Legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser introduced his first foray in fashion with a tentative statement: “This may be a total failure.”
The prolific 88-year-old designer best known as the creator of the world famous I ❤ NY logo designed two pairs of the sunglasses for the Brooklyn-based eyewear company Classic Specs. The shades actually look cool: A model called “Foldo” has special hinges that allows it to be folded completely flat, and the steampunk-inspired “Boldo” has groovy side shields.
But Glaser says he’s not sure how the customers will react to the $150 designer sunglasses. Indeed, the whole exercise seems to have made him ask bigger questions about taste. “Why do people like certain things?” he mused in an interview published by Classic Specs. “It’s a great mystery. I mean, why do some people say, ‘I like blue’? ‘I just love blue.’ What does that mean? What do you love about blue? I don’t understand why some people hate sushi and some people love it.”
As a veteran practitioner and teacher of design, Glaser explains that there’s no replicable formula for great creative output. In the same way that he didn’t anticipate that the I ❤ NY logo would become an international meme, he still finds himself unsure of which designs will actually stick.
“People always ask me my process, and it drives me nuts,” he said. “I just allow my mind to wander until a path is discovered.…I let the path emerge first, and then follow where it leads me. So it’s sort of a little mystical, and it’s certainly not rational.” This foggy pursuit is what keeps Glaser working today. “The search for the miraculous is the best part of being in the creative arts,” he explains.
Ever the deep thinker, Glaser accepted the assignment from Classic Specs because he was curious about the tension between the act of looking and the act of seeing.
Classic Specs says Glaser’s avant garde sunglasses are anomalies in the company’s lineup of traditional styles, but it was excited to work with the sought-after design hero and gave him free reign on the design. ”I’m very interested in how people are going to respond to this,” says Glaser. “[I’d like to know] whether I misunderstood the problem and I created something that people inherently don’t like.”
In the end, he’s cautiously pleased with the result. “You can actually say that these alter your appearance and that’s the first time you can say that about eyeglasses…They don’t look like anything on the market that I’ve seen,” says Glaser about his Foldo shades, momentarily sounding like a fashion connoisseur.
But even if these limited edition sunglasses do well, don’t expect the Glaser to settle into the role of fashion designer. “I’ve sort of avoided the realm of fashion in my life,” he said. “There’s too much nonsense in it.”