“Post-” is a designation affixed to theoretical or speculative categories, but VAVA Eyewear’s new collection of glasses germinates that fertile ground of theory and speculation into fully realized artifacts that stand up as hallmarks of our post-industrial, post-human era.
VAVA’s philosophy hearkens back to the latter Cold War days of the technological boom, a time when technology occupied a precarious position in the field of popular culture, simultaneously hailed as mankind’s salvation and feared as a much-too effective means of societal oppression and repression. Society becoming more and more interrelated, barriers between previously separated categories such as cybernetics, humanity, industrialization, globalization, and militarization being broken down, redefined, re-conceptualized, and digitized; it was these types of wide-ranging events that instigated the “post-” prefix, and that VAVA condenses into their version of everyday eyewear, in a design that manifests their belief in human control over the advancement of technological progress.
If technological acceleration and evolution has led to the downfall, rebirth, and reinvention of post-industrial cities like Detroit and Berlin, the new VAVA collection configures that acceleration within an eyewear design that acknowledges the dark roots of the modern digital age while absolving them of the dismal future they originally conveyed. The design communicates an optimistic metaphysical side to those dark roots, projecting futurism, purism, and visionary conceptualism rather than rampant capitalism and media consumption. VAVA itself is a small, Italian, family-owned company that takes pride in avoiding the entrapment of mass production.
The basic design of the new collection is bauhaus in character, incorporating a functional array of shapes: squares and triangles and circles and rectangles. The symmetries into which these are configured are resurrected from the collective conscious of digital nostalgia, simultaneously retro in a hauntingly throwback manner while prophetic in an alternate future one; and totally current, as per VAVA’s unique and realistic perception of the nuances of Western contemporaneity. These video-arcade designs embody the feel of post-industrial reality and fiction, which is why they simultaneously occupy a fabric of 1980s nostalgia, the very decade in which the actual tendencies of our modern era were first structured into fully articulated theories and projections that then went on to influence cinema (cf. Blade Runner), literature (cf. Cyberpunk), and technology (cf., well, pretty much everything). These theoretical underpinnings of underground culture circa 1980 to the present prophesied a dismal future that was realized at the time within the situations of a city like Berlin, and realized later in the situation of a city like Detroit.
The frames of the glasses directly address, even confront, the dismal post-industrial projections of modern Western cities that championed yet suffered from technological evolution, and are formed from a cellulose acetate or “bioplastic” derived from cotton and wood pulp fibers and manufactured from renewable sources by Italian brand Mazzuchelli. It’s dexterity stands alongside traditional acetate, and also preserves that acetate’s traditional aesthetic. Naturalness–the virtue of and the striving after–is just as integral to this design choice as it is to the utilization of naturally pure crystalline glass for the lenses. Manufactured by Barberini, the glass’s natural purity allows for the least possible alterability over time and wear, while maintaining optimum optical precision and ensuring crucial elements like UV protection, scratch-resistance, antireflection, etc. Futurism is most definitely conveyed through the lens’ amazing transparency, and the flatness of the lens is a minimalistic throwback to the industrialized aesthetic of the 1980s. They are a “glass wall” behind which wearers can maintain a measure of renunciation and asceticism in the midst of fast-paced, high-intensity, post-humanistic society.
Color is a crucial subtext. While grays, blacks, and whites fully conceptualize the spirit of the new line, oranges update it for a modern university crowd, while silver intoned magenta injects a healthy dose of personality and character into the basic cubic structures that originate from American conceptual and minimalist artist Sol Lewitt, whose three dimensional pieces are yet another backbone of the new VAVA line.
Remarkably, it is the simplicity of these designs that are most emblematic of the extreme technological and digital revolution that bedrocks the VAVA brand, yet VAVA breathes new life into them by updating their aesthetic and achieving their original intent: human-technological symbiosis, in which mankind nevertheless maintains the upper hand in control and artistry.
Photography by VAVA