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An interview with designer Susi Tabacchi

At the Silmo optical fair in Paris, our team had the privilege of meeting Susi Tabacchi of Immagine98, the Italian firm behind the X-IDE, Rye&Lye, and MIC collections. Discover an inspiring trailblazer who knows eyewear inside and out.

All in for all-Italian

For Susi Tabacchi and her brother Tiziano, the story of Immagine98 is the tale of a return to their roots. More than 20 years ago, the duo decided to set up shop in their hometown of Pieve Di Cadore, which lies in the centre of the region that gave birth to Italy’s eyewear industry. “At the time, the Italian industry was in crisis,” says Susi. “Huge swathes of production were being outsourced to China, and many workshops were literally sitting abandoned.” Armed with courage, conviction, and a dash of folly, Susi and Tiziano jumped at the opportunity, buying up equipment to start making their own sunglasses. It was the birth of the X-IDE collection, followed a year later by the prescription eyewear collection Rye&Lye.

Susi Tabacchi

MIC (Made In Cadore)

X-IDE frame for men

X-IDE frame for women

But the crisis in the industry was far from over. In the decade that followed, another 200 eyewear makers in the region were forced out of business. “It was a sad situation for the industry as a whole; in many cases, generations of expertise were simply lost,” notes Susi. She and her brother didn’t have an easy time of it either, but they weathered the storm thanks to their resilience and distinctive hallmark designs.

An inspired and inspiring creative pair

As business manager, Susi is in charge of sales and exports. Her collections are now sold in 28 countries, including Canada. Tiziano for his part oversees design and product development. He’s been fascinated by design since he was a kid—he makes good use of his extensive production experience to go beyond aesthetics, taking facial fit and the choice of materials into consideration as well.

At Immagine98, it can take up to a year to create a new collection. Design work is usually conducted in parallel with technology development and materials research, a seamlessly interwoven process that enables Tiziano to instil each collection with an identity all its own.

Collections with a character all their own

X-IDE, the company’s original collection, features extravagant designs made for people who like to be the centre of attention. With X-IDE, Tiziano is free to create frames that really pop for a surefire wow effect. His designs are attention-getters, with a look both contemporary and timeless.
Styling for the Rye&Lye collection is retro-futurist. Frame shapes take their cue from the past—the 60s through the 80s to be precise—but the designs are reinterpreted using the latest technology, materials, and colours. With this collection, Tiziano creates sophisticated and refined pieces by playing on volume and incorporating high-end materials like titanium.

The company’s latest collection, MIC (Made In Cadore), is inspired by nature and the Dolomite mountains, home to Immagine98’s production workshop. The collection’s logo—the silhouette of a mountain range—is testament to its origins.

Model ECRU (Rye&Lye)

Model GIUNONE (Rye&Lye)

Model PETALO (MIC)

Model DOLOMIA (MIC)

Women in the eyewear industry

Historically women have been largely absent from executive positions in the eyewear industry, especially in Italy. Susi has often had to fight against preconceived ideas in the course of her career, but she also has the impression that women need to work three times as hard as their male counterparts to make a name for themselves. “If I have a goal, I work to achieve it, no matter what,” she says.

To this day, Susi’s unshakeable drive and determination are what allow her to stand out and assert her position as an industry leader.

View the X-IDE, Rye&Lye and MIC collections, available at most Opto-Réseau clinics.