In an Industry that has had turbulent times over the last few years here in Australia, it is refreshing when you find someone doing something unique and pushing the boundaries. Not many young people I know would consider going into designing Eyewear, and if they did, they would be quickly led into the mass-produced companies on other shores.
But not Megan Stewart. Although ‘accidental’ that she fell into designing Eyewear under the label SMEC, her passion for design, texture and detail have always been her passion. And if you ask me, that’s exactly what eyewear should be. Unafraid to experiment and play with the technical side, Megan’s ideas stem from a strong design aesthetic and her colour work is absolutely stunning. Although only young, this girl is going places – FAST.
I first came across Megan on good ‘ol Instagram, where I was browsing her feed and knew I just HAD to reach out to her. I mean, she’s young, fun, inspired and pushing Eyewear boundaries – Everything I stand for! After emails back and forth I knew her natural passion for her products was going to be contagious not just to me, but for everyone that comes into contact with her stunning collection.
Founded in 2016, SMEC eyewear has started to develop into a collection that attracts a specific consumer; one that appreciates design and detail, sees eyewear as a statement, not something to hide behind, and someone who understands the power of story-telling. So, even if it was unintentional to end up designing Eyewear, Megan has truly found a unique niche market that is going to support her and SMEC moving forward in the Australian, and International Eyewear scene.
Lucky for me, I was able to try, play and review some on the SMEC prototypes from the first couple of collections. I could not contain my excitement when I opened the box full of all of these unique designs! The colours are what attracts me to each piece initially. All the samples I saw were made of Titanium, and had been coloured with Blues, purples, golds and pinks and were reminiscent of oil-beads from the 70’s. Absolutely stunning, and due to the process used to finish these frames, no two are ever exactly the same. You all know I LOVE when you can get something unique, that is not mass produced!
Being Titanium, of course they are extremely lightweight to wear, and having metal frames coming back into fashion at the moment, these designs are leading the way. The shapes are like nothing I have seen on the shelves in Australia. With Megans silversmith designing background, she approaches these with a unique perspective of designing for a unique style, rather than what is likely to ‘sell’ to the masses. Pure genius. This is where we need growth in Australian Eyewear- right where people least expect it.
I was lucky enough to be able to ask Megan a few questions about herself and SMEC eyewear.
TEG: Why did you get into designing eyewear specifically? Was this always your dream?
MEGAN: I got into designing eye wear completely by accident! I was studying jewellery design at Central TAFE in Perth, once completed I decided to go to the ANU School of Art and Design and majoring in Gold and Silversmithing for 3 years.
In the 3rd year, you have an independent project for your major and you get to choose what you want to make/research/develop. One of my minor classes taught me about a ‘world already full of stuff’ and I thought (and still think now) why add to the world with something doesn’t have a use or purpose? From then, I knew that whatever I designed or made had to have a use and not just be an ‘art piece’.
Someone suggested to me ‘Why don’t you design glasses?’. I’d worn them since I was 14 and thought ‘Pfffft, it’ll be a breeze, they’ll be so easy!’. Oh how wrong was I, continuing the project into my honours year, it was the hardest and most testing 2 years of study I’ve ever had!
My dream was always to pursue a creative career, but I never knew it what field to focus on. Since I started making and designing frames, I couldn’t image not continuing with them. They’ve become part of my identity and I want to share my love and passion for well-designed and made frames with designers, makers and retailers the world over.
Megan: What inspires me most is life, as cliché as it sounds haha! One of my first frames was designed based on the mountains that surround Canberra, whereas the ‘Home’ collection from 2016, is based upon the streets I grew up on and what that time reminds me of. To me, my frames must have a purpose and meaning. I think people are drawn to things they can relate to or intrigued by and I try to design and make frames that embodies this.
TEG: How would you describe your own personal style?
Megan: Ooof that’s a tough one! I would describe my style as someone who likes to co-ordinate (scrap-booking classes taught 10 year old me more than I thought they would!), but in a lets-just-throw-it-together-and-see-what-happens. Eclectic, but cute with a love of oversized, mental looking earrings.
TEG: What has your experience been within the eyewear industry?
Megan: My experience so far with the eyewear industry has been mostly brilliant! Since starting in 2016, I’ve met the most encouraging and kind people. Eye Candy eyewear in Canberra, was the first connection I had with the industry and gave me so much help and advice. I’m also in contact with Peter Coombs who offers valuable advice.
I was a bit nervous moving back to Perth, however opticians Blink 182 (Leederville) and August eyewear (Perth CBD) have been really helpful. I recently received a message from another optician in Coogee about my frames so it’s been really encouraging.
TEG: What are your favourite materials to work with?
Megan: My favourite materials to work with are leather and titanium. Leather is a beautiful, natural material that lasts for years, and comes in different colours, textures and variations. It’s also something that ages beautifully and can be passed down to future generations. I have my Grandad’s Spectacle case (that inspired the Smec case!) and wallet that he bought from Turkey in the 1980’s and they look exactly the same all these years later.
Titanium is an incredible material as it’s lightweight, hypo-allergenic, strong and can be coloured. With titanium I feel like any design and colour combination is possible – the possibilities are literally endless.
TEG: What are the biggest challenges for you with designing eyewear?
Megan: The biggest challenges for me whilst designing eyewear have been the technical elements, including the position of the nose bridge, the inside shape of the lens (the simpler it is, the easier it is to cut and fit) and the specific dimensions of a frame. But the hinge has been the hardest part of the frame to refine and develop. I see myself as a design/aesthetics-based thinker so producing a product that must be technically accurate has been tricky.
TEG: Tell me about your two favourite pieces you’ve designed so far?
The First of my favourite piece’s would be the ‘Kenley’ frame from the 2016 ‘Home’ collection. This frame was pretty much a first frame for everything! It was the first round frame I’d designed, first time I’d anodised my frames and first frame to have sunglass lenses fitted. It features a lavender-coloured top and graduates into the grey, sandblasted finish of the titanium. The Rodenstock lenses complement the finish beautifully as it’s a blue/purple lens that graduates to black. I love them so much; they’ve become my personal pair of sunglasses!
The second piece was a pair of frames I designed for my Mum’s 50th birthday, they’ve been heat treated with all different shades of blue. Weirdly enough, the hinge I designed for it, was the first hinge that functions beautifully with the frame and works exactly as intended. They’re a rectangular frame with rounded corners and feature detailing in the top corners. They’re special pair I designed just for her – I recently sent them off to get sunglass lenses fitted so I’m excited to see what they look like!
TEG: What does the future hold for Smec Eyewear?
The future for Smec eyewear would be refined hinges (new prototypes are getting manufactured as I type!), a new range of frames that are currently in the works featuring bold shapes and incredible colours. I would love to collaborate with other designers and makers, and really push the boundaries of eyewear. I want to encourage those who are studying in creative fields, that even though they don’t know where it’ll lead, just go with it. What I hope for Smec Eyewear is that it’s recognised nationally and internationally for its design and innovation in eyewear. To be able to attend Silmo would be an incredible experience, even just seeing my range in a local, independent optician would be indescribably amazing.
Keep an eye out for Smec’s new collection launching:
To keep an eye on what Megan is up to, head to her Instagram feed : @smec_eyewear
And for the entire collection, info and details for Smec, head to the Website: http://www.smeceyewear.com.au