A seasoned fashion industry insider, Parisienne Ahlem Manai-Platt launched her own collection of eyewear in 2014 from her adopted home of Los Angeles. With an emphasis on quality, her handcrafted, timeless designs have become an instant success, dressing the likes of Kendall Jenner, Reese Witherspoon and Beyonce. As she takes on Scandinavia via her exclusive stocking at Poul Stig Briller in Copenhagen, we sit down with Manai-Platt to discuss cities, losing your sunnies, and never taking yourself too seriously.
What brought you to the world of eyewear?
Before launching AHLEM, I worked almost ten years in the fashion industry. I was first a buyer for Acne and Miu Miu in France. Then I started up my own consulting firm, offering up-and-coming French designers with marketing and branding support. I was also serving in an advisory role to the Fédération Française du Prêt à Porter.
After that it was just a question of timing. It just felt like the natural time to make a brand on my own and my love of eyewear took over. One day I was sitting in a Paris cafe with friends. We were taking about goals and I showed them a pair of glasses i drew. The excitement they showed was he first small step. Then, I lost a pair of my beloved vintage sunnites and that was really the final push.
You’ve entered a field rich with histories of craftsmanship, innovation, and design. What does good eyewear mean to you?
Good eyewear for me is exactly that! That relationship between function and beauty is what drives me. A beautiful piece of eyewear defines the person wearing them. But I also believe they are objects of beauty that can stand on their own. So it’s important to get all the details right: amazing hinges, great size temple, incredible lenses, comfortable nose pads… All these little things are so important!
You design in Venice, produce in Paris, but live in LA. How does it feel to operate in such different environments, both aesthetically and commercially?
California and its esthetic is very present in what I do. Venice is were I live, so it’s the stage of my everyday life. There’s this laid back feel to it and think this is reflected in the AHLEM brand. There is definitely an ease to the aesthetic that I want to create. Then there is my Parisian side, where I want to design pieces that are timeless. For me it’s important to create pieces that will look good with any outfits and in any circumstances. That’s where Venice, CA and Paris meet I think. On a commercial level, I think being based in America allowed me to make my project happen. There’s something about America, still today, that gives you the opportunity to take an idea and make it a reality. We think on a big scale and work on a human level.
What universe do you try to mediate in your design and campaigns? It feels like a highly personal approach.
The approach is very personal! I am present in everything that we do. For example, I always loved shooting photos for as a creative outlet for myself and now I am applying this to shooting my own campaign. I also design the interiors of our studio and stores.
Biggest lesson since starting in 2014?
I think I’ve learn to not take myself too seriously. As passionate and driven as we want to be, it’s key to realize that we are not saving people’s lives or ending hunger in the world. We are lucky to work on great creative and inspiring projects and we should be mindful of that.
What are your goals for the future of AHLEM?
We are working to grow the number of our retailers and be in more and more key stores. We are also building a strong retail base. Our first store on Abbot Kinney is located in the perfect location for us. This street of Venice embodied everything that we are as a brand. Having stores all over the world is something that we are definitely working towards. California and America in general is where we start but we are looking very closely at Scandinavia. We want to be a reference for amazing quality and subtle, timeless style. We want to let everyone know that AHLEM is the brand you go to if you’re looking for a classic pair of glasses that will last you a lifetime.
For more information, see AHLEM