Work, Bread, Water, and Salt for All

by Madeline Saxton-Beer

We Spoke With SALT Optics Co-Founder David Rose About Biblical Proverbs and Eyewear
“Ye are the salt of the Earth,” Jesus once said to his groupies--on this occasion a posse of fishermen, simple townspeople, and the like. Though they may not have known it at the time, this was his way of giving them mad props for their basic, fundamental goodness--a phrase that one seldom finds occasion to use these days.

That said, it’s only fitting that “salt of the earth” is often the reference that gets made when David Rose gets talking about the eyewear brand he co-founded with Taylor Whisenand eight years ago, SALT Optics. Though inherent goodness this label undoubtedly possesses, “basic” is what these glasses certainly are not. The name--an acronym for Sea, Air, Land, and Timeless--has come to stand for a product that transcends the physical, offering a selection of high end optical frames that employ only the finest craftsmanship and use the endless inspiration from nature for its design cues.

When asked about the culture behind the brand, Rose admits, “I think we do a lot of things we’re putting out there. We spend time in the ocean”--although wary to admit it, Rose was once a pro-surfer--“we do a lot of travelling (spending time in the air), we do a lot of camping (time on the land), and then we have this timeless aesthetic with what we do. That’s why I think it kind of translates over and that’s why I think people see it as more than just eyewear.” Indeed it is visceral, just like the respective souls of its thoroughbred Californian founders. But when it comes to the processes behind the manufacturing of SALT frames, they’re nothing if not artisanal.

Having been in the eyewear industry for over 16 years now, Rose knows a good set of specs when he sees them; not only is the choice of materials paramount--SALT often employs the specialty Italian Mazzucchelli acetate if not a premium Japanese plastic--but it helps when you have got an optical dynasty responsible for the production line. When asked about his allegiance with Japanese craftsmen, Rose replies, “they’re so prideful in what they do and how they make their frames. We’re very fortunate in the fact that we work with third generation manufacturers; it’s been passed down from grandfather, to father, to son.”

These good men oversee the fruition of the nature-inspired frames from beginning to end, including an especially long tumbling period--part of the process when the frames, once cut, go into a machine reminiscent of a tumble dryer with bamboo chips inside in that proceed to soften the plastic--that results in a super soft surface before being subject to the hand-finished detailing. What follows is the application of SALT’s characteristic finer details; the hand polishing, the metallic symbols and icons forged by hand and the matting of various styles accomplished with glass beads as opposed to the lower grade granules more commonly used..

The finished product is an array of clean and classic styles that are profoundly unique in their nature-inspired palette; from an iridescent purple that exhibits eyedropper likeness to the lavender fields of Provence, to the stoney blue of a foaming Atlantic swell--they’ve somehow managed to capture an array of impossible pigments. And it’s not only the colors that come in to play; Rose makes reference to none other than wheatgrass when talking about the beta titanium temples on one particular model, “It was like let’s have something strong that kind of bends and goes and flows like the wind, like wheatgrass, it always retains its shape.”

Given that the concepts behind SALT glasses are so thoroughly thought out, it may come as no surprise that the brand’s collaborations aren’t exactly your run of the mill either. Most recently teaming up with Aether Apparel--an outerwear label specializing in motorcycle gear--Rose was ready to get stuck into something different. “A lot of times in collaborations you get people who are like let’s take an existing style and slap your name on it, give it a different colour and call it a day.”

“But this was quite different and we started from the beginning, collaborating back and forth, getting prototypes in and basically being like what’s the problem here?” he says. The result was two very sexy, very considered styles that overcame problems typically experienced by bikers including the light transition from day to night and implementing a side screen to ensure maximum protection.

When asked about what’s in the pipeline, Rose tells us of an upcoming collab with a Briefing--a Japanese handbag brand who reciprocally manufactures its product in the U.S. “They have a really fine aesthetic. When you see the brand, the synergies are very similar and their likes; they like to surf and be outdoors,” he says. Sounds like a match made in heaven. Due out towards the end of this year, we’re eager to see what novel approach these eyewear pioneers are poised to make next.