Persol Sunglasses: Art and Craftsmanship in Plastic

For those who think plastic is just some material used in throw-away mass-produced trinkets, take a look at this lovely film produced by Persol showing ‘The Magnificent Obsession of Hand Making’ their signature sunglasses. Beginning with the hand-mixing and coloring of the acetate, the insertion of the ‘Victor Flex’ nose bridge, the meticulous bending, forming and polishing of every surface and ending with the precision installation of the hardware, this is clearly a labor of love and thoughtful design. These are not the sunglasses you carelessly leave on the beach.

For those materials geeks out there (you know who you are), the frames are made from a natural material: cellulose acetate (sometimes just called ‘acetate’), which is derived from cotton and tree pulp. In the eyeglass industry, the material is referred to as ‘zyl,’ short for zylonite, the trademark name for cellulose acetate. One of the most versatile of all plastic frame materials and the most commonly used, the frames are milled from blocks of zyl, which come in an enormous variety of colors and patterns. In the video, you can see them combining different colors to create the ‘tortoise shell’ effect in the material.

As opposed to injection molding, cellulose acetate is formed into thick blocks from which the glasses are machined, formed with heat and hand polished. Heat is also applied so it can be stretched for lens insertion. The resulting product maintains many of cotton’s natural properties – hypoallergenic (allergy free), warm to the touch and pleasant on the skin. Other than it’s more expensive than injection molded plastic, the only downside is that it doesn’t do well in high heat (don’t leave them in the car on a hot day) and that it tends to oxidize with a milky white film over time. Regardless, cellulose acetate is the most commonly used material for high-end plastic eyeglass and sunglass frames.

You’ll have to watch this a few times to catch all of it (I suggest watching on Vimeo).

[via Product by Process]

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2 Responses to “Persol Sunglasses: Art and Craftsmanship in Plastic”


  1. 1 TG August 7, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Is there a way to remove the white build-up on Persol frames?


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