Conversation with Commune
Our latest eyewear collaboration is with Commune, a project that has been in the works for a few years. Commune is a Los Angeles based design studio that works in architecture, interior, graphic and product design. Commune stands for community. A community made up of like-minded architects, interior designers, graphic designers, consultants, artisans and builders led by principals Roman Alonso and Steven Johanknecht. To see the collaboration piece, visit the link here.
1. What is commune known for?
Commune is known for our holistic work across the fields of architecture, interior, graphic and product design. We work collectively on a wide breadth of projects including residential, commercial and hospitality interiors and architecture worldwide, a vast array of home and lifestyle products, as well as graphic and branding concepts for the fashion, arts and entertainment industries.
2. How did commune get its start in design?
We started the firm back in 2004 when most people didn’t know what a ‘multidisciplinary’ studio was, but we felt there was an open niche for approaching design with an eye on all facets of a project. We had very unusual professional backgrounds and extensive rolodexes so we felt we could assemble the right teams and apply the right knowledge and experience to tackle it all. We started with 2 small commercial projects, a restaurant and a retail store, that we designed everything for and slowly started getting more and more work…by 2007 we had an in-house team of designers, working on projects all over the world.
3. What has been the studios favorite projects to work on?
It’s hard to play favorites but the recent completion of our own new studio in the MacArthur Park neighborhood of Los Angeles has been a big highlight for us. Every project presents new challenges and new opportunities, though, and we are always grateful to begin again.
4. What problem was the team hoping to solve with the SALT. x commune piece?
We saw a real opportunity to collaborate on something special with the SALT team. For us, we wanted to combine and simplify the eyewear we need that is more or less demanded by our industry. That meant UV protection while on the go, blue light filtering for the long hours at our computers, and even safety lenses for site visits, all while accommodating a prescription if needed. For some of us, that meant three or more pairs of glasses. The fact that these frames and lenses check all of the boxes for us is amazing - they’re incredibly versatile and we think it will appeal to a lot of people in and out of our industry.
5. Was there any inspiration the team was drawing from in terms of aesthetics (in relation to the glasses) ?
Well, we love mid-century - from the architecture and design to the films and the icons that were born of it. We looked at a lot of industrial designers and architects like Pierre Chareau, Eileen Gray and Charlotte Perriand, and watched a lot of films by Jacques Tati and Jean-Luc Godard. The bent metal work of these designers, often in chrome or brass, was a big touchpoint and we all agreed Jean-Paul Belmondo’s sunglasses in Breathless looked amazing.
6. Tell us about “The Great Commune Shop Experiment”?
The Great Commune Shop Experiment is a lot of fun for us. It’s a physical interpretation of our online store in the spirit of Comme des Garcon’s guerilla stores from the 90’s. We dropped a modular structure in the middle of an unfinished space within the 1924 Spanish Colonial building that houses our studio in MacArthur Park and will be curating shopping “vignettes” through the end of the year. There are a lot of exclusive and limited items made by our long list of artisans that we work with and November is going to be taken over by our friends in Japan.
7. The studio recently went through a remodel, tell us what the thought process was in the redesign and key features you are all excited about?
After more than a decade on the westside in spaces that we made do in, we finally had the opportunity to really reimagine our environment and design it to best suit our workflow. The programming of the space was critical for us - the team is all together now for the first time, designers at workstations on one side and offices for the partners on the other, there’s an expansive floor to ceiling material library, a conference room that seats all 20+ of us and a full kitchen. It’s great. It’s all clad in douglas fir, which we love, with integrated canvas pinup space throughout and a lot of our artisans and product partners are on display here, as well.
8. Who or what is currently inspiring the studio and the team?
A few projects are taking us deep into the Arts and Crafts movement here in California. We’ve been studying the work of Charles and Henry Greene and Bernard Maybeck, pioneers of the movement who built primarily in Pasadena and the Bay Area, respectively. It’s incredibly inspiring work, most of which was built 100+ years ago which is pretty amazing.
9. If there was a piece of wisdom or advice you can share related to what you all have learned while working together and with clients, what would that be?
That you are only as good as the rest of your team and that 20 heads are always, no matter what, better than one!