Vintage is one of those words that’s been thrown around so much now its original meaning has started to get lost somewhere in the rabble. It’s found its way onto bottles of two-for-six-quid plonk and it’s become a kind of byword for the second-hand fashion choices of students on every campus from Aberystwyth Technical College to Zurich Met. We’re now more likely to associate the word with dodgy Old Skool adidas trackie tops and bottom shelf Merlot than we are with anything of actual worth. That’s wrong.
If you’ve ever taken the time to actually look the word up, you’ll have seen its actual definition isn’t right for quirky old clobber or cheap booze. The word vintage is supposed to denote something from the past of high-quality. Vintage means the perfected, the very best of its kind.
Now we’re just guessing here, but when Japanese eyewear brand TVR were searching for a name, that true meaning of vintage must have struck a chord with what they do. Maybe there were a couple of other eyewear brands using the word loosely at the time, though, so they probably thought they needed to distinguish that they really were the real deal. In the end, they went with TVR, or True Vintage Revival and they hit the nail right there on its head.
If you’ve already heard of True Vintage Revival, you might already know that they’re based in Japan or that they have a slimmed-down collection of refined classic styles. But do you know what it is exactly that makes TVR true vintage eyewear revivalists? Well, as we’re announcing that we’re now stocking them on our website (you can shop them right here, by the way), we thought we’d have a dig around to see what we could find. Here’s what we got:
Their frames are designed to genuine vintage specifications
Generally, vintage-inspired eyewear designs can go one of two ways. The frames might take some cues from a specific frame of yesteryear but ultimately amount to nothing more than a cheap copy, a novelty at best. In other, rarer cases, the designers are more careful. They comb through years of eyewear design history and relearn the hard-earned lessons and design techniques that make for frames pumped with timeless style and the markings of vintage quality. If you’re wondering, TVR fall firmly in the latter camp.
The design for each pair of TVR’s glasses begins with something called the ‘Datum Expression Size Technique’. Although this sounds a little like something Freud might have used to get patients to talk about their relationships with their mothers, it’s actually a specialized measurement method that was used quite a lot during the 50s in Japan and it’s what helps TVR glasses achieve that perfectly balanced fit. When that’s coupled with the original 1950s blueprints of the kind of horn-rimmed frames that James Dean and Warhol would have dug, you end up with glasses that look and feel well built.
True Vintage Revival only source top-quality cellulose acetate for their frames
They make frames from the highest quality materials
In many ways, making a truly great pair of vintage glasses is like cooking a truly delicious Prawn Linguine. No, honestly, it almost kind of is. You might have the best recipe in the world, handed down through generations of Italian fisherwives, but if you’re not putting in the time hunting out those locally caught prawns, or you’re using regular milled flour instead of coarse Semolina for the pasta (tut, tut), it’s just not going to hit the mark. And that's like eyewear. However well-designed a pair of frames are, if they’re not built from top quality materials, they’re never going to be as durable or have that top quality feel.
True Vintage Revival know what they’re doing with materials. Again, they’ve put in the hours looking to the past, really researching the traditional approaches that will make their eyewear stand out today. For materials, that means zylonite or cellulose acetate sheet. Cellulose acetate is made up of a bio-polymer derived from wood pulp and natural cotton fibres. Not only do they have a much more natural feel than more common modern plastics like nylon, acetate glasses look more luxurious, glossier and can be made in a variety of different colours - from a more classic looking tortoise, like this TVR 505 in Antique Tortoiseshell, to contemporary and glassy like this TVR 505 in Yellow Crystal. See what we mean?
This is Sawada Yaemon. He's very good at making glasses.
They work with master craftsmen
Sawada Yaemon is from a family of master craftsmen whose heritage dates back to the Edo period. Seventy-seven-year-old Yamada Mitsukazu has spent more than sixty years practising the art of eyewear making. When Simon and Garfunkel were bridging troubled waters in 1970, not long after the Beatles had broken up, Tamamura Satomi entered his first workshop to set about learning the impossibly intricate detailing he continues to practice to this day. What do they have in common? That’s right, they’re employed by TVR. If you buy a pair of True Vintage Revival specs, these are the guys that will have made them.
Knowingly basing themselves in Japan’s Sabae City, a city widely known as the home to handmade eyewear, True Vintage Revival have been able to draw from the cream of the eyewear craftspeople crop when staffing their workshops. Sawada, Yamada, and Tamamura are masters at what they do and respected the world over. One undisputable reason TVR are true vintage eyewear revivalists is that many of the team that work bringing their vintage designs to life today were hand making the original designs the first time around, fifty years ago.
At TVR, there's not an automated acetate cutting robot in sight.
They use traditional methods
And these eyewear masters haven’t moved on from the techniques they spent ages mastering to now operate automated machines that essentially do the job for them. Many of the methods employed to produce a pair of TVR glasses and sunglasses today look very much the same as they would have done producing a similar frame over half a century ago.
The celluloid sheet is first cut down to size by hand. The shape of the lenses and the outer rim is cut out and, as the frame takes shape, they smooth the rough edges the traditional way, tumbling them in a drum of pumice and wooden pegs. Nose pads are added by hand and then hand-built 7-barrel hinges and rivets are carefully affixed on both sides of the front. Once the temples are added, the frame is placed atop a traditional heater, heated to just the right temperature again, and hand-bent, carefully forming a suitable curve. Now we’d like to see an automated robot manage all that.
True Vintage Revival Eyewear
For us, True Vintage Revival represents a coming together of all the good stuff we look for in an independent eyewear brand. They’re clearly extremely passionate about what they do and they apply that passion at every stage of the design and manufacturing process. Their designs are timeless, made from thoughtfully selected materials, and they’re made by people that have dedicated their lives to producing top-class glasses. We’re proud to stock TVR and we're over the moon to be able to give you the chance to get your hands on some. Shop our selection of True Vintage Revival eyewear here and treat yourself to eyewear that’s true to the meaning of the word vintage: the very best of its kind.