AHL INSIDER

Casey Klugman

Founder and Creative Director of Les Monts

Casey Klugman

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“It was apparent that in Italy, when it comes to design, nothing is done without intention. Every design element I stumbled upon during my time in Florence was a thoughtfully considered design decision – and I loved that. It made an impression on me, and has become a core value of my eyewear brand: Les Monts.” Casey Klugman is the founder and creative director of Les Monts, an eyewear brand that marries heritage with innovation.

Following Casey’s European heritage and the ethos of building things that last, each collection is produced in a small town in the North of Italy in small runs, mirroring that of the human scale. The brand Les Monts — French for ‘The Mountains’ — references the town’s setting and magic, which surrounds The Dolomite Mountain Range.

Having engaged with art and fashion design since his school days, Casey knew he would like to pursue a creative career. Graduating from The University of Michigan and designing eyewear for Ted Baker, he arrived at the idea for Les Monts in 2020. We chatted with Casey about Les Monts, Florence, Italy, the city where he resides, sustainability, and, of course, his favorite hotel. 

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In a few words, would you please tell us what you did and how you got here?

I’m an artist/designer. My late grandfather got me involved in art at a very young age. The blend of art and fashion always felt “right” to me. Before I left to study Art & Design at the University of Michigan, my father gifted me his vintage sunglasses. It was the ultimate heirloom, and I began illustrating eyewear. Shortly after graduation, I designed eyewear for Ted Baker, a job I held for five years. But, I knew my ultimate goal was to create my collection one day. My brand, Les Monts, went live on April 20th this year.

Les Monts
Les Monts
Les-Monts-2-A-Hotel-Life

In a nutshell, what’s the story behind Les Monts, and what makes it special?

Les Monts is what you’d get if a fine artist designed an eyewear label — it is an exclusive collection of handcrafted, limited edition eyewear. In French, Les Monts means “the mountains” and is a tribute to my late grandmother’s origins. The collection is entirely manufactured in Italy, where we collaborate with an outstanding family-owned factory. Creating a single pair of Les Monts frames incorporates over 200 steps and can take nearly six months to manufacture. We produce our sunglasses in extremely small quantities — we only manufacture 50-100 pieces of a given style.

If Les Monts was a hotel, which one would it be and why?

If Les Monts were a hotel, it would be the Grand Quisisana Hotel in Capri. Both take notes from European design sensibilities and articulate them tastefully, conveying their classic, effortless, clean aesthetic. Moreover, Les Monts aims to drive a lasting connection between owner, object, and/or experience. As an independent hotel, Hotel Grand Quisisana has a certain exclusivity. It’s that feeling of being small but powerful that both Les Monts and the Hotel Grand Quisisana share.

By running such small batches, we imagine you have more control over the sustainability aspects of your product. So what is the most important thing to remember when choosing a pair of sunglasses made responsibly?

Indeed, with micro-production, there is less wastage. However, at the highest level, the more “things” we have, the more we consume, and the more wastage there ultimately is. There’s a great book called Emotionally Durable Design that makes this concept very digestible, and I’ve always valued things with meaning over having more things. The sunglasses my father gave me before I left for college are a great example. Our frames are designed to stand the test of time and hopefully have the propensity one day to be passed down.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence
Ponte Vecchio, Florence

You lived in Florence, Italy, and that’s the place that motivated you to start your brand. How does Florence inspire your work and your creativity?

As a design student, Florence was the perfect place for me to study and find inspiration. To be fluent in “The Italian Design” language requires a proficient understanding of Italian design sensibility, heritage, and the culture’s aesthetic. I would meander through the city, paying great attention to every detail, no matter how insignificant it seemed. I noticed complex ornamental features on front doors, filigree detailing in the most unexpected areas and crevices and beautifully hand-laid cobblestone roads with Italian inscriptions. Every design element I stumbled upon during my time in Florence was intentional, making an impression on me. 

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