J.F.Rey: Defying Gravity!

By Paddy Kamen

In the competitive world of eyewear design there is one man who has stayed at the peak of the profession since he began. How does J.F.Rey do it? 

JFRey As someone who was quite literally born into the eyewear field, Jean-François (J.F.) Rey certainly had an excellent place from which to launch a career. His grandparents and parents were frame makers in the Jura region of France, which is world-renowned for the design and manufacture of eyeglasses. With history and family on his side, he designed his first collection for his father’s business at 16. From there he branched out and designed for some of the famous labels in ready-to-wear fashion, such as Agnès B., Issey Miyake and Marithé et François Girbaud. Not a bad start!

The year 1995 was decisive, as J.F. and his wife and business partner, Joëlle Rey, launched their own company with the amazing J.F.Rey and BOZ collections. Based in Marseille and with a plant in the Jura, it almost defies belief that this dynamic team, which conquered the eyewear world in less than 10 years, is now approaching their 20th anniversary and continues to dominate the world of eyewear design with innovations galore.

JFReyLaceWith a multi-faceted brand collection, J.F. is now the director of both BLI-DBP (with J.F.Rey and Boz brands) and SLI (with the brands Sky Eyes, Volte Face, and the license for Renoma). He leads a design team of five from the J.F.Rey Creation Studio.

“J.F.Rey is, above all, a family business with a common passion which continues today in the way we work,” he explains. “Team spirit is very important to us, at each level of the work, and it contributes to the success of our collections. The designers develop close and positive relationships, and even though each designer works on their own line, they are always exposed to the work of their colleagues, which provides cross-fertilization. Sensibilities, experience and vision are different for each designer and this makes for synergy. We have a very constructive and efficient way of working.”

Each new collection presents the opportunity for creativity and innovation for the J.F.Rey team. “In the last 10 years, in particular, we have succeeded in taking new techniques to the limits of the possible and bringing projects to fruition that even we thought were impossible,” says J.F.

One has only to look upon the collections to marvel at the immense creative energy JFReyVidainherent in the designs. Several pieces in the BOZ collection, with Joëlle Rey as artistic director, truly defy gravity with their daring temple designs. One wonders how the designers achieved balance in the attachment of the temples (the Swan, Stork, Spy and the latest Usha models must be seen to be believed), let alone creating frames that are light weight and comfortable to wear.

“This line is the exact reflection of Joëlle’s personality: original, with an explosion of passion, very elaborated, audacious and well-balanced,” notes J.F. “The art and success of this brand results from the synergy of colour, pattern and material influences. Boz is just incredible.”

Not to be outdone, the other collections – J.F.Rey, Renoma, Volte Face, and Sky Eyes – excel in their own unique ways. “The passion which characterizes our designers makes the difference,” says J.F. “Challenges bring unexpected results, which are very exciting for all, both manufacturers and buyers.”

In 2012, the company purchased the latest generation laser cutting and engraving unit for their Jura plant. “Thanks to this tool, we can rejuvenate acetate and metal, creating surprising graphics which appeal to both sight and touch,” says J.F. “It helps to cultivate a taste for new design challenges.” The benefits of the laser technology are evident in numerous pieces, including the Volte Face BlaBla 2090, where tortoiseshell acetate has been laser etched and in the striking metal Structure-Tweed collection.

The Hong Kong Optical Fair recently recognized the J.F.Rey genius made manifest in sunglass 2559, winner of Vision in Life Sunglasses Gold Award for 2013. This elegant piece is symbolic of the history of France, with a fleur de lys pattern etched onto the top of the semi-rimless eyepiece.

J.F. and Joëlle love travelling and discovering new cultures, new design influences and meeting new people. “We find inspiration everywhere,” notes J.F. “And time and again, we translate inspiration from art, architecture and the latest technologies into trendsetting designs. Our aim is to keep creating surprise and setting the trends in eyewear design.”

So that’s how he does it! But now that we know, does it seem less amazing that J.F.Rey is still on top and leading? Gravity means nothing to J.F.Rey and we can only look forward to more surprises as he and his team continue to change the face of eyewear.

J.F.Rey Canada is based in Montreal and managed by Sarah Braida and her team. They carry all collections mentioned in this article.