A portrait of Caroline Abram
With an ophthalmologist father and optician mother, glasses were an inescapable part of Caroline Abram’s childhood and she has gradually made the eyewear universe her own with a healthy dose of feeling, talent and hard work. For EYESEEMAG, the woman who “doesn’t like everything to be about glasses”, opens up about her career, what inspires her and the personal and professional challenges she has encountered over the years.
You grew up immersed in the world of eyewear. Did you feel like following in your parents’ footsteps was inevitable?
Not at all. Drawing was my thing. Glasses didn’t really do anything for me to be honest, but my mum wanted me to have some kind of degree. I was really good at maths, physics and technical drawing and thought that, once I had my degree under my belt, I would move on to something else, but would always have it to fall back on. Then, you could say I just went with the flow. I started working in my mum’s opticians, and in the evenings I would go to ceramics workshops. I was 20 at the time. I knew how time-consuming this line of work was and I wasn’t sure that was what I wanted, not for my whole life in any case.
When did you feel pulled towards design work?
I needed to create something. It all happened by chance really. I get a lot of messages from young people, but I don’t really have any advice for them. For 15 years, I thought that it would all stop overnight, that I was making a collection because it was nice, because people liked the pieces, but that I was just having fun. Over time, I realised that I had something that I couldn’t explain. I love drawing, painting, colours, so it was quite a natural path for me to find myself on.
What was it that helped you take the plunge?
Love! When I was 18, I spent a year at my dad’s in Senegal and fell in love with a boy. I needed to find a way to avoid being stuck in Paris. At the time, in Senegal, there were beautiful shops selling handmade beads. Silver beads, Mauritian beads, wooden beads… I had the idea of using these gorgeous beads to make chains for my mum’s shop. I started at the beach when I went to see my boyfriend. When he was at work, I threaded beads and made chains. And when I went back to Paris, I displayed them in the shop.
And to start making glasses?
It was the father of my children, an Italian optician who wasn’t really a fan of my chains, who planted the seed in my head. Initially, I wanted to add ready readers to my collection to hang my chains on them. The chains were really girly so I had only released one collection to go with the butterfly styles. I knew there was a market for it. But in reality, I considered them to be ladies’ glasses. I quickly understood that when frames sat at brow level, it completely lifted facial features. So, I decided that I was going to make glasses that would have this lifting effect, something cheerful and feminine. I realised that even young people were wearing them and that I was really on to something.
Was it important for you to cater for women in particular?
Yes, because that’s my world. Firstly, because I felt that women often wore glasses that were a bit sad. I wanted them to be able to put on glasses in the same way they would put on blusher or eyeliner, to look pretty without looking eccentric or odd.
What type of woman wears Caroline Abram glasses?
All women. If a woman wants to have fun with her different character traits, her look or just her femininity, which doesn’t mean she isn’t a feminist, she can wear Caroline Abram. I work a lot with structure. My glasses are usually quite fine, not invisible but they adapt to different faces. They have to blend in and make women feel prettier without really knowing why. Just like make-up. I don’t like it when make-up looks “too much” and it works exactly the same way with glasses. You have to be able to see past the glasses and see the person behind them. That’s really what I try to do.
What inspires you?
I made a speech in Australia where I talked about the topic of a first date. So, you exercise, you put on your most beautiful dress, you carefully choose your bag and shoes. And then, you sit down at the table and the only thing the guy sees for the entire meal is your glasses. It made everyone laugh, but it’s so true. That’s what inspired me. Each time a woman wearing a pair of my glasses looked at herself and I could tell that she liked what she saw, I would tell myself that that was my real calling. That’s what I want to do.
What’s your next challenge?
I know that everybody gets excited about growth but, personally, I don’t have any plans for a next step and I’m fine with that. For years, I functioned outside my comfort zone because I was learning the ropes, taking one step after another. All I want to do is keep making things that people like. I have a responsibility to the people who gravitate towards the brand. I like to keep the human, family side. Not get too big…
And what else does Caroline Abram like to do?
I’ve started reading again and I’m loving it. I really like Romain Gary. I’m a big movie fan. I’m really interested in philosophy and psychology, so I listen to quite a lot of podcasts. I need to learn and am interested in just about everything. The life of artists and big names also inspires my personal life, not the whole glasses side of things. For me, life is so rich. I love glasses, but they aren’t my life philosophy and I don’t put my whole soul into them. I have a very diverse, eclectic family. They come from all over, a real mix, and I think that’s where my interest in others comes from. I try to instil that in my children. The earth is round and we all have to live on it together. If you were to ask me what drives me, I would say living together: accepting, learning from others and loving them for who they are.