Jerome Mage started with a bold idea to overthrow banal design in the eyewear industry: Make sunglasses as elegant as a Brancusi bronze, as tactile as a Noguchi stone, and as heavy as a monster truck. That's what he did in 2015 when he established Jacques Marie Mage, his line of rarefied frames that both exaggerates and refines everything I love about high-quality glasses.
“I have no other choice, right?” says Mage, a French expat now living in Los Angeles who spent two decades designing goggles and gear for snowboarding and motocross companies like Burton and Spy. “We tried to do the best: the best materials, the best packaging, the best stories.” He started by sourcing acetate that's several millimeters thicker than anything used by other brands. My favorite JMM shades, inspired by Akira Kurosawa's characteristic oval sunglasses, are three times as thick as my old go-to pair. “It creates a certain physicality—when you touch the frame, you connect with the luxury of it,” he says. Mage's devotion to the senses is evident before you even try on a pair. Every detail, down to the scent of the glasses, has been considered: As soon as you open the sturdy red satin box the specs arrive in, you're hit with a whiff of oud.
Mage's own design tastes skew neoclassical—he collects Napoleonic military regalia—and he's almost comically romantic, citing the North American wolf as JMM's guiding symbol. So the brand's many aesthetic flourishes are as central to the artisanal process as the Japanese craftsmen who cut and polish the frames. Each pair comes with a hand-numbered card that invites you to assume the character of the icon who inspired the design. The Enzo (as in Ferrari) will “hide your sins from the world”; the Windsor (as in the Duke of) is for those determined to pave their own path.
Of course, nothing demonstrates luxury quite like scarcity: There can't be dozens of Enzos at the San Vicente Bungalows. So JMM produces as few as 50 pairs of some models, which will run you anywhere from $495 to $1,075. Mage didn't set out to appeal exclusively to the well-heeled (his famous fans include Jeff Goldblum and LeBron James), but after the first run, he found that his shades wouldn't be cheap. “We ended up with a price,” he says. “We were like, ‘Okay, well, that's the price of the glasses.’ ”
This season, to replace the dozens of silhouettes that have sold out, he's introducing 14 new ones—and laboring obsessively to keep them distinct and rare. “I do the project a bit like Stanley Kubrick did,” Mage says. “Stanley was at the service of his movies. I really feel that I'm at the service of my glasses.”
A version of this story originally appeared in the August 2019 issue with the title "Jacques Marie Mage Will Make You Look Famous."
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