Just over five years ago, optic-design wizard Ludovic Elens decided to take the plunge and founded his own independent business: the bespoke eyewear brand, Lunetier Ludovic.
Between the antique markets and chocolatiers, one can find Lunetier Ludovic situated in the chic neighbourhood of Sablon in Brussels. Alongside his wife Vinciane, Ludovic runs a successful business that has taken Brussels by storm. “At the start of this adventure, I estimated that there would be around 12 orders per year. In fact, there were 120 in the first year only! The thirst of the clientele was the first surprise, followed by the realisation that we had tapped into a gap in the optical market.” The highly sought-after eyewear that Lunetier Ludovic offered meant that Ludovic and Vinciane were quickly able to hire staff to support the running of the day-to-day business; crucial for the survival of an independent brand, which Ludovic views as difficult to do so in a city like Brussels, where the space for independent business is tight.
It was in his previous job when the penny dropped for Ludovic that something was missing on the Belgian optic scene. “I couldn’t meet the needs of my clients who had specific requests. After having received many negative responses from optic designers across Belgium, I decided to provide what was not yet available in this country: tailor-made eyewear. So I went to the Jura region to train with the best craftsmen in all of France and brought my new skills back to Belgium.”
The skills in handcrafting optic wear learned by Ludovic are crucial to the identity of Lunetier Ludovic, whose aim is to always be improving the manufactured quality of custom-made spectacles. “A skilled craftsman in eyewear uses their honed knowledge to make good quality glasses and to add improvements. It’s really about the individual touch of each craftsman; this is why each pair of spectacles that leaves our workshop is totally unique.” The artisanal skills deployed in the workshop allow the team to cater to even the most bizarre of requests. “We had a customer once ask us to make a hexagonal frame, no larger than a €2 coin. It was a very atypical model for a very atypical person!”
It is this unique focus on providing quality that Ludovic feels is too little recognised in manufacturing these days, especially in the optics world. It gives him pride that his company is a shining example of an industry too often forgotten. The extraordinary success of the brand has taken Ludovic to unexpected heights: he recalls that one occasion, while representing Belgium at the International Optics Fair, he found himself rubbing shoulders with none other than the personal optician of the Pope, whom he was seated next to. In a society that values academia and higher education over art, creativity and culture, Ludovic feels blessed with his achievements. His proudest moment so far? Being mentioned in the Michelangelo Foundation Guide (https://www.michelangelofoundation.org), which showcases the crème de la crème of European craftsmanship.
It hasn’t always been glitz and glam, however: “When I started this project five years ago, I was taken for a fool. I was unable to communicate my vision to the people around me and felt that it was largely misunderstood. To many, it seemed colossal; unrealistic... There was a lot of fear in my immediate social circles. But it’s different now. After a lot of sacrifices and hard work, I can see recognition, I feel people understand my vision.” The local community and an interactive social media presence have also played key roles in the success of the brand and publishing content online has even led to collaborations with other artists: “recently, a painter, who discovered Lunetier Ludovic after a video was posted and shared online, came to the store to do a live watercolour painting session in our studio”.
Proximity with customers and fellow artists is important for Ludovic in his line of work in order to make truly one-of-a-kind products. Ludovic is careful with his words when it comes to what inspires him. “I don’t like the word ‘inspiration’. We are influenced by everything that we see around us every day… Our mind retains certain forms in our subconscious that we either like or don’t like. It’s what surrounds me that allows me to design the models for my collection.” Inspiration, for Ludovic, directly corresponds to each individual customer and he takes the time to ensure that their character, desires and expectations for their future frames are reflected in the finished model.
It seems that Ludovic has always had an eye for design and timeless pieces, recalling his first memories of wearing braces as a child. His appreciation for these classic accessories was revived back in 2015 when looking for a little something extra to add to a suit to wear to a wedding, though his search in Brussels was initially unsuccessful. Until the fateful day of the bachelor’s party, when Ludovic met Gilles, founder of Bertelles, adorning braces. That was it: love at first sight. “It was a direct crush: a clothing classic, worn by young and old; but most importantly, it was a Belgian production. We all bought Bertelles braces and on the day of the wedding, we wore them with pride. After my first taste, I was hooked; I loved the other colours available and since then I have continued wearing Bertelles braces on a frequent basis. But it all depends on the trousers! They’ve got to match the trousers.”
“Discovering Bertelles was a real pleasure, made more sentimental since it coincided around the time of the creation of my own company. I usually wear my wide and leather green or wide with leather red and I have a much-loved Superior tweed pair as well for which I personally added onto several pairs of trousers the adequate buttons so that I can wear them more often!”
Find Lunetier Ludovic on here:
This text is an edited compilation of an interview conducted by Bertelles with Ludovic Elens, founder of Lunetier Ludovic, which took place on 10/04/2020 in Brussels.