These days, everyone is an advocate of celebrating the odd, the unique, and the different. Way before it was cool, Theo Eyewear made individualism the ultimate accessory, sparking a revolution well ahead of its time.
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“I ask you, why be boring?” Unprepared as I was to be thrown a question I was all but ready to ask, I merely laughed and answered, “Who would want to be?” In theory, it would be quite difficult to take a grown man, towering at an impressive 6’3”, sporting a peculiar shaped eyeglasses in a searing hot pink, seriously. But then again, as Mik Somers cracks a grin with childlike gleam in his eyes we realize that this man is anything but typical.
This story begins in Eirmarkt, Antwerp—the center of forward fashion and the electric energy of a creative youth in Belgium. Growing tired of the typical and mainstream eyewear that were available then, two opticians asked each other, “Why not?”
Boredom has proven to be quite a driving force for the most self-willed brand. “My father felt that there was something missing, that there weren’t many options from the brands back in 1987. So, he started traveling and he met people from LA Eyeworks. And they inspired my father, saying you can do it yourself. That’s why he started making eyewear for his own shop. It came from a need for differentiation. You can do everything better yourself, he would tell me,” Mik recalls. With a shared fervor for cutting edge eyeglasses that drift away from mainstream themes, Wim Somers (Mik’s father aka The Big Boss) and Patrick Hoet—the latter from whose surname the brand name Theo was formed through an anagram—combined their savvy for unique eyewear and their empathy for their customers who seek quality eyewear that can effectively aid their vision.
Impressions would lead one to assume that Mik Somers is in the business of fashion. While that is true on the one hand, there lies a greater deal to working for the highly innovative, cutting edge, and yes, quirky brand of eyewear that colors outside the lines of tradition. “All of this was a result of an idea,” he says.
Just as unconventional as its debut with a guerilla-style presentation off the stairs of an international optical trade fair in 1989, the Theo brand pushed boundaries.
It was groundbreaking.
Theo Loves You!
Theo was on to something early on. Where eyewear was back then more function than form, Theo insisted that clients should “not just see better, but have better eyes as well.” And now look, more people are sporting individualistic eyewear as an accessory rather than as optical aid. With a firm pulse on the energy of the changing times, the brand was a beacon of above everything, uniqueness. “That’s what it’s all about! It’s the reason of our existence,” Mik says. “We have the most respect for that 1 out of the 10 you know? There is something for everyone.”
It is this respect for the individual that is at the very core of the brand. And it isn’t just thrown out there for the sake of. There is a true appreciation for the different especially for Mik. “Look at Commes de Garcons pushing men to wear skirts. Isn’t that super cool?” he stops to think. As if a lightbulb ticks he proceeds, “Actually, the men of men should wear a skirt. Not only for heritage like the Scots but a fu** you! You tell us to wear pants, we’ll wear skirts! [laughs] I wish there are more men who will dare to stand up and be different.” More than eliciting a stylish rebellion against the everyday drone of the typical that plagues the greater culture of today, what with trends being shoved down consumers, Mik Somers as well as the Theo brand retains its thrust that the wearer is more important than its product.
Mik himself has fallen prey to going with the ebb and flow of the times. “As a kid it, I liked it [the eyewear], with all the craziness and colors but all the frames were too big for me. But during those times it was all about what my friends were wearing: the Polo Ralph Laurens, the Dockers, the Timberland shoes–the typical, classic look,” he confesses. He has certainly gone a long way from then and so has the brand. With its beginnings rooted in the avant-garde, it has since been accepted by a wider audience—Mik included.
While the brand boasts of fun statement eyewear that attracts attention (Bill Gates and Elton John are among its high profile fans), Theo believes that the glasses do not determine the wearer’s personality, but rather supports it. Mik Somers affirms, “We make frames for people, educated people that are positive, with humor, and want to express their personality through their frames.” It is Theo’s defining element that distribution points are well selected, with a roster of opticians who know the Theo customer in and out in order to suggest the best possible product and service. In fact, opticians are advised that when it comes to Theo eyewear, it is better not to sell than to make a wrong sale.
No doubt the wellspring of imaginative creativity, there lies an almost rock and roll energy to the brand. “At the end of the day, it is about being confident in your own skin. You can’t be daring, you can’t be different if you don’t love yourself,” he shares.
As clear and vibrant as his vision for the brand is, it is very apparent how much of him is in the brand he has grown up with. It won’t be too long then, we reckon that this humble family business from Belgium will rid the world of boredom, one crazy frame at a time. Suddenly, a grown man wearing a pair of hot pink titanium frames doesn’t seem like the oddest thing at all.