Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
With a dream to revitalize Brazil’s lost industry of artisanal sunglass-making, in 2016 Gisela and Gustavo Assis launched an eyewear brand named Lapima. After two years of market research, they began creating accessories by hand with a haute couture mindset, setting up headquarters in the sunny city of Campinas. In the years since, the company has grown from four to 55 employees, debuted more than 50 individual made-to-order styles, and found its way into more than 270 stores in over 30 countries around the world.
To hear how the environment, architecture, and people of Brazil inspire Lapima’s designs, Whitewall spoke with the brand’s founders.
WHITEWALL: How is Lapima’s dedication to revitalizing and preserving sunglass craft executed today?
GUSTAVO ASSIS: Our philosophy is of a haute couture business. We produce on demand, we don’t waste materials, and we don’t accumulate stock. Lapima works at a slower pace. Each piece is hand-designed, prototyped, and crafted, and the process of developing a new collection can take up to one year. We know that the client can see and feel the love in each purchased frame. To be able to provide the 30 artisans working in the atelier (of which 25 are women) a great environment, a feeling of belonging, and the certainty to be crafting a unique product, it’s absolutely priceless for us. It’s what makes us happier and happier each and every day.
WW: What is the environment like in your atelier?
GISELA ASSIS: Our atelier is located in Campinas, a super sunny city with an average of three hundred days of sun each year. The two-hundred-square-meter atelier is painted white, with tons of light coming in from the outside, and 30 employees working daily in production.
One door away from the atelier, we have another two-hundred-square-meter space, the office, where the other 20 employees work. It’s an open space for the designers, engineers, admin, sales, and logistics teams to work together daily.
WW: How are one-of-a-kind pieces created with artisans, as opposed to mass-producing in a factory? Why is this important to keep in place?
GUSTAVO: Every piece is handmade in the atelier, and we do not use any third parties. That remains the same for our website design, social media, campaign images, art books, and so on.
From the very first sketches of a new collection up until the samples are produced, timing could take up to one year. When a new collection gets into the production line, one pair can take up to a week to be fully sculpted.
GISELA: We love handcrafted work—the local artisans are such treasures to us. Our city used to be a manufacturing hub, until 1990, and the fact that we can develop the community, give them visibility and proper jobs, revitalizes our souls!
WW: How are the materials chosen, sourced, and used?
GUSTAVO: We partner with an Italian acetate manufacturer that does not use petroleum acetate, but cotton-based acetate. The lenses are all certified by the European Community and the FDA. Hinges are made in Germany by a family-owned business. We don’t produce stock, because we produce by demand, similar to a haute couture house. All of our employees are from our local community.
WW: You mentioned that Brazil is always the starting and ending point when designing. What in particular inspires you about the country’s surroundings?
GUSTAVO: The exuberant nature, the modernist architecture, and the expansiveness of our people inspire colors, curves, and sensuality. In an artistic, authorial process, the inspirations begin with drawing on paper, made by hand, and going through millimeter calculation, the curves and volumes of each frontal, the perfect game of light and shadow harmony. And then color comes into play, the desired tone to better serve that inspiration.
WW: Does Lapima have any ties to philanthropic organizations that support natural environments?
GISELA: We partner with Reorder, a nonprofit organization from the south of Brazil, to help clean the oceans.
WW: You own a family home in the rainforest of Paraty that overlooks the Saco do Mamanguá, designed by the renowned architect Claudio Bernardes in 2002 and finalized by his son after his passing. How does this structure co-live with nature?
GISELA: The family house in Mamanguá was a dream of my parents, who had hired Claudio Bernardes because of his love for nature and knowledge of Paraty and Angra dos Reis region—and also for his architectural style. Our family and Claudio had similar likes, and the starting point was to design a house that would embrace nature and keep it as intact as possible.
WW: The home is only accessible by boat. How does this seclusion impact your view of the balance between work and life?
GUSTAVO: Arriving at the Mamanguá gives us a feeling of connection that we can only find there. It is our paradise and sanctuary. To be secluded gives us the feeling of adventure, but we are also very well prepared at the house—we have snake poison and a boat that can take us to the city of Paraty day or night. Reading, jogging in the forest, swimming in the sea, going surfing with the kids by boat are activities that fulfill our days.
WW: What’s seen inside, art- or design-wise?
GISELA: Our family loves art. Inside, sculpture by Franz Weissmann, furniture by Hugo França, Sandra Cinto, and Ione Saldanha live together with local art pieces from Paraty artists.
WW: Gisela, the home was decorated by your mother, Vera Negrão. How did having a mom in the design world impact your view of your own work?
GISELA: Growing up with a mother who appreciates art and is very dedicated to beauty has helped me build a strong aesthetic sense. Building Lapima’s world together with Gustavo has been an amazing journey and challenge. We put our point of view to details in each campaign, each image, and each frame.
WW: How would you describe a Lapima wearer?
GISELA: Lapima was launched in 2016 in the art gallery environment, and coincidently most of our clients around the world share the same love for art, architecture, and nature. Confident women, who know what they want and have no need to express themselves through logos. Also very confident men are discovering the Lapima World, as our “X Collection” (sculpture pieces that offer longer temples and wider noses) welcomes anyone with larger features.