Sustainability as a code of ethics

Roberto Perazza and Stefano Vanin, respectively administrator/founder and president/founder of The Eyes of Republic, explain their project, which was created around a hot topic within and beyond the sector: sustainability.

Could you explain your project for us?  

The Eyes Republic is a free consortium of artisans, technicians, designers, independent producers, innovators and visionaries from the Optical District of Belluno that was formed three years ago with the aim of defending and promoting the design and production of eyewear in our territorial area, especially in the dimensions of small and medium-sized industrial manufacturing.
We realised that if Made in Italy is to continue to exist, it will have to totally evolve by introducing circular, sustainable and eco-compatible economy practices. Products will have to incorporate new qualities such as civil ethics, social responsibility and environmental sensitivity, both in their intrinsic properties and in the production processes used to make them.

From this prediction, our project arose: to aggregate and associate a new eyewear production chain in which the design, production and distribution of eyewear takes sustainability as a code of ethics. We promote a cultural shift among the producers in the Optical District, the abandonment of obsolete practices and processes and of materials that are harmful to the environment and people, and we promote the acquisition of new technologies, new materials and new production processes to integrate them into the manufacturing craftsmanship tradition of our valleys.

What is your code of ethics?

Our code of ethics is set out in the name and in the programme we have chosen by historical tradition: working for the all-round care of eyesight. To respond to this code, The Eyes Republic produces and distributes with circular, sustainable and eco-compatible economy practices, innovating and using technologies and materials that are harmonious with the health of the territory where we live, and compatible with the mountain economy of safeguarding common property.

How do you instil sustainability into your projects?

All our values are inspired by environmental sustainability. We have also accrued economic and social values from this: beyond the calculation of production costs, we calculate how much energy is used to produce a pair of glasses and how much per lens, how much CO2 is emitted, how much raw material is used and how much is destroyed, and how much is renewable. The same goes for distribution. We adopt the same parameters for evaluating energy consumption and materials for the distribution of the product to the end customer, the user. And we also evaluate the cycle of use of the product and its fallout in terms of costs for disposal and end-of-life when it is decommissioned.

Furthermore, we evaluate the social and environmental costs of every step of the production, both for plastic and metal glasses, and the source, the origin, and the certification of the raw materials. And their environmental and human toxicity.

What direction is your project going in?

We have developed a series of bioplastics for eyewear and for fashion accessories from totally renewable sources. Innovative biopolymers developed thanks to the collaboration of a major Italian bioengineering firm and the support of laboratories outside the petrochemical circuit. These metamaterials, named “Organoliti – fashionable biopolymers”, are totally biocompatible and biodegradable and are derived from agricultural and food production chains such as walnuts, almonds, apples and corn, and they are seasoned with vegetable enzymes that come from geraniums, birches and azaleas, thanks to which we achieve exceptional results, given that the biodegradability is programmed; their processing does not produce CO2 and does not consume water, and the energy used for producing a frame has been reduced by 50% compared to an acetyl (acetylic) or ephthalic (phthalic) plastic.

And so we have reached the level necessary to start our battle to replace oil-based plastics, which still dominate the production of eyewear. And our packaging uses only organic plastics, as do our demonstration lenses.

We have abandoned heavy and harmful metals and we use only metals with proven biocompatibility, and we no longer weld them as before but we use a laser. We have also decommissioned our metal galvanization process, because the chemical bath in which it takes place is full of heavy metals, despite the so-called nickel-free process.

These practices are also the subject of a provocative campaign that we have started against all those producers that engage in “green washing”; that is, false marketing and false advertising on the real content of their products.

What did you present at MIDO 2019?

We displayed sunglasses and prescription glasses in galalith, a bioplastic made from milk, which is 100% biodegradable, fireproof, biocompatible and beautiful, and smoother than silk to the touch. It is a reinvention of a nineteenth-century formula with the addition of Italian biochemistry, all of agricultural origin. A new metaplastic, which uses waste and expiring milk reserves.

We exhibited them together with other fashion accessories because the material is also very suited to this context.

We also presented night brightness eyewear, again made from an organic metaplastic and loaded with lanthanoids; natural soils that accumulate light radiation and slowly release it in the dark. Lastly, new mechanical solutions for hinges and rods for non-ferrous metal glasses, with totally water-based colours.

What were your impressions of this year’s edition?

As ever, MIDO is a great event that goes beyond the dimension of the eyewear market, which increasingly affects the history of attire.