Friday, March 23, 2012
Mycromag on Mercura NYC
Mycromag on Mercura by MAURITS DE BRUIJN← Contents · C.V. · Contact
Defining and Designing the Future
A vision rooted in the 70’s, yet so forward and futuristic it is still up-to-date. That must be the reason why eyewear designers Merrilee Lichtenstein Cohen and Rachel Cohen-Lunning, who work under their brand name Mercura NYC, are so successful. With a clientele that includes Elton John, Grace Jones, and more recently Lil’ Kim, these women have been pushing the boundaries of art and design for decades.
The sisters started designing sunglasses for the simple reason that there were very few on the market that suited their own face; they were looking for more spirit and individuality. A journey took off towards a self-chosen expression in design. Merrilee and Rachel wanted their frames to paint a portrait of the person who wears them without interfering with their identity. Mercura NYC dove into the future without leaving the past behind. Classic movies where personality, mystery and Futurism come together were their main source of inspiration. Futurism was an art movement, which flourished in the beginning of the 20th century and revolved around speed, progress, a view on and a longing for the future. As designers they reached far beyond future, creating designs back then that still manage to blow our minds today. François Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serlings films, as well as Star Trek, served as their background where anything was possible. The ladies were also inspired by another art form that finds it origin in the same period as Futurism: Surrealism. Both are great fans of Salvador Dali. The many sources are visible, yet their designs are autonomous above all. One could be dressed to the max by simply wearing a pair of Mercura glasses.
Looking at the glasses you can tell whoever designed it must have been thinking big. And the Cohen sisters were and are doing exactly that, the sunglasses were like models for tinted windows. Their wish was to replace all those nondescript Manhattan buildings with fabulous detail; they wanted to inspire new culture.
In 1975, the sisters moved into the well-known artist residency Hotel Chelsea and started their journey into design. The Chelsea Hotel housed prominent musicians, artist and writers such as Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Leonard Cohen as well as many members of Andy Warhol’s Factory. ‘em>The Chelsea was a comfortable and well-protected place. ‘People were not critical there, but productive in their own realms. The residents were not afraid of individuality, people tended to be very innovative in the field that they were working in.’Rachel and Merrilee describe their strengths as follows: futuristic ideas, a love for invention, dramatic sensibilities, and a strong desire to express themselves. According to us, pushing the limits of how we know sunglasses should be added to that list. Their designs seem to pop up everywhere. It is not always an original, though; a lot of copycats have drawn inspiration from Mercura’s classics. One look at the latest videos of Beyoncé or Lady Gaga proves how influential the designs are. What do the designers think of brands copying their designs? ‘It’s hell’, according to them. ‘It discourages bankers from investing, they fear the market is limited and once manufactured the art is no longer considered as an invention.’ It basically means we as consumers have the responsibility to hunt for the real thing and to honour the original. The sisters, being around for so long, have a clear view of their journey in the world of art and design: ‘In the 70's we were pioneers, hailed for our jewellery but not yet well known for our eyewear. In the late 80’s we were summoned for our eyewear only because we were already plugged in through our jewellery. There was a minority of people willing to be daring, until new strong bodies of the late 80’s and powerful personalities became more prevalent. That’s when our powerful designs in eyewear took off. Now everyone wants to be a powerful and mysterious and unique individual, and they are begging for our work!’ There, they said it. It is why these sunglasses still gain power and popularity. Always focussing on the individuals in their designs, the glasses find their way to wearers who, regardless of their gender, are not afraid to show what they are all about. No, they are more eager than ever to present themselves.The Mercura sunglasses go beyond jewellery. The glasses become part of someone’s expression, someone’s face. It doesn’t matter what age or occupation the wearer has and therefore the sisters can keep on dreaming: the list of potential clients is endless. They would love to put some of those shades on the presidential couple, or on Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie, Tim Burton and Carla Bruni. Merrilee and Rachel are still crossing borders; it was only last week when a well-known artist purchased a collection of their work to wear to his art opening. ‘We cross the borders by dressing fashion designers, scientists, diva’s, writers, porn stars, and billionaires.’ They still find zillions of boundaries to push as a designer, so we can look into a bright future, wearing our outrageous sunglasses. Because according to the designers of Mercura NYC the future is big: ‘There is beauty, glory, glamour and wildness in our future and the total vast hugeness of immensurability.’