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FAKBYFAK: A BRAND'S STORY

FAKBYFAK: A BRAND'S STORY

Formerly known as FAKOSHIMA, conceptual eyewear brand FAKBYFAK was established in Moscow in 2013 by Alex Melnikov and Roman Ilyukhov.
In an exclusive interview for sunglasscurator.com, we got to talk with Alex about everything, from the struggles of rebuilding a brand from scratch and the joy of being the first internationally exposed Russian eyewear brand to inspiration sources and magic. Yeah, you heard right, we said MAGIC ;)

FAKBYFAK X MANISH ARORA 

At first there was FAKOSHIMA, now it’s FAKBYFAK. What is the story behind the rebranding decision?

Despite the initial success of our first project, it was clear that we have to expand further and reinvent the brand over and over again to stay on the edge and maintain the idea of unexpected. We have broken away from the sterile futuristic stylization and the vision of a single designer. We realized that the old name and its concept doesn’t offer enough space for our visions.

We've clearly realized, that any created concept has its boundaries and limits. We are alive, we want to transform, our imagination is fuelled by a variety of processes and things that are interesting to us. We strive to search for inspiration in different things and to primarily be relevant to the inner state.

The world is different now and so are we. We no longer can continue to follow norms and dogmas that ruled the industry for decades. This is where we did not see eye to eye with the previous designer and so our ways have parted. As the investor and co-founder I have made the decision to relaunch the brand under a new name and create a fresh vector for the brand's development.

FAKBYFAK X MANISH ARORA "BROWN"  FAKBYFAK X MANISH ARORA "BLUE" 

Over the last year we have revised a lot and were mainly focused on the internal workings and the reorganization of many processes, from design and production to external communications. We've rebuilt practically everything from scratch. Unfortunately, in the process we've encountered displays of unfriendliness, antagonism and explicit dishonesty against us. This happened as the previous designer kept using our brand's name and having access to prior public accounts has led unacceptable activity aimed at discrediting the new brand, our clients, partners, journalists, the designers we have ongoing contracts with, as well as pursuing our clients; sending them letters with misleading information about himself, the brand and offers of cooperation. Thus he has created a mess of everything that was going on and attempted to create a name for himself and promote himself using everything we have put into our previous project, our connections, contacts and prior achievements. This was a very difficult time for all of us. We were protecting our reputation not willing to cultivate and nourish the low displays and negative emotions, avoiding numerous attacks aimed at us. We are endlessly grateful to our friends and partners for the persistence and loyalty to the relationships that took years to build with major effort.

We built the international team of designers with people from France, UK and Russia. Roman and I also implement our design ideas in to the collections. This way we have managed to bring diversity to our ideas and go beyond our own limitations. We have the motivation to create more than just an eyewear brand but a trend and even a subculture. We would like to give a new meaning to the existence, starting with our own. We are looking for ways to help the new aspiring talents to bring their ideas to life as well as find new forms to express our own ideas.

FAKBYFAK is an amusing slandering of ridiculous collaborations' branding just for a namesake. We entirely share the idea that an incredible story realized in the product, and the vibe around it, should always be the forefront of a company, before overindulged branding or marketing tricks just for a namesake. We believe that there is no difference what you would call a brand, the main thing is the product and through our personal example we prove it every day.

Alex Melnikov and Roman Ilyukhov - how did you two end up working together and co-founding FAKBYFAK?

We've known each other for many years and as time shows, our tandem is perfect for a business partnership, despite some differences and difficulties. Neither Roman nor I had any connection with the eyewear industry at all; though we did have an intuitive feeling about how things are supposed to work and I’m sure we can make a successful project in almost any field. We find and explore talented ideas or they find us instead and together we make them flawless and turn them into a product.

ALEX MELNIKOV ROMAN ILYUKHOV

What are your backgrounds and what part of the business do each of you cover?

I have two degrees: Social Science and Management. My partner Roman is a God of engineering. Both of us are far away from design or fashion in terms of education. After graduation I worked as a press secretary in a number of big companies for many years. Later I was involved as a project manager in event business and after that I worked for the Canadian Cirque du Soleil as a production director in Russia. Before FAKOSHIMA/FAKBYFAK projects Roman managed different projects in IT industry.

We are multitaskers and share the tasks naturally between each other, but primarily I’m more involved in business development and Public Relations, representing the brand, configuring the strategy, statements and main ideas. My constant nightmare is financial management and funds rising. Roman manages all production and design, sales development, logistics and client service. Marketing is more or less our common professional field and duty.

FAKBYFAK X MANISH ARORA "BLACK" 

What were the difficulties you faced in the industry as an independent eyewear brand that designs for a very distinctive niche?

You know, we have such an extraordinary and strong faith in what we do that challenges and difficulties we consider mostly as a resource to gain, to overcome, to hit a new bar rather than a stumbling block or a reason to give up. Of course, there are a lot of all natural and common troubles that independent brands are faced with, and we are not an exception, but for us it’s not a point for discussion, our eyes are wide shut.

The point is that from the very beginning we were eager to represent vivid visual stories, create new aesthetic codes and meanings - everything that makes the product special establishes a relationship with the owner. We want to embrace people's desire to be visual, to buy a design, not a logo. Frankly speaking I never felt that we are a part of an industry and never looked around or tried to abide by the industry rules. Taking advice was the last thing I wanted to do and in fact it’s still so. We are eager to create our own niche and occupy it. I feel we did well so far in this direction. Our initially naive approach to the eyewear fashion industry turned out to be our biggest strength and fortune. Yes, we created strongly conceptual frames - not for everyone, but for those who want to stand out amongst the crowd - and one day I simply stumbled upon an idea that I wanted to create something for the people I love. Real people. It’s a natural move in this direction. I imagined our mission in breaking stereotypes in the meaning of casual eyewear. We are guided and inspired by avant-garde ideas and we make wearable frames. We are not aiming to commercialize our ideas and the product as a whole but to create and occupy a niche where our glasses will take their own place. Looking back at what was happening with us last year I can say we are on the right track. I do believe that the potential of our ideas and brand in general is huge as we are different and don't have the traditional roots in this industry.

FAKBYFAK X MANISH ARORA 

Manish Arora and Walter van Beirendonck are two names that you co-signed eyewear collections with in 2016. What is the idea behind these creative collaborations and how do the creative exchange take place?

In a way these two projects have become the main challenge for us. There were no internationally exposed Russian eyewear brands before us. Within a year or two we have attracted the attention of many in the eyewear and fashion industries. Of course, these were very important projects in terms of brand development; however the price we paid is immeasurably higher than what we could have expected. These projects became our both happiness and a hard lesson.

As you fairly noted, in 2016 we presented overwhelming collaboration projects with fashion designer Manish Arora and avant-garde Belgian designer Walter van Beirendonck. It was a risky, challenging, and nearly torturing at times but a valuable experience. We are truly grateful to have this opportunity, which I can talk about for hours or even days. Initially, we had received a quite large amount of offers, but finally I managed two of them with Manish and Walter. The level of responsibility in this cooperation was extremely high, but we managed to become the first Russian eyewear brand to make such a breakthrough in terms of ideas, conceptual development, production and marketing. I want to express my appreciation to our first and number one French PR – Kuki de Salvertes who guided us from the very first steps.

The creative process for these two projects was built differently. In one instance we've had almost complete creative freedom within the mood board frames, in the other, with Walter, clear guidelines and deadly fixed deadlines.

“Dear Alex and Roman, THE GLASSES LOOK FABULUOS!!!”

FAKBYFAK x Walter van Beirendonck

I'd like to talk about our project with Walter separately, as it became the most unbelievable and ambitious challenge for everyone and the most difficult project we've had so far. It's been just over two months since the meeting in Antwerp, when he first showed me the sketches of what was to be done before his show in Paris. In that time, three times over we've had to put aside what seemed to be completed: colour variations, materials, solutions; and start from scratch. There was literally no time for technology improvement, the solutions were conveyed and tested on the go on several productions simultaneously. New materials (rubber coloured pins) reacted unpredictably and every time it was like hot flashes from the understanding that the way we are going with it is wrong or too long. That's where we would get into gruelling search for new solutions: new sketches, prototypes and the search for suppliers continued. The shortage of time was killing us. Ultimately, just one month before the show we've had 7 versions of project solutions, 4 versions of 3D models, 22 broken prototypes, 5 suppliers on 3 continents, including suppliers for Apple, and a new colour for frame acetate that did not even exist in nature before and was irreplaceable for the collection – nude skin. I won't even start on the logistics and the customs – it was hell. Only one week before the show, when Walter received yet another set of samples, it became clear that we've made the project and the collection will be presented at his show. The images and ideas that were laid into the frames will come to life on actual faces. There was no greater reward for everything that we've gone through, than his words of appreciation in red caps lock in our inbox reading: “Dear Alex and Roman, THE GLASSES LOOK FABULUOS!!!”

You sample not just the glasses, but our thoughts, aspirations, dreams and fantasies

cyber limbo 

What else makes a perfect pair of glasses? When do you think a frame becomes an iconic design?

When there is honesty, exposed nerve and unbridled freedom inside the creator, when you realise that you can’t live further without bringing this design to life. There has to be a story, a legend, a deep inspiration behind it. During this year’s brand relaunch I came up with these lines for the small booklet that goes with each pair: “You sample not just the glasses, but our thoughts, aspirations, dreams and fantasies”.

FAKBYFAK eyewear is handmade in Japan, Hong Kong and Italy - why did you choose each of these three destinations?

Oh, it was challenging and a long journey of testing and mistaking. We produced in different locations in Japan, Italy and Hong Kong. Finally, we focused our forces and energy on one manufacture in China and succeeded to produce eyeglass frames of exceptional quality thanks to my partner Roman, who sees through all the production stages and is responsible for quality control. The technology experts we work with at the production house confessed that our strict quality control policy had helped them improve their work dramatically. In fact, thanks to our expertise, innovations and attention to every small detail that got passed on to their staff, they now produce for well-known brands. We truly give the items a lot of attention before approving. And yes, we are picky and do not give it the green light if there is even a hint of doubt, which may drive the production staff mad more often than we’d want to. So, the production location does not make the difference as long as there is passion and love, as well as extra financial investment, your personal knowledge and attitude. We have plans to come back to Italy again but to be honest from what we see is that this battle for balance in great quality, technical solutions, lead time and costs is totally won by China for the moment.

CYBER LIMBO 

Considering FAKBYFAK as a subculture, as you have named it, could you please tell us how FAKBYFAK customer looks like, what does he/she love, where are they from, etc.? If FAKBYFAK were a musician, who would it be?

It would be people who first of all share in our views and values. We have already created a defined circle, a community of people that do not care about the brand name, they care about the product, the design and the people who are behind it all. FAKBYFAK sunglasses have become an insignia for their owners. An identification code which makes it easy to spot "your own" - wherever you are and whatever you wear. It works as a kind of a mask that conceals and at the same time reveals a different part of a person. It attracts attention, intrigues, and establishes new relation between the owner and the environment.

People may not know anything about us, yet seeing product and a certain vibe around it. People share this vibe and become our clients or our fans. We are still at the beginning of our journey and you will be witness to FAKBYFAK changing the views and dogmas. After that there will no longer be a need for answering such questions. Glasses are only an instrument for projecting our ideas. In the future we will go beyond boundaries and will communicate to our circle via absolutely different manifestations and instruments.

We noticed that you named several styles under the same idea, e.g. Cyber Limbo, Circumstellar - what was first: the concept or the shape?

Chicken or egg? In our case it's always different. Approximately 50/50. Sometimes you create a design by getting inspired by something, and sometimes the design is born and only after you look at it, study its form, stay up at night contemplating, then all of a sudden you come across a parallel with something and create history.

circumstellar 

Does your Russian heritage influence in any way your aesthetics and creative approach?

Of course, but not directly. We would really like to explore deeper into the themes and works related to Russian culture. We do not use and will not adapt traditional Russian images or legacy; however we can be inspired by something. We may see it in our own way and interpret it as part of our designs in a completely unexpected image or form.

black mantis 

Moscow is the great mixture of history and contemporary lifestyle. What do you like most about the city you live in? Would you move anywhere else?

As I said it many times I vitally need this weird energy of Moscow. This place disrupts my calm and makes my heart beat faster. I feel an exposed nerve here and a fierce desire to do incredible, reckless things. For me it’s the ideal place for working and creating. Winters were truly boring and depressing last years as it’s not real winter anymore and for this time of year it’s definitely better to move somewhere for a while.

What are your everyday mantras to get you going?

My daily sport routine keeps me going. Also a state of being alone for some time is vital for my nature and understanding of who I am and where I’m going.

Do you believe in everyday magic?

Yes, I do. My life is full of unexpected turns and magical moments that one can hardly explain. In magic we trust. Amen.

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