By Loannie Dao
On days that don’t require a trek out to the bustling city center of Rome, Luca Gnecchi Ruscone spends his mornings wandering the grounds of his Tuscan countryside home with his wife and kids. The comforts of homemade jam, harvested honey, and fresh baked bread keep him rooted in family traditions and lifestyles. He’s marched to a passionate rhythm for a long time, so it’s no surprise that he’s leading the way in establishing L.G.R. as a symbol of Italian excellence. From creating bespoke eyewear to traveling several miles through the great plains of Africa, Ruscone stays inspired with his perpetual curiosity for all things beautiful. Despite being the founder of an exclusive eyewear brand, his presence is rather humbling.
After a trip to Asmara, Africa, L.G.R. developed from a marriage of chance, enthusiasm, and desire. In a spout of excitement, Ruscone tells me about the city and people that inspired his brand, “Asmara is a city built by the Italians in the turn of the century. You have Italian cars, the cafes, and the cinemas. You see people wearing double breasted suits and hats while walking with sticks and heavy sunglasses. I was totally fascinated by their style and elegance.” In trying to define what L.G.R. stands for, Ruscone pulls from his deep seated belief in effortlessness. “For me, that’s elegance, it’s not the assentation of money. It’s style with simplicity and ease in combining the two. And [the people of Asmara] were doing it perfectly.” During the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, Ruscone’s grandfather, a 90-year-old gentleman with an affinity for bold adventures, was a photographer and started a business of distributing Kodak films and Leica cameras in Africa after the war.
In 2006, Ruscone returned to his grandfather’s warehouse to uncover its rich manufacturing history. Rummaging through the building’s remains, Ruscone stumbled into the lower levels of the factory to find a batch of old sunglasses that would change the course of his career. “I was fascinated by the simplicity, style, durability, and authenticity of these objects,” he says. To Ruscone, these weren’t just accessories, these were objects that represented Italian heritage.
Upon returning home, he acquired an upbeat tempo that showed in his march. People stopped him on the street to ask where his sunglasses were from. With great pride he would tell them that they were vintage Italian imports found in a warehouse in Africa. They were one of a kind. Folks were marveled with his story the same way he was when he discovered the gems. So he called his grandfather to ask if there were any more in the warehouse. After selling the remaining pairs to families and friends, the word spread and he began receiving calls from people inquiring about the glasses.
Ignited, Ruscone traveled to Northern Italy where many of the major eyewear factories were based. After meeting with a few producers, he found it difficult to recreate its authenticity. “Today’s producers use laser engraving as opposed to fire printing,” he tells me. Ruscone explains that, “the modern industry created a wall against this old school quality. It was very hard to reproduce these glasses.” After months of searching, he was lucky enough to find the original manufacturers of the sunglasses and started a small production. Working with two artisans near Naples, 100 pieces turned to 300 pieces and soon he was in business. Gaining recognition in an industry that was alien to him, the fashion world quickly picked up on L.G.R. Ruscone’s big break occurred when the company was featured in one of Vogue France’s biggest issue, with Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell gracing the cover. The brand is now carried everywhere from Paris, Japan, to the Americas. These days, his tight team of ten people do all they can to establish L.G.R. as a notable luxury trademark. Based in Rome, they make the best products and keep true to the original craftsmanship, quality, and link to Africa; he often travels there to gain inspiration for future product lines.
L.G.R has had many credible partners and supporters. One of which was with Avish Khebrehzadeh in collaboration with Elisabetta Cipriani Gallery in 2014. The Iranian artist designed a set of limited edition sunglasses (75 pieces made), enriched with ornamentation made from precious materials, and round flat lenses inspired by the Panthos silhouette of the 1920’s and 1930’s. These styles were produced for the Frieze Art Fair in London, retailing for 2500 Euros each.
More recently, L.G.R has partnered with AMREF Flying Doctors to design a line of sunglasses catered to their mission. The organization provides professional air ambulance services across the continent of Africa. Their goal is to support remote and disadvantaged communities in Kenya through evacuation programmes and offers aero-medical care and transport for those in need of urgent medical attention. Ruscone was inspired by the organization’s adventure and charitable appeal after an encounter with a pilot. A percentage of the proceeds go to the Amref foundation, and more precisely to the Flying Doctors Organization.
It’s been nearly eight years since the idea of L.G.R. started and the biggest question remains: how does someone design for the L.G.R man or women? For Ruscone, his elegant sensibility makes it easy. He holds lifestyle, form, and production at the height of every product. In staying with his commitment to bespoke design, his schemes start with hand drawn sketches, attention to comfort, thoughtful design, and devotion to sustainability. He keeps himself immune to fashion trends, firmly believing that it only pollutes his creativity.
What makes L.G.R. unique is Ruscone. His personal involvement in every step, from design to production, forms the basis of L.G.R. It’s his love, passion, and enthusiasm that permeate the whole process. Ruscone’s curiosity and constant search for something stimulating and interesting makes for an interesting man. In the true sense of the word, L.G.R. is entirely bespoke and handcrafted by specialized artisans.
On days when Ruscone is enjoying homemade coffee in his Tuscan countryside home, he can relax in the notion that his customers have discovered something exclusive. Ruscone holds pride in the fact that he can be a companion for them as they travel, venturing into unbeaten paths, while embracing the same spirit that brought Ruscone to Africa in the first place.