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Artisan Spotlight: Bespoke Eyewear Designer Wesley Knight

A young designer crafts statement-making, custom-made eyewear.

Written By:  Emily Davidson Nemoy

Photographers:  Megan Cencula

Eyewear maker Wesley Knight wants to design a luxury upgrade for your personal style—using buffalo horn. The Franklin-based bespoke eyewear designer creates one-of-a-kind shades, impeccably crafted by hand.

Knight’s passion for craftsmanship was fueled at New College Franklin, where he read nearly 50 books in a year and studied eyewear making, woodworking, shoemaking, and more. Knight birthed his first pair of glasses in an aesthetics course and, later, did an applied thesis on custom rims. “I was very creatively bent,” he says.

Knight chose an organic material with old-school fashion merit.

“I was originally interested in working with horn because of the romantic interest of reading about it in history and seeing iconic celebrities, people of the early 1920s and ’30s who wore real horn-rimmed glasses,” he says. “So, I guess I was just challenging myself.”

A senior trip to London further sparked Knight’s interest in craftsmanship. St. James Square, a posh district with a fashionable lineage, opened his eyes to a world of generational makers whose work was steeped in tradition and legacy.

“I fell in love with bespoke and the relational building process that seemed absent from America,” Knight says. “We’re used to a very quick type of consumerism, and this was the opposite.” He goes on to describe various craftsmen, one a shoemaker on his knees measuring a customer’s foot for an exact fit.

By trial and error, and with a goal in mind, Knight set out to open a bespoke horn eyewear business. “The material is the best thing to wear on your face,” he says. “It’s hypoallergenic and non-conductive, so it doesn’t produce or absorb heat, and it’s 35-percent lighter than plastic.” Horn is a living, breathing material that patinas in a very unique way.

During the initial fitting, Knight records ear dimensions and makes a plaster mold of the customer's nose. He takes into consideration facial features, style preferences, lifestyle needs, and personality. Then, he presents three or four style options, superimposed on the client’s face. “We have software where I can actually create a one-to-one ratio on an iPad,” he says. “I use stencil paper and sketch by hand.” Knight believes that there’s a beauty in the limitation of the wrist and takes great pride in hand-drawing for his clients.

After the customer makes a selection, Knight develops a prototype. He makes any needed alterations, then helps the client choose a horn. Horn colors range from amber and honey-tinted hues to rich ebony black. Once he finalizes a pattern, he creates the frame, using a scroll saw and cutting the pieces by hand, which usually takes a couple of days. Each pair of glasses is truly like no other.

Knight's old-world approach is both modern and beautiful. A quick glance at his online bespoke gallery shows how wide-ranging his designs can be. From secretary-sexy to rounder-than-the-globe chic, there are no bounds when purchasing a bespoke pair.

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