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The Realistic Colourist

Sahra Lysell knows she has an unusual job. After all, there can’t be many optical companies who employ a full-time Senior Colour Designer, let alone for over twenty years. But it’s a testament to just how seriously Copenhagen-based eyewear company Ørgreen takes the subject of colour. Not only is Sahra one of the longest serving members of staff, she is a central and indispensable part of the whole design team.

"Design and colour have to be part of society" says Sahra. "There are huge cultural differences between what people want in one part of the world to another." This is very important as Ørgreen's market is truly international.

Flashback a couple of decades and Ørgreen were establishing themselves as Scandinavia’s first sunglasses and opticals brand. Run by a bunch of friends with little experience in the field but a huge amount of enthusiasm and style, Ørgreen realised that their unique selling point was to offer coloured frames for men. At the time, most eyewear for guys was very classic. Or totally crazy. Sensing that there was a customer out there who wanted something a bit more interesting than a pair of tortoiseshell specs but wasn’t quite willing to go the whole Elton John, Ørgreen started experimenting with colour.

  • So, what exactly does a Colour Designer do?

    Images of rainbow wheels and technicolour spring to mind but in fact it seems that for Sahra, the starting point is more internal. ‘Colour for me is emotion’ she says ‘I don’t deal well with routine so I approach it differently every time.’ Taking inspiration from anything from a walk past a row of painted houses in Copenhagen or a film, to a photograph of a Mexican graveyard or even a musical playlist, Sahra gradually focuses in on colours - and very importantly - combinations of colours that she thinks will work. Longevity is crucial, especially considering the high quality and cost of Ørgreen spectacles, so she is careful not to get too involved in fashion trends, relying more on instinct and - back to that sense of realism - her deep knowledge of the company and market.

For Sahra, the next, more technological part is one of the most exciting. Ørgreen titanium frames are individually hand-painted and it’s crucial that the paints used are durable against the skin and comply with multiple legal and environmental regulations as well as being exactly the shade Sahra has envisioned. Luckily she works very closely with her factories and the collaboration has brought them closer over the years.

Ørgreen uses factories in Japan as they are the very best in the world at producing titanium frames. The frames are individually hand-crafted with great expertise and precision, and since they go through up to 100 separate processes before completion and it’s extremely important that the final painting achieves the same very high standard. Sahra’s very patient collaborators in Japan are used to being sent a striped feather or a Christmas bauble with the instructions to turn those colours into reality "They think I’m the most annoying woman on the planet" she confides, perhaps with a hint of pride "but the results are great."