Maison Bonnet, the history of luxury eyewear in 9 photos

October 2021

Rarity / Exception

A family eyewear manufacturer that has passed from father to son for 4 generations, the Bonnet story began in the early 1930s. For almost a century, the family has been crafting exceptional eyewear according to the rules of “la grande mesure”.

In the early 1930s, Alfred Bonnet, a native of the Jura region, specialized in custom-made eyewear. It was an art that is currently in the process of disappearing, sublimated by gold and tortoiseshell, his favorite materials. 20 years later, Robert, his son, created the Maison Bonnet, imposing a style and a savoir-faire that still resonates throughout the world. Royalty, men of letters and political and entertainment figures all swore by these precious frames. Awarded the “Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant” label in 2007, the company is now run by 4th generation family members Franck and Steven Bonnet. La Maison continues to create and personalize unique pairs of glasses according to the rules of “La Grande Mesure” (high end made-to-order). Each pair is discussed with the customer then manufactured, refined and adjusted, all by hand, tried on, then followed by any necessary readjustments. Each pair is created according to the customer’s specific measurements, tastes and desires. For their exclusive collaboration with Orient Express, Bonnet is unveiling new designs and continuing to tell the story of unforgettable eyewear with Franck Bonnet.

1. The mythical Saint Laurent glasses

“Yves Saint Laurent cared for his glasses like they were the apple of his eye. They were a way for him to overcome his shyness. The designer had long debates with my father, Christian, about the line of glasses that covered his eyebrows. The model chosen by Yves Saint Laurent – a “shell” or “turned ear” frame (which indicates a face enveloping the face) – is a pure invention of our House, and one of the reasons that have made this eyewear such an icon. For the release of the two biopics – Saint Laurent and Yves Saint Laurent – we reworked the iconic Saint Laurent shape by adapting it to the facial features of actors Pierre Niney and Gaspard Ulliel, and forcing their resemblance to the couturier.”

2. A history of style, The Jackie O 1960 and Onassis 1970 glasses

“The billionaire Aristotle Onassis was obsessed with eyewear, a great aesthete who understood the art of craftsmanship and the work we did for him. Every time he went to Paris, he came to our workshop and ordered his favorite glasses, all made of tortoiseshell, by the dozen. Aristotle introduced Maria Callas, his life partner, to Bonnet’s creations, before convincing his new wife, Jackie, to wear the famous oversized “figure eight” eyewear made by my grandfather Robert.”

Photo credit: Maison Bonnet

3. The spirit of travel, Milan and Sofia X Orient Express

“This is a new collaboration for Maison Bonnet, and a source of pride for us. We’ve created two contemporary and elegant models whose names recall the great ports of call of the Orient-Express and are united around the notions of luxury and craftsmanship. The Milan glasses, inspired by a pilot shape, are a return to luxury chic style tinged with the spirit of the 70s. Sofia is a butterfly model, reminiscent of 1950s style and slightly oversized. The glasses are made of acetate or buffalo horn, available in several colors, numbered, delivered with a certificate of authenticity and an invitation to the workshop-boutique Maison Bonnet for adjustments and engraving with initials. “

4. Cult eyewear: Le Corbusier 1950

“Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier, the father of modern architecture, collaborated with Robert Bonnet, my grandfather, to create two models of eyeglasses, including the iconic black tortoiseshell glasses that were very graphic, in a round shape, with thick rims that marked his style forever. The architect, who suffered from myopia, rested the glasses on his bald forehead when he was drawing, and on his nose the rest of the time. While the model has inspired other variations, the Le Corbusier eyewear is one of a kind. It was designed for him, taking into account his particular features and the shape of his face.”

5. A symbol: the 1980 Chirac glasses

“These glasses are emblematic of the personality of the former President, Jacques Chirac. A rectangular shape, easily recognizable, and which symbolized his style. These glasses were created in 1980, when the politician was leading the RPR. The future President used to come to our workshop and he was always very friendly and relaxed. He wore other models from Bonnet, including a sporty model, but it was not as successful as this first eyewear. Even today, many customers ask us to reinterpret the model for them.”

6. The spirit of personality, Gypsy eyewear

“For Sylvie Grumbach, the founder of the Parisian press agency 2e Bureau, we created three eyewear shapes in keeping with her strong personality. A model with a thick and powerful frame, very bold, and another more discreet and transparent, and a third more retro, somewhere between strength and finesse. An expert in image, with a precise eye, she accompanied us, like other clients, in the development of her creations. A discourse on craftsmanship and style, this is the heart of our business.”

Photo credit: JYLSC

7. A story of architecture, the Noé glasses

“Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance is an architect and designer with a precise idea of shapes, lines and proportions. Attentive to details by nature, he participated in the creation of his eyewear from start to finish. A sum of remarks of which we could understand the nuances. 2 to 3 models were necessary before arriving at the perfect eyeglasses. The color, a cool, translucent gray, was chosen to match the ice blue of his eyes and the gray of his hair.”

Photo credit: Louis Teran & Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac

8. The great art: the Yvan glasses

“It was Charlotte Gainsbourg, his wife, who took the actor Yvan Attal to the Maison Bonnet for his birthday present. It was a memorable experience for him, where he discovered the comfort of the large size and understood the stylistic impact of an eyewear on his own personality. Since then, the actor systematically sends us his wardrobe and props designers when he shoots a film. Our eyewear perfectly expresses the personality of a character in life or on stage or screen. This shape was designed to suit a shy, nerdy or an athletic man.”

Photo credit: Zadig & Voltaire

9. The timeless Sylvie glasses

“Sylvie Chateigner, a leading figure in Parisian nightlife and now head of the vintage store, Thanx God I’m a V.I.P., wears an oversized pair. A retro look that matches her temperament and sticks to her skin. She has never changed her glasses in 10 years and understands that style goes beyond fashion. Bonnet is about time and style. We listen to our customers’ inspirations and try to match them with their character by creating a piece that has a true identity. This approach has also seduced her companion, the Dj Amnaye Nhas whose model is an aviator shape.”

Photo Credit: Andrea Montano

Maison Bonnet x Orient Express
Sofia & Milan eyewear by Maison Bonnet for Orient Express, exclusively available at Samaritaine

Shop Sofia & Milan eyewear by Maison Bonnet for Orient Express, exclusively available at Samaritaine: 9 rue de la Monnaie Paris, France

Share this story on…

Back to top