By Lee Blankenship, Eyewear Architect
At the heart of what we do here at Eclectic Eye lies a distinct mission: to provide a singular experience to our
community, one that combines exceptional medical care, unmatched service and an offering of artfully-crafted frames. Our inventory is constantly updated, with new lines featuring the freshest designs arriving every year. Through the years, one line has constantly reinvented itself, while remaining a tried and true representation of what Eclectic Eye is all about, and that’s theo.
theo has been with us since the very beginning, almost 16 years now, and we knew instantly that it was love at first sight. Their inventive and unexpected take on eyewear was so in line with our philosophy, and they quickly became a staple of our inventory.
Before coming to us in 2003, theo made a name for themselves on the world eyewear stage, having already been in production for 14 years. Their story began in Belgium in 1987; two opticians, Patrick Hoet and Wim Somers, were operating their own optical shop in Antwerp. Tired of the same mainstream designs coming in and out of their doors, they were looking for something new, something that made a statement, something that took eyewear to a new plane of art. So, they decided to do it themselves. Two years later, Patrick and Wim presented their first collection under the name theo, an anagram of Patrick’s last name Hoet, and it was truly groundbreaking.
Throughout the next decade, theo’s business and reputation in the eyewear community exploded. What started as an avant-garde exploration of the limits of eyewear design, soon morphed into a wider array of styles at differing levels of ‘wearability.’ In the mid-90s, theo began releasing series under the Eyewitness Collection, featuring asymmetry and raw finishes. Every year, a new series is released under a different letter of the alphabet. In 2001, the H-Series won a Silmo Award, an international award of excellence in a particular artistic field, at the Silmo Optical Trade Fair in Paris, cementing theo’s superiority in the eyewear game.
Over its nearly 30 active years, theo has collaborated with several local Belgian artists and designers on limited collections, including Chritoph Broich, Tim Van Steenbergen and James Van Vossel, who has worked with the eyewear giant several times and still does to this day. Much of theo’s production and design incorporate the essence of Belgium, specifically Antwerp, the home of the brand and its founder Wim Somers. Many frame designs feature literal incorporations of maps, names and other references to the city and its culture.
Today, theo is operated by Wim Somers, an original founder of the brand. Patrick Hoet, though still an exclusive designer for the line, sold his shares in 1997. theo truly is a family business, with Somers sons Mik and Toon working in the design and marketing departments. The third son, Jan, works in the brand’s flagship store in Antwerp, Somers Optiek, along with his mother and Wim’s wife, Jamme. theo is currently sold at 1,400 retailers across the world and is now available in 50 countries worldwide (Eclectic Eye is the exclusive seller of theo in the Memphis area).
To truly appreciate the high design, artful craftsmanship and delightful whimsy of the brand, one really must see it in person. The materials speak just as loudly as the bright, bold colors – premium acetates that pop with surprising dimension and beautiful metals like titanium that feel even better than they look. The designs speak to the individualist inside of us all and encourage us to be expressive and to embrace wearable art! theo’s tagline, born from a simple note on a company memo years ago, is “theo loves you.” We feel that they really mean it, and they show it in the passion they put into their designs. Here at Eclectic Eye, we love theo, and if you don’t already, you will, too!