How Fabio Attanasio reframed the eyewear industry

The Italian style expert and TBD Eyewear founder created a sustainably-minded sunglasses and spectacles start-up. Here’s how he did it…

Fabio Attanasio is listing names. Aristotle Onassis. Yves Saint Laurent. Woody Allen. These are the icons, says the man behind style blog The Bespoke Dudes, who best deployed a pair of distinctive spectacles or sunglasses as a piece of statement, signature fashion.  

“And Marcello Mastroianni, of course!” he adds. “Particularly in La Dolce Vita and ”.

It’s a strong list; one emboldened by colourful lenses, strong silhouettes and enduring designs — so no wonder it inspired Attanasio. But the style expert mastered the art of idiosyncratic eyewear long before he founded his own spectacular frame brand, TBD Eyewear, in 2015. “I started wearing prescription glasses back during my university years,” he says. “And, in 2012, whilst running my blog, I used to often wear a pair of honey-coloured sunglasses. They became a signature of my style”.

But, Attanasio found, the shape of the sunglasses he found on the wider menswear market never fully satisfied his style-forward needs. Even while The Bespoke Dudes blog blossomed into a worldwide authority on Italian bespoke tailoring and artisan garment making, the young entrepreneur struggled to find frames that gave him that ineffable ‘Mastroianni’ feeling. 

“We’d built, with the blog, a community of readers who were passionate about craftsmanship and quality,” says the 35-year-old. “And so that became one of the reasons I made the decision to take the plunge and found TBD Eyewear”.

And so, in collaboration with passionate entrepreneur Andrea Viganò, Attanasio started-up his sustainable sunglasses and opticals brand in Milan. Merging timeless style with eco-friendly manufacturing practices, TBD Eyewear immediately found a loyal following; chiefly thanks to Attanasio’s attentive, existing band of trusting subscribers. 

“We were born as a brand for gentlemen,” says Attanasio. “Although, during the years that have followed, we have evolved towards genderless collections. 

“Due to my passion for bespoke tailoring,” Attanasio adds, “we decided to connect the prestige of quality clothes to the name of our hand-made frames. So our latest collections are named after sustainable clothes, in consistency with our commitment to sustainability”.

That means frame names borrowed from trusted materials and dependable fabrics — everything from ‘Denim’ to ‘Donegal’, ‘Tartan’ to ’Twill’.  Some are curved in shape; others square. There are metal frames, acetate designs and even clip-on options for those who want to bind their sunglasses to their spectacles. The finished products are finely-made, hard-wearing and entirely fit for fashionable purpose. 

But how does inspiration strike Attanasio? And how do the frames progress from first concept to tangible, trendsetting reality?

“We get inspiration from classic elegance and timeless shapes,” explains the entrepreneur. “Every new shape starts as a simple pencil sketch and our designers help to translate that idea into a technical drawing for our artisans. 

“Then,” he continues, “we work on the prototypes — sometimes just a quarter of a millimetre can make a difference, style-wise. When we approve the shape, our artisans work their magic with centuries-old techniques that still require a lot of work by hand to ensure the best quality, and to ensure that our timeless glasses will last a lifetime”.

“We get inspiration from classic elegance and timeless shapes…”

Quality is clearly a watchword for Attanasio. And, after building his blog on a foundation of quality — seeking out highly-skilled artisans across Italy and beyond and bringing their finely-honed, meticulously-made stories to his readers — the Naples-born businessman knew how important it was going to be to perpetuate these values in his own exciting creative endeavour.

And that meant reaching out to the well-trained web of style contacts he’d spent years spinning. TBD Eyewear, says Attanasio, only wanted to work with the very best artisans — and that often meant finding family-run businesses who have been passing their specific skillsets down through generations, often for many decades. These fantastic dynastic craftspeople tend to work by hand, and take the utmost care over even the smallest detail. 

“We see them as partners,” says Attanasio, “and want to start long-term business relationships with them”.

These proficient tradesmen and technicians — relied on for everything from cutting and sculpting the lightweight acetate frames to hand-tightening the bow-tie hinges — are the beating heart of the brand. They’re also, by and large, Italian.

“We love our country,” says Attanasio, explaining his choice to keep production close to home, “and believe Italians, on average, have a natural-born ability of choosing colours. We wanted to capture the Italian creativity and the taste for timeless, beautiful and quality shapes. 

“Something well-made is also sustainable,” the TBD eyewear founder adds, “because it will last a lifetime whilst reducing the consumerism caused by fast-fashion brands. Our goal is to preserve the craft of artisanal glasses-making — one of the excellences of our country”.

And, like the environmentally-minded names of the frames — ‘Lino’ (linen), ‘Raso’ (silk) and ‘Juta’ (jute) to name just a handful more — there are certain organic, climate-friendly characteristics screwed and shaped into every pair of Attanasio’s fantastic frames. 

“At the beginning of 2020,” he says, “before the pandemic, we even launched our first collection made out of bio-acetate. And, this year, our packaging has become sustainable, too. 

“By the end of 2023 we would like all our collections to be completely sustainable. And, in the coming months, we are focusing our R&D efforts on sustainable lenses too, to complete the whole sustainable offering. Our goal, going forward, is then to reduce our impact on the environment and to collaborate with like-minded partners”.

It’s a noble cause — and a laudably forward-thinking business plan for what is still a relatively young brand. But, like those enduring style icons who inspired Attanasio, he’s hoping to make a lasting impression. And, whether that’s by chasing commendable eco-credentials or creating accessories destined to make an enduring mark on menswear history, he’s on the right track. But what are his own ‘go-to’ glasses?

“I have around ten pairs,” Attanasio admits, “and two of my favourites are the ‘Welt’ and ’Twill’ frames, in amber and honey colours. But, mostly, I’ll use my ‘Vicuna’ 24k Gold prescription frames — with a sunglasses clip-on”.

How Fabio Attanasio reframed the eyewear industry

‘Lapel’ in Ocean/Bottle Green

£135

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How Fabio Attanasio reframed the eyewear industry

‘Denim’ in Dark Havana/Orange

£135

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How Fabio Attanasio reframed the eyewear industry

‘Vicuña’ in Rhodium/Gradient Grey

£215

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