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Meet Your New Favorite Sunglasses Brand: Smoke & Mirrors

Screen shot 2014-09-30 at 4.39.41 PM.pngFrom Ethan Hawke to Sean Avery, everyone wants a pair of sunglasses from newly launched NYC-based eyewear brand, Smoke & Mirrors. Co-founded by born and bred New Yorker David Shabtai and inspired by the '60s and '70s rock scenes, the brand melds traditional craftsmanship with innovative manufacturing techniques (more on that later). We talk to Shabtai about the company's beginnings, their new campaign collaboration with DeerDana and why NYC is integral to the brand.

DavidShabtai.jpgDavid Shabtai

Tell me about your design background.

I grew up here in Manhattan and went to college here as well at NYU Gallatin. At eighteen I was working for my dad's jewelery company, Di Modolo, doing a bit of design and also overseeing production. I was learning how to make things, specifically in jewelry, and I was working with my cousin who is now my partner. While we were in Italy where [Smoke & Mirrors] started -- we now do all of our production in France -- we created the bones of this collection but we waited three years before we wanted to put anything out. We're just launching now -- this is our first season.

And what made you want to design sunglasses specifically?

Eyewear made sense because it was something that I always collected and loved. It's a really intimate accessory. There's also an utility aspect because people use glasses in order to see. It's a very functional piece that needs to also represent your own personal style. That's what we're about. My twenty five-year-old ex-girlfriend wears the same pair of sunglasses that my 67-year-old father does. Our brand is unisex.

Screen shot 2014-09-30 at 4.51.51 PM.png

It's hard to find a ton of information on the brand. Is this vagueness intentional? Or is it because you launched so recently?

I wouldn't say there is an intentional vagueness. We're new. If you look at the way we are marketing ourselves and the way we put information about our brand out there, it's not a big blast. We've been doing wheatpaste campaigns and collaborating with artists and people we love. Our most recent campaign we worked on is a collaboration with DeerDana's Dana Veraldi.

How'd that collaboration come about?

We're starting this artist series where we want to be in the streets with different creatives all the time. I think Dana was a really great way to start. She's fun and I love her work. We wanted to do something with the faces of our favorite restaurants in New York. We're a New York brand so that made sense. We took Ali[reza Niroomand] from Sant Ambroeus, Maya [Jankelowitz] from Jack's Wife Freda, Arnaud [Hofmarcher] from Cherche Midi who used to be at Pastis, and Tom [Waugh] from ZZ's Clam Bar. I didn't want to use models. I think the people who represent Smoke & Mirrors are the ones with their own independent style, and people who have mastered a craft. Who love what they do. Who respect themselves and see art in whatever it is that they are doing. I think that Dana was a great person to use because she is really close, as are we, with the people we used in this campaign. 

But at the same time, you've collaborated with various celebrities like Ethan Hawke and Sean Avery. What's the story with them?

Again, it's people we know and love. I have a really good friend who has a bathing suit company called Solid & Striped and he was doing a campaign with Sean Avery and Hilary Rhoda. We had the glasses in the [Solid & Striped] showroom for a bit and they saw them so we were able to work them into different things like their campaign. Danielle Nachmani does the art direction for us and she is also a well-known, incredible stylist and human being. She styles Ethan Hawke so he wears the glasses. He has a bunch of pairs and loves them.

Do you think growing up in NYC helped establish these connections?

Definitely. Growing up here is definitely an asset in a lot of ways because you have a head start. You know how things work, where everybody is, who people are. I think it definitely gets the conversation going. You know who to go to and who to help you out.

golden brown havana and horn.jpgWhat makes Smoke & Mirrors different from other indie eyewear brands?

It's really all about craftsmanship. We have a technique of double shooting -- we're the first people to ever weld two pieces of acetate together seamlessly in a way that feels like one piece and yet it's two completely separate colors, two completely separate materials, not attached by metal or glue -- they are really one sheet. In terms of our styling, our designs are all unique. There's not a lot out there that's similar to us.

Where can you find Smoke & Mirrors?

We aren't selling online yet. In New York, you can find us at American Two Shot, Ultimate Spectacle, Fivestory. Tenet in South Hampton. And in Miami we're at Vault, and Babalu.

Check out Smoke & Mirrors' website here.

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