Zanzan Shines On

Defiantly modernist English sunglasses brand Zanzan pulls inspiration from the glamorous continents of the world and travels back in time to their party hay-days.

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Zanzan is a sunglasses brand with a difference, they are English, arguably the first for over four decades according to Gareth Townshend and Megan Trimble the design duo behind the brand. Zanzan is not only a region in West Africa, the designers lead us to believe that it is also an expressive term for the euphoria encountered when wearing a stylish outfit that brings you pleasure. Handcrafted in France using Carl Zeiss vision sun lens the spring summer 09 range comes in four individually inspired designs Rubirosa, Black Rio, Zazou and Le Sept each style is strictly limited to 100 pairs.

Dazed Digital: Tell us about the significance of English sunglasses...
Gareth Townshend and Megan Trimble: There are no new sunglasses brands here. None of note since the Sixties in fact. We don’t do sunglasses in England which is just silly because we all love them and nowadays they are a frivolous item more than a functional one.

The framemaking industry in England is dead and if you want to make high quality sunglasses you need to be prepared to stagger round the Dolomite Mountains in a suit for three years. Like I did. Then you have to find a nice French framemaker who doesn’t have utter contempt for the English. Some of the first people we met spoke Ladin!! I’d never even heard of this language. These people reserved their contempt for the Swiss, Italians, French and Germans.

These barriers to entry (The Alps/Gallic sniffery) conspire to discount English design talent from being applied to sunglasses. And the product in general suffers because the Brits aren’t there to lead this neglected accessory into battle. This is a licensing industry. Virtually none of the big brands make their own sunglasses. Every brand you can imagine gets churned out of the same factory. There isn’t one contemporary sunglasses brand that inspires a devoted following is there? It’s a fashion blind spot that simply wouldn’t be tolerated in shoes, handbags, jewelery.

Dazed Digital: Your collection references many eras. Was this intentional? Why?
Gareth Townshend and Megan Trimble: It was. We wanted to quote the past as a natural antidote to the present. To annex it. But it’s a process of acculturation rather than colonisation. At root is a love of these eras. A lot of the references allude to authentic style movements that grew out of the ground for reasons other than commerce. This authenticity appeals. Especially when they looked so good. It’s a bit romantic and sentimental but so what?

It’s a real shame that these movements are no longer rolling off the production line. Nowadays it’s probably impossible for a brand to represent a nation in the way that Armani or YSL or Ralph Lauren did. What do we have to add to Vivienne Westwood’s version of Englishness? So it’s natural to turn to whatever turns you on. We really just wanted to point to certain periods and align ourselves with their distinctive characteristics; the kaleidoscopic sunburst of the tropicalistas in early 70s Brazil, the elegant intriguers of YSL’s court as evoked by Alicia Drake in The Beautiful Fall etc.

Dazed Digital: Which modern icons do you associate with your range?
Gareth Townshend and Megan Trimble:
None but there are plenty of people we wholeheartedly admire in other fields - Frédéric Malle, Tim Walker, Giles Deacon, Theodore Zeldin, Neil Krug and Manolo Blahnik for starters. Bernard Arnault. Domenico De Sole. Paul Smith. Going back there’s YSL/Pierre Bergé, Porfirio Rubirosa, Tony Duquette, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Genet, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Stéphane Audran, Aldo Gucci, Bernard Arnault, Tommy Nutter.

Zanzan are available exclusively online at farfetch.
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