CNBC Business Magazine, May 2012 Issue (Cover Story)
A Berlin eyewear company dedicated to innovation and tradition has become the darling of the über-cool
At first glance the business occupying four floors of an ex-blacksmith’s in the heart of the former East Berlin could be yet another trendy tech start-up. As well as the obligatory foosball game, there are benches and a long table for communal lunches, and hundreds of Polaroids of its hipster employees line the walls in a blur of piercings, tattoos and beanies.
Yet on closer inspection something more interesting is going on inside. Grouped around work surfaces, men and women are carefully assembling thousands of pairs of glasses by hand.
This is the red-brick nerve centre of the über-fashionable MYKITA eyewear company, established in 2003 and a fixture on catwalks worldwide, not to mention a favourite of Lady Gaga, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Founded by four young men from the small German city of Oldenburg, last year it had a turnover of €16m and sold more than 160,000 frames – every one produced in the so-called MYKITA Haus. “From the beginning our products were based on cutting-edge technology coupled with traditional hand assembly,” says CEO and creative director Moritz Krueger, who at 32 is the company’s youngest founder.
The original product was the brainchild of Philipp Haffmans and Harald Gottschling, who met while studying industrial design. Working on a project at Berlin University of the Arts, they hit upon the idea of making glasses based on the Japanese art of origami. Rolling the end of the frames into a spiral, and clicking it together with a spiral or coil on the temple, they produced hinges that had no need for soldering or screws. Enamoured with this design, they decided to form a business, bringing Krueger and Haffmans’ architect brother Daniel on board as partners and setting up shop in a former kindergarten known colloquially as ‘kita’ – hence the German-English hybrid name MYKITA. Continue reading