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Inside Maison Bonnet, Where Visionaries Get Their Custom Glasses

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Temples of Advanced StyleInside Maison Bonnet, Where Visionaries Get Their Custom Glasses

Le Corbusier. Yves Saint Laurent. And now A.P.C. designer Jean Touitou—they've all gotten their signature frames custom-made in Paris at this legendary lab in an alleyway behind the Palais Royal.

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For nearly 30 years, Jean Touitou has used his perch atop the minimalist French label A.P.C. to teach men a series of lessons: that their denim should be raw and unwashed, their sweaters simple and sturdy, their boots Chelsea. Another Touitou truism: “If you wear glasses, they're as important as your mattress or your shoes. Those are the things you spend your life with. Wrong shoes, wrong mattress, wrong glasses: no good.”

Touitou's glasses come from a shop called Maison Bonnet, hidden in Paris's First Arrondissement. It's a family operation—piloted now by Franck Bonnet, but with roots four generations back—dedicated to elevating eyeglasses to the level of art. A pair of custom Bonnet glasses is the luxest of the luxe: The family has outfitted some very big names (Saint Laurent and Corbusier, yes, and also Jacques Chirac), and Touitou explains why he keeps coming back. —Sam Schube

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Maison Bonnet is one of the last places on earth that’s allowed to make
glasses from real-deal tortoiseshell. Here, Franck uses a burner to adjust a tortoise frame.

If you walk into Bonnet, someone will have an actual pen and an actual piece of paper and actually design glasses for you. It's a bit pricey, but you're paying for the energy and the craft and the human experience. You're dealing with people who love their work and have skills like nobody else. It's a little family. The younger guys are using a tool their granddad used, and in every piece of wood you can see the time that's passed by.

In today's culture, everything is really fast—people want to press a button and have some shit done immediately. But here they take the time to analyze your eyes, your nose, your ears, your hairs, the whole thing. It's really about proportion; that's the key. And it takes a long time: two and a half to five months.

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“We do a minimum of ten measurements, including the three different angles of the nose,” Franck says. “Then we take into account the cheekbones and structure of the skull to ensure optimum comfort. And we also have our own secrets on what else needs to be measured.” A pair of Bonnet frames takes several months to produce, and prices start at 1,500 euros.

I wanted my frames to be Yves-oriented, and they said, ‘but monsieur, which year?’ And then they went through all Yves's old sketches.
—Jean Touitou

Two years ago, for our men's Fashion Week presentation, I wanted to pay homage to elegant men: Samuel Beckett, Marcel Proust, Kurt Cobain, Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Laurent. To re-create Saint Laurent's look, I gave them total freedom to design a Saint Laurent frame for each of the models. This is when I found out how crazy serious they were: The day of the show, they came to do a personal fitting and perfectly adjust every pair.

So I decided to go to Bonnet for my own first pair, and then a second, and a third. I wanted my frames to be Yves-oriented, and they said, “But monsieur, which year?” And then they went through all Yves's old sketches. I don't know which years I found—'66 and '72, maybe—and then I had them mix those styles. I did my first pair as clear glasses and my second as full-on dark sunglasses. And then I wanted something totally crazy.

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“We are not here to sell something we are here to advise people
and make things that will suit them,” says Franck, who uses files to shape his frames by hand. “So if someone comes with
a really wrong idea, we will say, ‘This is a bad idea.’ We make spectacles, we’re not opticians if you understand the
difference?”

This is going to sound a bit posh: I have a boat. The boat is very fast, so you have to look back and forth at the sea and at all the instruments. So I wanted progressive lenses for the boat, as well as transitional ones—the kind where the tint becomes darker if the sun is heavy. They give you this Western European '70s-dictator look, because the lenses do darken—but just slightly, so you wonder, “Who is that guy?”

Even people who are not nerdy at all about men's glasses immediately noticed the elegance of my frames. It's funny: The frames look like almost nothing, but people notice. That's the quality I want to have in all my stuff. —Jean Touitou

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