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Maison Bonnet’s Iconic Eyewear Styles

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Maison Bonnet, a family-owned eyewear atelier with workshops in London and Paris, has made iconic frames for some of the world’s biggest names such as Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Onassis, and Yves Saint Laurent.

Top: Jackie Onassis in her iconic “figure eight” glasses with her husband, billionaire Aristotle Onassis, who never visited Paris without ordering a new pair of Maison Bonnet glasses. Right: Designer Yves Saint Laurent, a lifelong client, who wanted to “hide” behind his glasses. Left: Audrey Hepburn in her signature Maison Bonnet sunglasses.

For almost a century, the family has been crafting custom glasses according to the rules of bespoke or la grande mesure (high-end made-to-order).

France considers the small atelier a national treasure for upholding the French artisanal legacy of quality—similar to CHANEL and Champagne.

According to fourth generation owner Franck Bonnet, the company is the smallest eyewear manufacturer in the world, crafting approximately 2,000 pairs of glasses per year.

Franck Bonnet, the fourth generation owner of Maison Bonnet: the only eyewear company to earn the prestigious Maître d’Art title from the French government. ©Andy-Julia

Family heritage

The only eyewear company (lunetterie) to be awarded the Parisian Minister of Culture’s prestigious title of Maître d’Art, Maison Bonnet has been passed down in the family since the 1950s.

“Being a family business, tools are transmitted from grandfather to grandson. … At our heart, we have to preserve and pass on our ancestors’ dexterity,” Bonnet says.

At the same, the company is evolving, equipping its vision clinics with cutting-edge optical machines for high-tech lenses.

Robert Bonnet founded the company in the 1950s after learning the trade from his father, Alfred.

One of the company’s specialized skills is to shape rare tortoiseshell through a grafting process that uses a combination of heat, pressure, and humidity to transform them into unique frames that last a lifetime.

Robert passed down the know-how to his son, Christian, when the latter was 14 years old. Now, the company is in the hands of Christian’s three sons: Franck, Steven, and John.

These days, John inspects all of the tortoiseshell pieces with his father. Franck focuses on the brand’s vision, while Steven is the head of creation. Their mother, Marie-Christine, helps with administration, and John’s 20-year-old son is learning the trade.

Maison Bonnet works with three main materials: acetate, buffalo horn, and tortoiseshell; the latter is rare and luxurious, originating from the hawksbill turtle.

The appeal of bespoke glasses

In the 1960s, Greek billionaire Aristotle Onassis noticed the company’s superior craftsmanship and design.

Order the Magnifissance print edition to read the full story.

This story is from Magnifissance Issue 114

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