INTERVIEW WITH BUDDY OPTICAL DESIGNER & FOUNDER GEN IKEHARA

Gen Ikehara

Hi Gen,

It was so good to meet you in person in Tokyo and see all of your frames in person. However, you are from Osaka, what was it like growing up in Osaka and what was
your childhood like?

Gen: 

From 1983 to 1989 I lived in a commercial area called Tenjinbashisuji 6-chome in Osaka, and from 1989 to about 2010 I grew up in a factory district on the outskirts of Toyonaka City, Osaka. My father ran a small ironworks, and the factory was on the first floor of a three-story house. Every day, the sound and vibration of my father's hammer hitting the steel echoed throughout the house, which was not normal, now that I think about it. I grew up in a factory district with not a single house within a one-kilometer radius, so it was very quiet at night and on holidays. I was fascinated by the sight of scrap iron and
scrap metal lying around, naturally decaying.

Ben:

Does Osaka influence your design at all and what inspires you generally in life?

Gen:

I’m not sure if Osaka’s culture influences my design, but I think that living in Osaka made me a kind of person who lives my life and learnt the importance of not being easily influenced by the people around me. For a long time I have seen and tried different frames which inspired and I would say that I incorporate cultural elements in my designs and further modernise them.

Ben:

What are your top three favorite places in Osaka?

Gen:

1. Expo Memorial Park
2. Tenjinbashishuji shopping street
3. Howse/BuddyOptical

Ben:

When we met you, you mentioned the person with you was your teacher…was he an old school teacher or a design teacher for Optical?

Gen:

Indeed! The man who we talked about is known in the optical industry and he was
involved with lots of brands as a designer. He is not my direct teacher but he taught me about the background of the industry and production.

Ben:

Where did you study and how did you come to making such beautiful frames? Tell us a little about your background and interests?

Gen:

After graduating high school, I enrolled to a technical school for the optical. In school learnt how the optical business works but not about designs. I then started to work at a multibrand optical store for 6 years. During that time I saw and touched many glasses to learn more about designs.

Ben:

We love the fact there is a really good split between light titanium frames and acetate, what made you want to have both in your collections?

Buddy Optical Frames

Gen:

I have an image in my mind I want to express first and so I choose materials according to that image. For example, I have an image in my mind about a musical scale. The scale starts with the 'p' collection, where we started with an acetate frame and created the scale c, d, e, f, g, a, h. I then raised it by a semitone making cis , dis , eis , fis , ais etc. using titanium material, to make it lighter, thinner and simpler.

The theme of the Feel College collection was about Princeton scholars in the 20's & 30's and 50's & 60's and this inspired me to use the similar materials to express the glasses of that time.

Ben:

The acetate frames have huge references to Ivy League universities and NY
universities, tell us about this.

Gen:

I’m obsessed with the vintage clothing and I focused on to sell my product only for the clothing store, which have a vintage American culture vibe. I believed that it would be great if I can produce glasses which are matched with the collage T-shirts and sweat shirts. I am mostly inspired with Take Ivy which is a very famous photo album for IVY culture.

Ben:

Outside of opticals, what are your other passions?

Gen: 

I have passions for music, movie, fashion, art and literature. Recently I’m interested in Papua New Guinea masks and decorations.

Ben:

What is your favourite frame ever in history? Do you own it??

Gen:

My best is Cornell which is my first design. And I also like SUNY which is the most
recent one. I believe that both of these lines can only be drawn by me.

Howse Buddy Optical

Ben:

What are your plans for the future?

Gen:

Due to the depreciation of yen and the entry of large-scale foreign capital, it is
becoming difficult for a small eyeglass brand like us to make eyeglasses made in Japan. I’m tackling to establish a system that allows us to produce our own products little by
little.

Buddy Optical Frames

Ben:

We would love to see you in Australia if you ever visit and also do a collaboration
frame if that interests you…Good luck for everything and we hope to see you again.

Gen:

I’ve never been to Australia and would love to visit there for 2 weeks and spend my time admiring Australia’s beautiful weather and nature! For the collaboration, feel free to let me know if you have a concrete image so we can work something about it.

Buddy Optical Wisconsin