by Tim Cox in New Fashion on Tuesday 15 December 2009

We checked in with Catherine Federici, one of the creative forces behind Australian sunglasses company, ISSON Eyewear, and asked her what lead to her take her industrial design training and apply it to sunglasses design: ‘I worked in Optometry practices since I was fourteen. It just seemed like the better option to working the cashier at McDonald’s or Woolies. By the time I was at University, I was working at George Skoufis Optometrist in Paddington, renowned for quirky, unusual, unique frames and sunglasses and my passion for eye-wear design really evolved there. Coming from an I.D background, it seemed that the eyewear designer’s artisan approach to mass production was unique. I found this to be inspiring and a creative challenge I wanted to take on’.

Do you look back into the past or forward into the future for your design inspiration?
‘If I look too closely at other designers, I subconsciously end up designing like them so I try to be aware of the world but without looking too closely at it. Interesting to me, I seem to have turned a page in my own creative journey. Opting now for design experimentation and discovery as opposed to anything fashion related. I’d liken the process to a musician improvising and from that you get some great things and some crap things, but the thought process is free and fun’.

Why was there a need for Isson in the market? What was your agenda upon entering this space?
‘I should probably say it was because I identified a void in the consumer market, but Isson was really about fulfilling a creative dream. If you’ve ever made a kick-arse billy cart as a kid, you’ll know what I mean. As it turns out, when we kicked things off in 02/03 there were very few independent sunglass brands, none from Australia. There’s been a significant shift away from licensed fashion brands with confident and style savvy consumers turning to alternative brands and styling. Isson’s evolution has been a bumpy ride, with more life lessons than I care to admit but it’s all worth it when I get my prototypes and see someone on the street wear one of my designs’.

Tell us about the thinking behind the new range of sunglasses: what were the buzz words you riffed off when creating the range?
I created the latest range sitting in the State Library. The quiet, expansive space, surrounded by academia and feeling an openness in people there seemed to work for me on many levels. When designing I set out to be true to my own creative process and then when I’d come back to my drawings, I had to feel that I had challenged the norm otherwise I would bin it. Some of the words I reminded myself of were “Explore, innovate, free thought, random, unexpected, contradiction, bold, balance… often followed by “why the f— not?” It was by far the most challenging and rewarding collection to design so far’.