As I was in the neighborhood for MIDO, when the opportunity to tour the factory where Feb31st Eyewear is made came up, I was ready. The day before MIDO started, I had a fabulous afternoon that turned into an evening with Stefano Cipriani, one of the founders of Feb31st. Stefano picked me up at a convenient Metro stop away from the hubbub that was Fashion Week in Milan and after a quick and delicious lunch, we took the just under an hour journey into the foothills of the alps outside of MIDO to the small town of Val Brembilla, just north of Bergamo.
Inside this simple unassuming structure, each frame is hand made to order by craftsmen and artisans who seem more like family than employees. Customers choose from over 100 different models and 43 different colors to make a pair of lightweight wood frames as unique and individualized as each person is.
Here are just some of the thin wood sheets that are combined and pressed together to order.
Here are a few of the ladies who were working late on a Friday to finish assembling the last frames of the week. Note the holes in the workbench, where a constant vacuum removes wood dust from the air.
Here we see quality control inspecting each frame before they are packaged up and sent out to authorized dealers around the world.
This is a photo from their conference room with the entire collection laid out and getting ready to be shown at The Loft in New York later this month with Stefano Cipriani, who so generously was my guide for the day.
To see the craftsmanship that goes into every pair of wooden frames was fascinating for me. The color choices and combinations are virtually endless and the styles to choose from were as vast as the color combinations. One of the most interesting details Stefano shared with me was that each of the artisans’ switches jobs throughout the week so they are each familiar with every aspect of making each pair of eyewear but also so they don’t get bored with a repetitive task that might allow subpar products to be created. I have always thought more businesses could prosper by inviting employees to walk a mile or so in each other’s shoes and positions. We’ve all read stories of what happens when the CEO cleans toilets for a day. There is a new found respect for every job and new ideas as to how things can be done better. Feb31st Eyewear started with the first employees doing everything and has continued that sense of family through to today and the finished product shows it.
After the factory tour, Stefano took me to Bergamo where we drank at what is the oldest bar in Italy.
Old world traditions. New world products. Check out Feb31st at The Loft, March 21-24, if you get a chance.