Talking with Nackymade

The Kobe based husband and wife team speak to us about their beginnings, what sets them apart in an oligopolistic industry, and their bespoke process.

When asked why eyewear should be a worthwhile investment, Japanese artisan Naoki Nakagawa immediately lights up. “Glasses are the only accessory we can use on our face. It’s not just about fashion, it’s an accessory to complement the face,” he asserts. “Some clients want to look younger, others want to make their face look less wide, so glasses are a great way to improve their appearance.”

Glasses are the only accessory we can use on our face. It’s not just about fashion, it’s an accessory to complement the face

With an atelier in Kobe, Nakagawa and his wife Mocky create a variety of bespoke and made-to-order eyewear. This includes both prescription eyewear and sunglasses. Under their label Nackymade, Nakagawa is one of the few people in the world who can create a pair of glasses from start to finish. “What we do at Nackymade is quite rare, as all aspects of creating the product is done under one roof. This is different from the industry standard, where different production aspects such as polishing, cutting and designing is outsourced to different companies.” he explains.

Nakagawa has been able to master all aspects of the craft because of his curiosity and drive. “I learnt my entire craft by working for several companies in the city of Fukui, the home of eyeglasses in Japan. Starting at the age of 17, I worked for different factories: an optometrist, a design company and even a retail shop to fully understand the eyewear business. There is no school for what it is that I have taught myself. I spent eight years studying the discipline before venturing out on my own.”

22 years later, the fruits of their labour have emerged. Nakagawa and his wife now spend half of their month in Japan creating products, and the other half travelling all over the world to peddle Nackymade’s wares. They particularly favour trunk shows for their ability to create a personal connection to clients, and have worked closely with The Armoury in Hong Kong and New York since 2010 with this format.

During a Nackymade trunkshow, a wide selection of samples are placed on the countertop for clients to browse through. Made-to-order pieces allow customers to choose their own frame shape, size and colours, with frames made of materials such as acetate, cherrywood and titanium. Signature offerings include a special sunglasses lens that is both transparent and reflective, and Nackymade’s dinosaur-shaped temples. (Nakagawa is unabashedly a fan of dinosaurs, given the many tattoos he has of them inked on his arms.)

“I usually don’t make a lot of completely new shapes for customers, but occasionally I do for people I have a strong connection to. As a result, all the made-to-order frames we have are based off people who we know. For example, one of our latest shapes is called Edmond, and is named after Alan See’s father-in-law. The frame was inspired by one worn by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing, which Edmond suggested. We also have one inspired by Alan See, his wife Alexa Bui and Mark Cho,” he explains.

For bespoke orders, the process is much more detailed. Nakagawa will use a measuring apparatus to determine the size of a client’s head, the shape of their nose, and even the distance between their eyes. Time is also taken to understand how the bespoke frame will be used, be it for business or leisure, along with design guidance as to what will best suit the client.

Once completed, Nakagawa spends a considerable amount of time conceptualising and then designing a shape that fits the client's needs. An acetate prototype is consequently created for the client's approval, before final tweaks are made and the end product is created.

“Making a bespoke piece from scratch is a long and complicated process. We are only a team of two, my wife and I, and we have with no employees. We are always very busy and the products we make are very limited edition. Needless to say, we are proud that Nackymade offers a truly niche experience.”