Sitting across from me, on a couch in the middle of a room brimming with eager guests trying on pair after pair of Mykita for Puyi Kaiser glasses, is Moritz Krueger. Originally from the far north of Germany, Krueger left his hometown at the age of 20 for Berlin in order to start a business with three friends – and landed in a property that had once been a kindergarten in East Germany, where the quartet taught themselves the basics of eyewear, cast their gaze at technologies across industries, and ended up with a vertically integrated production model housed under one roof that they called “Mykita Haus”.
What did you guys envision when you got together?
The vision was very pure. We wanted to create our own brand. Eyewear was the only thing we had a tiny bit of experience in but we wanted complete creative freedom to make our own thing. So we started the business, and this kindergarten was really fitting with our business philosophy, which was really based on learning. We had to find our way, an alternative way, to differentiate ourselves from established brands. That meant we had to find our own path from a product perspective and a brand one – to create a strong individual identity when the market was becoming more and more dense from a speed perspective and design. A strong brand DNA is the key to any brand if you don’t want to spend everything on marketing.
What is Mykita’s DNA?
We are a brand with integrity. We are also completely vertically integrated. This means we start with the design concept, we buy the raw materials, we completely produce everything in-house. Every product is 100 percent out of our own hands so that everything we communicate is visible. It is very rare because normally you work with suppliers or producers but Mykita all comes out of one hand. In terms of product, all of our products are being constructed from our patents, be they material or technical solutions or something like that. It’s always unique. We think of our construction process as modern manufacturing. It’s always a combination of precise craftsmanship, so hand craftsmanship and new technologies.
How did you decide to name the brand?
We started in an old kindergarten that was in the former eastern part of Berlin. It was like 300 square metres, a very special place, and this is also where the name “Mykita” comes from, because kita is the abbreviation of the East German word for kindergarten, kindertagestäette, and when were just starting we rented the place to work on our vision and our project, our brand, and we were always saying, “Let’s meet at the kita.” So it was our kita and it became My Kita.
Does being in Berlin influence the Mykita aesthetic? It’s considered the European capital of cool nowadays.
Yeah, it’s more famous now for the nightlife and this kind of coolness, but in those days, when we started, Berlin was much more about open spaces, possibilities.
When we started our business we didn’t really have a lot of experience and at the same time Berlin was not a city that had a fashion or design scene the way Paris or Milan or London did. But Berlin was very much about helping yourself. The rents were very low so it was a really good time to start up and to find an alternative way, so I think Berlin is like an alternative city and it really helped us to focus on ourselves and just try to find our own solutions.
What kind of solutions have you found?
A lot of it is about technological transfer. You know, our industry is not very innovative. For the past 50 years, the methods of producing and building frames have been more or less the same, with the focus more on the one part – construction. But there are other fields in different industries where you know, you go to conventions, stuff like that, and then you find technology like powder coating or an additive manufactured material that I think can be used for this nylon collection, so you bring this in. We bring it in from other fields. We are not really in the eyewear world, we are always in different industries, in design of course, and keep eyes open to see if there’s something we can adopt.
So what about Puyi made you decide on collaborating with them?
Puyi pretty much discovered us at our very first trade show in 2004 in Paris and we have been stocked in their stores since then. We always had conversations about which parts of the collections worked well. Jeffrey Yau and his team give us really strong, good feedback on what their customers really like, what they appreciate, and learning about all the physiognomies on face is also really important. So yeah, out of this, that’s how we started to collaborate on a small capsule collection exclusively for Puyi.