In the last few years, there has been a truly extraordinary proliferation of eyewear brands. This expansion has two fronts: on one side, the large conglomerates that dominate the market, gathering an endless number of brands, among which are the big labels that design and produce pieces on a large scale following the latest fashion trends, and on the other side, a myriad small independent brands that make the most of the market’s receptiveness whichever way they can.
Among the latter are a diminishing number of historical references, and a large number of companies in search of a business opportunity like any other. Somewhere the middle lies a more restrict group that presents more discerning work, from both an aesthetic point of view and for the commitment it has to the quality of its pieces and in valuing the craftsmen involved in the production.
Jacques Marie Mage is one of those brands. It doesn’t have decades of history; in fact, it was born just four years ago in Los Angeles, California, where the past has relative importance, but the sunshine has plenty. Its founder is Jerome Jacques Marie Mage, a Frenchman who moved to the West Coast of the US when he was 20 and has lived there ever since. A product designer with vast experience in the field, after many years working for the big market names, he decided to set up on his own. Originality, quality and exclusivity are the three main vectors of Jacques Marie Mage, whose target is an informed customer who knows exactly what they want. Decoding: the much-talked about exclusivity, which has become a marketing cliché, is founded here on what the brand defines as micro-productions and limited editions, along with a department of special projects that undertakes collaborations with other houses and designers. This, in the eyes of eyewear-lovers, makes them true collector’s pieces.
Quality is based on the use of excellent materials – acetate and metallic temple tips, such as titanium, horn and wood. Thanks to Jerome’s accumulated experience and know-how, the materials are handled by the best artisans in the field, in Japan and Italy, who bestow Jacques Marie Mage pieces with details and finishes of unusual craftsmanship.
With a very personal sense of aesthetic, Jerome creates pieces that are a declaration of individuality and affirmation, which will doubtfully be very popular with those who lean towards discretion. His flamboyant look is developed around inspiration where folk rock merges with the sun-bathed vastness of Western America, Art Deco design and European cinema from the ‘50s and ‘60s, through charismatic figures from popular culture, literature and film, such as Bob Dylan, the provocative Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, Easy Rider actor Dennis Hopper, and the writer Hunter S. Thompson, one of the great icons of the American rebel style. These are reinterpreted in distinct pieces that stand out for their radiance and refinement of construction.
There are currently three Jacques Marie Mage collections. Circa comprises the more classic pieces – if we can call them that –, inspired in large part by the enormous collection of frames that Jerome has amassed over the years and which heavily features acetate, combined with titanium, gold or bronze temple tips, or just titanium, such as the case of the H.S. Thompson aviators. Vanguard, as the name suggests, brings together the bolder projects where the materials blend with audacious forms. Finally, Optical features the more conventional pieces that are more suitable for regular wear.
The brand also showcases special projects founded on various collaborations developed in partnership. Such is the case of the creations with actress Kate Bosworth and her husband Michael Polish, the director known for films such as Big Sur, who is also responsible for the collection Son of a Gun. The characteristic aviators from Hunter S. Thompson are revisited in the Gonzo collection, limited to 250 pieces, while the architectural Liane-Co frames, developed with fellow Californians Co Collections, aim to enhance the passion of both brands for the modernist architectural current of their home state. Dennis Hopper, a leading name in 20th-century American film, famous for his roles where he incarnates marginal figures, has a collection dedicated to The Taos, the name of the place where the actor lived and where he is buried. Developed with Hopper Goods, it is inspired by the glasses that the thespian wore in the famous film Easy Rider. They were made entirely by hand in Japan, with 10mm cellulose acetate, a testament to the structure of these frames, with gold or silver ironwork.
Besides the eyewear, and from a perspective that promises to have continuity with other accessories, Jacques Marie Mage has developed a series of eyewear cleaning cloths, in 250g double-sided micro-fibre, illustrated by the artists Matt McCormick, Andy Dixon and Jean-Michel Texier. Presented in an elegant burgundy wooden box, they are part of a limited edition of just 200 pieces, making them refined collection pieces that do justice to the imposing and distinctive creations of this Frenchman, who swapped France for sunny California.