When Aurélie Ortolé launched her eponymous label in 2020, she didn’t know what to expect. Although she had worked in the eyeglasses world for a number of years, the territory she was entering was a new one — she had little design experience, and she was venturing to build a sunglasses brand both during winter and the precipice of a global pandemic.
But the 27-year-old entrepreneur was not discouraged. She poured her all into the business, bringing on designers, models, cousins and friends to establish what would become ORTOLÉ. Today, this mindset of persistence, adaptability and a family-like inclusivity powers the brand, making it more than just another name in the broad world of eyewear. ORTOLÉ represents a vision, and in its new Versailles Collection, this vision is executed in beautiful, detail-driven form. Every piece from the Versailles Collection carries an elegance that makes it look simultaneously striking and timeless, drawing on both French design and an appreciation for the avant garde to craft a truly stunning collection. Schön! spoke with Aurélie about the new collection, being a fashion entrepreneur and so much more.
What inspired you to launch ORTOLÉ?
I have always loved the world of fashion and that of great designers. My career in the optical industry has taught me to consider eyewear as a true fashion accessory with all the nobility of the designer world. I am an optician-visagist and a specialist in international designer brands that I offer in my own independent store in the Bordeaux area in France. After two years of experience meeting people from the optical world during major events and my own travels, I decided it was time for me to dive into this creative adventure. I wanted to offer something fresh, trendy and whose subtlety would be found in the details of the frame. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Details make perfection, and perfection is not a detail.”
My knowledge about the great names in the world of eyewear allowed me to know what I wanted to transcribe and what I wanted to move away from. I also wished ORTOLÉ to remain accessible in order to offer quality models with the ambition of international influence. ORTOLÉ is more than just a brand; it represents my family, and it is this feeling of belonging and sharing that I wanted to convey. My wish is that each person wearing an ORTOLÉ has this feeling of exclusivity, of belonging. That’s why we decided to focus on limited editions with restricted stocks in order to be able to reinvent ourselves with each collection.
The label was launched in 2020, which must have presented some difficulties. Tell us a bit about the experience of launching the brand.
Indeed, it wasn’t easy! But after spending more than a year working on the launch of the brand and having sensed that the situation was not going to change right away, we thought, ‘why wait?’ We were eager to present our models and to confront the reality of the field. The pressure was on, but it was great to see the hard work come to life.
Setting up and building the project in these trying times was extremely aligned to what ORTOLÉ stands for: family. Our entire communication and creative team is part of the family (cousins, siblings, uncles, partners), which is reflected in our work. We wanted to offer both models and images of the highest quality we could get. The communication supporting us, such as our video campaigns, photoshoots, our social networks and the website had to be perfect and reflect our personality and our values. In addition, launching a sunglasses brand in the middle of winter was a big challenge, but we did it!
For our first limited edition sunglasses collection, we wanted to honor French elegance. The brand’s workshops are located in the city of Versailles, the city of the Roi Soleil and of unparalleled French knowledge and style, so it was important for us to transcribe the spirit of this rich universe. The collection is inspired by the sumptuous palace of King Louis XVI, the heritage of the city’s master craftsmen and the sophistication of its architecture. This inspiration can be seen in the delicate engravings, twisted bridges and stems, as well as the gold and silver colours. Our smoked lenses, which are very trendy and modern, contrast with these classic elements.
In this collection, we present three exclusive models: VIICTORY, SPIICY & FAAME. We wanted to offer sunglasses that fit with streetwear but also eveningwear; sunglasses that are avant-garde and based on a vintage-chic concept. The lenses and wafers are made in France. The models are designed and assembled in France. A combination of organic acetate and metal is used for the finely engraved frames.
Faame is the rocketship of the collection, with its striking gradient smoked lenses. The shape of Faame suits every type of face. Faame is a tribute to the daring elegance and legendary bling of Versailles, the inspiration for this first collection. It exists in Gold or Silver (frame) and the lenses are either Green, Rosé or Blue. The small detail: twisted bridge and stems.
Spiicy is the flavorful piece of the collection. It’s distinctive yet classic and elegant and calls for letting the witty, playful creature in all of us express itself. It exists in Red Gold, Black or Écaille. The small detail: Ortolé engraved on the back of the bridge and the engravings on the strappings. Best suited for round-shaped and oval faces.
Viictory is our timeless model to stay stylish at all occasions. Wear it with sweatpants, a suit, or with a casual tee; Viictory takes care of the rest. It exists in Red, Écaille, or Navy Blue. Its name is a celebration of all the wins, big or small. Best suited for square-shaped and oval faces.
Each pair corresponds to a particular face morphology so that each person finds the most suitable pair. The names of the models are drawn from inspirations and strong messages so that each person wearing a pair of Ortolé feels valued and motivated to thrive throughout their sunny days.
What distinguishes ORTOLÉ’s craftsmanship and designs from other eyewear brands today?
The number one distinction is details. Ortolé’s design is in tune with the times, taking certain classic shapes (such as the VIICTORY, for example) and giving them a new interpretation through the details of the frame such as the guilloche, the engravings, the work on the bridge, the temple or the addition of a rim. Our first collection is minimalist with a vintage inspiration but with an attention to detail specific to the brand. The frames are assembled in France and have the best French lenses on the market. It was a priority for us to ally style and quality for the solar protection of our customers.
What is the ethos that motivates you and ORTOLÉ?
As a young black female entrepreneur, part of my daily questionings is reflected in ORTOLÉ, a French designer brand launched with my Afro-Caribbean culture in mind, a brand intended for a multicultural and multiethnic public. One of the strong ideas that motivates me and that I transcribe in my models is “to find empowerment in one’s differences.” This project, in addition to the creation of my designer optical store, is a dream that I am in the process of accomplishing. It’s the kind of challenges that drive me and make me feel alive. I have a deep interest in personal development and betterment; I like to share and motivate those around me to realise and believe in their projects. That’s the Ortolé family — we succeed and thrive together. There is room for everyone to shine.
What is your personal history as a designer?
I’m more of a creator than a designer. I have a product designer in my team who helps translate my creations into a language that our suppliers can understand. This is my first real experience as a designer, and I must admit that I love it! Seeing your projects come to life is a huge achievement, and seeing that more and more people like it is even bigger. My experience as a visagist helped me to choose the perfect curves for the different morphotypes of faces, the pair being the most adapted for an angular, hexagonal or rounded face. As the brand also claims to be colour inclusive in its inspirations and in its aspirations, I focused on pairs with tones that can be worn on all types of skin. I want to be able to offer this facet of my work and to continue to give advice and communicate with people, the contact with my customers being crucial in my everyday life.
What’s been inspiring you lately?
In terms of creation, I am very interested in Japanese design, which I find to be very refined, very delicate, yet bold and with strong urban influences. One of our frames is proposed in a Japanese gold colour that I find simply beautiful and that also reminded me of the gilding present at the Palace of Versailles.
Lately, I’ve also been inspired by strong women: Rihanna, Beyonce, Oprah Winfrey, Kamala Harris Michelle Obama. The American dream of success for a woman of colour like me. These are obvious inspirations but so beneficial for our generation as much on their independence, as on their personal success, but also on their undeniable class and stylishness.
What’s next for ORTOLÉ?
Some collaborations are already in preparation and a new collection in creation. I won’t say more and leave a little mystery! This is definitely an exciting year.
photography. Yasmeen Besnier
fashion, make up + hair. Mona Besnier
models. Aristide Besnier, Siham Besnier, Marvin Rapon + Olivia René Corail
film direction. Iman Besnier
dop. Célestin Monteil