes.” In order to re-start the brand, I placed importance on creating a relationship with the founding family. I didn’t just want to buy the rights and do as I please, that’s not my style. I was able to connect with the family and hear stories about the past and see historical photos relating to the brand. The logo is from the 1940s and the tag is originally designed.
With help from Tommy, I was able to faithfully re-create past designs with modern re-touches.
- How did you meet Mr. OGara?
OGara: We’d actually met several times in the past in various places (laugh). It started off when I bumped into John at a meeting and we talked about how we had many common friends. Finding out that John was a collector of special items, we kind of hit it off.
Mayer: My belief is that “an idea that sticks is valuable.” I’ve been involved in many projects up until now, and on the way, I have lost interest and forgotten about certain ideas. The things I leave behind were probably not meant to be (laugh). I’m a musician because I love it and it interests me. I don’t consider throwing this career away.
OGara: We were lucky to have been able to borrow designs in the archives from the family. We decorated the store window with old photos framed in antique gold frames and by placing the brand logo on a box for storing a French hat. Without the background on the brand history and the archive collections, we wouldn’t have known what to do about branding.
Mayer: There are thousands of companies in the world which produce eyewear. Max Pittion is different in that it doesn’t just sell products, it moves you. I am a fanatic when it comes to eyewear (laugh) which is why I can detect what is real. I’m not satisfied with common things. I like things that make an impact.
OGara: We put a lot of effort in reproducing the original designs. This time, we designed them using cottonseed oil. The designs are very delicate and beautiful when colors are added. They are firm and won’t scratch easily either.
- Celluloid was the main substance used for the original designs, correct?
OGara: Yes. We wanted to be in touch with the brand’s history. The Pittion family started off as a producer of combs in Jura of France in the 40s. At the time, celluloid was discovered and used to create combs by adding punches to the material. Max Pittion and his father thought of designing eyewear with the same substance, which is how the brand came to be. It was the golden age for celluloid, but one problem was that when burned, it would produce toxic gases. The material no longer works today. On the other hand, cottonseed oil doesn’t produce toxic gases when burned. 18K and 10K plating adds luxurious taste to the designs, and the items are durable.
To be continued into 2/3.