A third-generation optician, it wasn’t the first career path that Carla Di Sí had in mind and after trying her hardest to avoid the profession, she finally relented to make the most of her talent, and became Latin America’s only self-branded spectacles and sunglasses optician and designer.
The classic Di Sí frame is statement – bright, with a distinctive angled oval frame that looks as if it were dipped into glitter, and hexagonal lenses – and the distinctive style’s popularity means she has opened several opticians in Argentina as well as branching into other Latin American markets and Japan. Wearing glasses from the age of four, the optician says: “I understand the object in front of the eye as being a way of self-expression.”
But despite a flourishing reputation, the profession wasn’t always an obvious choice for the short-sighted Di Sí, she says, pointing at her self-designed spectacles when she talks about her career’s beginnings.
“I was born into a family of opticians so I had contact with that object from a very young age. Glasses have always been a part of my life. My grandfather opened one of the first opticians in Buenos Aires in 1946, and I worked there when I was old enough to do so.”
Remembering that time, Di Sí recalls: “My grandfather’s first store no longer exists, but it was very picturesque, located on Florida and Paraguay streets downtown – with a genuine 1950s style – and it was also a photographic studio. My father worked for him so when it came to choosing a degree, the family mandate was to either work, or to study optics. But I was rebellious and I didn’t want to do so at that point – and I also didn’t want to be known as the owner’s daughter – so I studied foreign trade at university. But some years later, when I wanted to, I went back to optics. I chose it.”
Di Sí recognises now that even if she hadn’t been born into such a prolific family that she would probably have become an optician eventually. “Of course, it has given me a lot of advantages as my surname is well-known in the industry and doors have opened up more easily to me. But on the other hand, I’m a woman and this industry in Argentina is quite male chauvinist – for a woman to head a spectacle’s brand is unprecedented.”
After working for Luxotica for several years, it had become crystal clear that she would continue this route and Di Sí eventually opened the first Palermo store, selling her own-brand glasses in 2002.
“It was a half-conscious decision to open a shop as I wasn’t sure where this path would take me, but I started to look for a way to make it work, as what I really wanted to do was bring out my own collection,” she says.
As well as designing her own styles over the past 10 years, Di Sí has recently created eyewear for Argentine women’s wear brands Vitamina and Las Oreiro, the latter owned by Uruguayan actress Natalia Oreiro and her sister. Explaining the creation process, she says: “I think about a person when I design glasses, their profile. I get a sense of order in my own mind as to whether the wearer is male or female, and that’s when I start to draw, on A4 paper. Then I hand-make cardboard dummy frames to try on, which is important in case I need to change any proportions. After the blueprint is corrected, it’s sent to the factory and they mould the frames, which are made of cellulose.
“Each style is designed both as spectacles and as sunglasses and I make around six or eight new models a year, and of those around 300 are produced.” All her frames are made in Argentina, she adds proudly.
The flagship Palermo Soho store, a converted garage sporting its original brick walls, displays original drawings which have led to the creation of her distinctive frames which nestle among vintage styles. A sunglasses and spectacles collector herself, Di Sí also sells vintage RayBans and Chanel in store, eyewear her grandfather never sold.
The short-sighted four-year-old Carla probably never have had the vision that 2012 would see her celebrate ten years since she opened her first eponymous optician, but she very much has her eye on the ball now. Having expanded into the all-important Brazilian market with a store in San Pablo, as well as into Uruguay and Chile, Di Sí has currently set her sights on Colombia. As she says, four eyes are better than two.
Carla Di Sí
Gurruchaga 1667, Palermo Soho
+54 (011) 4832 1655
First published in SHOP Buenos Aires AW 2012