HUG Spectacles Seen Opticians

An Interview with Thomas from HUG

HUG is a new name to Seen founded by three true veterans of the spectacle world. Taking inspiration from timeless designs of yore, this lot are dab hands at the fine art of referencing the past, without being stuck in it—creating fresh, modern glasses that’ll work whatever year it is.

What else? Well, all their glasses are made in their native Germany, and each of their designs takes its name from a blues singer. Oh yeah, and that unique rivet on the frames is inspired by the shape of a plectrum.

Keen to find out a bit more, we caught up with co-founder Thomas Hobmaier to pester him with a few questions…

HUG was started by yourself along with Frederic Utz and Jochen Gutbrod—three friends with a lot of history in the eyewear world. What made you want to start your own glasses company?

Fred and I had a store together for ten years—Steingasse 14 in Heidelberg. Whenever we selected glasses for the store, it was usually the case that we grabbed the same glasses at the same time—we noticed we had a very similar aesthetic sensibility, always quickly deciding on the same models and colours.

Fred had said for years that we should finally make our own glasses, so that we could finally do everything the way we liked. After we got Jochen hooked we had all the skills on board. We were complete—design, brand builder and silverback—everyone wanted to build the same kind of product.

Hug spectacles foundersHUG's founders

How do you three split what you do at HUG? What’s your day-to-day role?

Fred mainly takes care of the design. He also takes care of projects such as the look of our social media presence. Jochen realises our products—he takes care of the complete creation, procurement and distribution of all components and the correspondence with the production until the finished product is in our warehouse. He also has the greatest expertise in building eyewear, especially when it comes to technical details. I take care of brand building and sales. When it comes to our designs, my soft spot is definitely in the selection of colours.

Every design is an interaction and we always finalise everything together. Starting from the design, we refine and adjust every angle and detail until we hit our result. Likewise, colour selection and deciding whether to add silver or gold attachments to accentuate the right style of eyewear is a collaborative process. Everyone has their own priorities, which are reflected in the individual decisions.

'If you implement what you think is cool at all times, it will automatically always evolve and remain authentic, and thus independent and exciting'

HUG Glasses Berlin SpectaclesSnug as a HUG

Your frames have a distinct timeless quality to them—where do you look for inspiration?

Inspiration in this sense is not quite necessary, because we all want to implement exactly what suits us. Logically, this looks different one year than the next, because you are constantly evolving and are influenced by everything that happens to you.

If it doesn't come out of you without you having to put something together in a big way, it can't become authentic. In contrast, we are convinced that if you implement what you think is cool at all times, it will automatically always evolve and remain authentic, and thus independent and exciting.

That makes sense. From Robert Johnson to Gladys Bentley, each frame takes its name from a blues legend. Can you tell us more about how these blues pioneers influence the brand?

Fred plays guitar himself and loves this old blues sound and he listened to his old records a lot whilst designing the first collection. In the beginning, these were just working titles for the different models, but after we had Fred's acetate guitar pick on the table we thought it was a nice shape for a rivet.

Also, we all love music—it immediately conveys an emotion, and the blues was the basis for a lot of different styles of music, so it fit together pretty well with us creating our first collection. And last but not least, having this blues base means we can create other beautiful music themes and collections.

'Without all these beautiful [independent] stores and the wonderful people in them who love glasses so much, there would be no HUG at all.'

HUG glasses
Little Johnson

We’re overjoyed that you chose Seen as your first UK retailer. Why us?

Tareq is no stranger to the industry and we've known each other for a long time. He has the right network and always finds out very quickly when there is something cool and new.

How important are independent retailers to Hug?

They are incredibly important to us.... We can't and won't do what we love without you. Without all these beautiful stores and the wonderful people in them who love glasses so much, there would be no HUG at all. That's how important independent retailers are to us.

All your glasses are made in Germany. Is that another thing that’s crucial to the brand?

We need the proximity to production and the quality to get the result we want. We know of no one who can work with comparable precision and produce such beautiful surfaces.

Glasses are a very specific item—and one pair that might work for one person, might not work for another. How do you guys go about designing each pair? Do you start with a face in mind?

No, we always have a style in mind that we want to implement. This then also tells us whether it works as a large or small, feminine or masculine or unisex variant. Of course, we have shapes that work very well in several sizes. Otherwise, we simply pay attention to a nice balance within the collection.

'We know of no one who can work with comparable precision and produce such beautiful surfaces.'

Hug spectacles Berlin
Hug in HUGs

There’s a real community of glasses collectors out there - why do you think people love glasses so much? And what makes a good pair of glasses?

I think there are different motivations. Some simply collect rare, exclusive or limited pieces, whilst others want as many different styles as possible, which they would like to cover. Some don’t follow any pattern and just collect pieces they love. What they all have in common is knowing how beautifully you can underline one side of yourself with a pair of glasses—and that’s something more and more people are discovering.

Do you have a favourite pair? If you had to wear just one pair of glasses for the rest of your life, what would you go for?

For me, it’s the Hopkins 08, for Fred, the Hooker 03 and for Jochen the Johnson 05.

Nice choices. What next for HUG? Have you got any new processes or ideas you’re working on at the minute you can talk about?

We have a lot of ideas and new projects in the back of our drawers that we really want to implement. But in order to do this consistently in our usual quality, it naturally takes time and we have learned to only talk about something concretely when we definitely know that it can be realised the way we want it.

That makes sense. We’ll look forward to what you’ve got in store. Have you got any wise words to wind this up with?

As Bob Dylan said, “Success is if you get up in the morning, go to bed at night and in between do what you want to do.”