“Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses,” said Dorothy Parker, (aka Dorothy Rothschild), popular 1920’s screenwriter and satirist for Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker magazines. In my experience men make passes at all women regardless of what they’re wearing, but I digress.
From Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent and singer Nana Mouskouri’s trademark black frames to Elton John’s over-the-top collection of 20,000 pairs of specs (estimated in excess of $50 million,) eyewear as a ‘must-have’ fashion accessory is as popular as wearing the coolest brand of running shoes.
Joining the fashion fray, is Israeli designer, Ronit Furst with her eponymous label of unique, hand-painted frames, already on a mission to globalize her colourful brand.
Based in Kiryat Ono near Tel Aviv, Furst was an established artist and ceramicist creating decorative dinnerware for high-end hotels and specialty boutiques throughout Israel. On a whim, 14 years ago, she hand-painted a pair of frames and went out to dinner with her entrepreneurial husband, Ehud Bibring. “We were stopped by several people who admired my glasses and asked where I bought them,” explains Furst. “ Ehud, who has very good business instincts, later thought, ‘hmmm I think we are onto something!’”
Completely manufactured in Israel in their factory located at Kibbutz Kfar Giladi in Northern Israel, it’s managed by their 31-year-old son, Tom and produces 35 different models of eyewear in 50 multi-patterned hot hues for both adults and children.
“I find inspiration for my designs everywhere,” confides Furst. “My tiger designs were actually influenced by a photograph I have in my studio of Earnest Hemmingway with a tiger; styles from Fellini’s film, La Dolce Vita and the English Pre-Raphaelite painter, John William Waterhouse and his muses from Greek mythology, have all touched my imagination.“
Made from a high-end, light-weight and extremely durable transparent plastic, the frames are hand-painted and then coated with a special lacquer finish to seal and protect the designs. “I’m particularly proud that we employ many stay-at-home mothers to do the hand-painting for us,” says Furst, who trains the women initially and then they follow her instructions for painting the various patterns.
Ten years ago, Furst designed sunglasses for the iconic Israeli swimwear company Gottex, and they were carried at Harrods Department store in London. She continues to create new lines for sunglasses every year.
With distribution to opticians and boutiques across North America, England, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Turkey, Furst is well on her way to becoming a household name.
Several celebrities already wear the line including Gail King, co-anchor of CBS This Morning and editor-at-large for Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine; Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State and many Israeli performers including Shlomo Artzi, Arik Sinai and Greek singer, Glykeria.
Ranging in price from $280 – $325, the frames have become as addictive as jewelry for many consumers.
Furst has also created a new line for kids inspired by marshmallows! The pastel colours are a big hit with mother/daughters who enjoy making a matching fashion statement. Ronit Furst frames were worn by actress, Leigh-Allyn Baker in the Disney Channel’s film, Bad Hair Day, shot in Montreal and will premiere in 2015. Product placement was arranged by Furst’s intrepid Montreal-based Canadian distributor, Suzanne Sendel. She was so enamoured of the colourful collections on a visit to Israel that she immediately scooped up the Canadian distribution rights. Says Sendel, “Ronit’s frames really get women noticed and that makes us feel happy whenever we wear them. What more does one need? ”