Max Pittion in the Spotlight and Still in the Shade
When French chemist Anselme Payen discovered cellulose by isolating it from plant matter, he changed the world. Scientists and inventors across the globe began to experiment with the polymer, and in 1878, John Wesley Hyatt was able to patent a process for injection moulding the thermoplastics. However, it took another 50 years of playing with the stuff before it would become commercially available.
The substance revolutionized photography and made Hollywood what it is. More experimentation with the substance produced silk-like threads that were then woven into what we now call Rayon, and by adding larger amounts of ethyl alcohol into the composition to lower the viscosity, it has been painted to protect everything from furniture to billiard balls. Yet another application for the versatile material was as a replacement for horn and ivory. Hard and virtually shatter-proof, Hyatt’s patented celluloid could be molded into nearly any form and last a lifetime.
Meanwhile in the town of Oyonnax in the French Alps, a town known for the manufacturing of combs crafted from wood and cow horn, Emile Pittion was experimenting with the stuff in his family factory - Pittion Lunetterie.
By the 1940’s he was making a small production of celluloid eyeglasses. Emile’s son Max grew up in the factory, working alongside his father until war broke out and Max left to serve his country.
Returning home in 1945, Max went back to work in the family business and eventually took over the eyewear factory, making glasses for fashion houses in Paris.
As exportation of his products grew, Max, then president of the eyeglasses manufacturing union, helped found the international eyeglass festival and market “Salon International de la Lunetterie,” or SILMO, and brought the world to him in Oyonnax. The fashion industry took notice and eventually succeeded in maneuvering the event to Paris where the festival continues to be the largest, most prestigious, and the best attended eyewear fair in the world.
By the early 1970’s, aggressive Japanese manufacturing of eyewear shifted production and prices dropped. Oyonnax manufacturing suffered and Max merged with two other factories and continued producing until 1977, but the merger didn’t fit his independent nature and he retired in 1981 to ski and hike the French Alps of his youth.
From plant glue to fashion elite, Max Pittion took eyewear from simple function to everyday style.
Acknowledging the great contributions he made to the industry and the nostalgia for his signature designs, the brand was relaunched by devotees John Mayer and Tommy O'Gara to reproduce the characterizing art that accentuates the best on every face.