By Sheila O’Hearn
Founder and designer of Drift Eyewear Chris Manz is about as unique as the style of specs he creates, made out of eco-friendly materials, such as reclaimed wood. Although he is quickly establishing himself as one of top dogs in the industry, Chris is neither an optician nor a fashion expert. Instead, he has combined his expertise as an engineer, specializing in product development, design and high-volume manufacture, with his passion for art, handicrafts and even music! “I love working with different materials and connecting with people through different mediums,” he says. “The brands of glasses out there weren’t connecting with me very well, so, I set out to make something I wanted to wear.” His friends loved what he made and they asked him to make glasses for them. Drift started showing its eyewear in art galleries. Chris had so many orders for his custom-made glasses that he had to choose between his work as an engineer and his new and unexpected venture. “I decided to go all in with Drift,” he says, “and I brought my engineering expertise with me.”
Drift is distinguished as a design house and a manufacturer. “I asked myself: Do I call up someone and tell the person how I want things done, or do we do it ourselves?” he recalls. “We had the expertise to produce in-house and the ability to experiment with different materials. Most designers don’t have training in the manufacturing end, and with frame design, there is little margin for error.” With the Drift brand, he adds that comfort is crucial, taking into consideration the way the bridge fits or how the sensitive nerves in the face are affected when weight is applied. “We make slight variations and design for that,” Chris says. Drift takes great lengths to ensure that the temples are durable and aesthetically appealing. “Wood is a beautiful material to work with,” Chris says. He also challenged himself with finding the perfect distribution of the weight of glasses on the face. “I had an epiphany,” he asserts. “The lens is what holds the weight and the use of plastic makes the glasses heavy. Conversely, there’s no weight in the temple, so I discovered that steel inserted as cords through the wood offsets the weight of the frame, providing the added balance and comfort.”
Drift’s pioneering doesn’t end there. If today’s market can’t provide, the company recreates or invents the tools of their craft. “Some tools either couldn’t be found or they didn’t exist,” Chris notes. “We’ve developed our own really durable hinge that’s not on the market, for example, and we work with metal, wood and steel. We cut down and shape raw acetate on all our fronts. We use eco-friendly Mazzuchelli acetate and other recyclable raw materials. Our company is very grassroots. Our entire manufacturing process is a clear slate in how production can be done efficiently with the latest machines and technology.”
“The Little Black Dress of Eyewear”
The slogan perfectly captures Drift’s uncompromising brand of taste, fun and craftsmanship. This innovative company, with its young, progressive team between the ages of 26 and 30, offers two basic styles in two different sizes: Atticus, which is fashionably P3-shaped, rounded, smaller and thinner; and Caulfield, which is chunkier and square. No matter which style you choose, “we take our cues from classic styling and we make it fresh and current,” Chris says. “Our styles complement the face, instead of stealing the limelight.” Just like the continually reinvented little black dress!
The Delta Blues collection has gained enormous popularity, taking the Delta Blues region for its inspiration, where blues music originated. According to Jim Bessman’s article in the New York-based Examiner, Drift’s research led to their use of “sinker cypress”. Loggers in the Mississauga Delta cut down cypress trees that floated up-river. The denser logs sank and stayed at the bottom for over a century. Drift retrieved the wood with its amazing texture and rich, mineral-soaked grain to use as the principle material for the Delta Blues line – Drift’s way of paying tribute to that great genre of American music, and one supreme example of the company’s ingenuity.
Look for Drift Eyewear in your optical retail store, or for more information, go to www.drifteyewear.com. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.