The Straits Times
www.straitstimes.com
Published on Dec 10, 2012
 
PICTURES

Craftsmen of tortoiseshell spectacles adapt to new century

 
 

PARIS (AFP) - What did Yves Saint Laurent, Jackie Kennedy and the architect Le Corbusier have in common? Their eyewear, for one, as clients of the luxury French tortoiseshell artisan, Bonnet.

Four decades after the trade in tortoiseshell was banned under the 1973 CITES convention, the fourth-generation family firm sees itself as custodian of a rare craft, fashioning made-to-measure spectacles from stocks amassed before the ban.

Bonnet describes its customers - among them Audrey Hepburn, Maria Callas or presidents Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac - as "aesthetes" more concerned about timeless style than fashion.

Christian Bonnet, who learned the trade from his father and grandfather, holds the rank of "maitre d'art", an honorific title granted by France's culture ministry and currently held by just over 100 craftsmen nationwide.