Silhouette’s CMO Michael Schmied and Titan Minimal Art Designer Gerhard Fuchs in conversation. Silhouette’s CMO Michael Schmied and Titan Minimal Art Designer Gerhard Fuchs in conversation.
Reflections Two visionaries in conversation.

A conversation with Michael Schmied, CMO and member of Silhouette's founding family, and Titan Minimal Art designer Gerhard Fuchs.

“From a creative perspective, maintaining interest in something you already have is a bigger challenge than inventing something new.”

Michael Schmied, CMO at Silhouette

“We are sitting in what was once my grandfather’s office. Here at this location in Linz, Silhouette was founded sixty years ago — a genuine startup. It’s a very special place, both for us as a family and for the company.”
Michael Schmied, CMO at Silhouette

What brought both of you to the company?

Michael Schmied: When you grow up in a business family you always have strong emotional connections to the company. Nevertheless, in today’s modern world everyone needs to take their own path, following their individual passion and talents. Therefore, my family and I always saw it as a “can” never as a “must” option to tread this path. Following this logic it was a very conscious decision and open up to this point in time, when I joined the company as a Product Manager in 2017. Ever since, it has been a fascinating and fulfilling professional challenge as well as a special personal journey that I chose to pursue, to shape the future of your family business together with my colleagues.

Gerhard Fuchs: I began my career at Silhouette as a trained toolmaker in 1981. After Arnold Schmied Sr. got hold of some sketches of glasses I had made on a piece of sandpaper, he gave me the opportunity to train at a goldsmith’s school for jewelry and design. I then joined the design department in the late 1980s. I think that’s something that happens relatively rarely—becoming a designer by taking this sort of “detour”—and in our case it was rewarding for both sides.

How do you learn to develop an idea that doesn’t exist yet?

Gerhard Fuchs: In some ways, design is the most natural thing in the world. Everything in nature and the universe is constantly evolving. We as humans have this urge to push forward with developments. Every idea has potential for the future, but the challenge is making it a reality.

What does the development process of Silhouette eyewear look like, from the initial vision through to the product?

Gerhard Fuchs: Good ideas can happen in the blink of an eye. I often have great ideas at four in the morning, and I can then start planning ongoing steps with the research department the next day. The fantastic thing about our company is that we have brought together all the resources we need to make these ideas marketable right here in one place.

What vision does every Silhouette design strive to fulfill?

Michael Schmied: Our design vision has a long-term focus and is inseparable from the company’s founding mission: to create the most beautiful eyewear while meeting the highest standards for quality and comfort. We are continually adapting this vision to current trends and gearing it towards the future so we can take materials, technology, environmental impacts, communication, and customer needs into account.

“In some ways, design is the most natural thing in the world. Nature, the universe, the Earth—they all got here because of constant new developments.”
Gerhard Fuchs, Titan Minimal Art designer

How did the idea for the Titan Minimal Art design come about?

Gerhard Fuchs: We had a very close collaboration with trend expert Gerd Gerken in the early 1990s. I was tasked with looking at “minimalism and reduction”, so I asked myself how we could design the simplest, most pared-down eyewear possible. The first model, Minimal Art, was made from a single piece of wire and a pair of lenses. While it had yet to be perfected in technical terms, it laid the foundation for Titan Minimal Art.

What aspects of Titan Minimal Art have changed over the past 25 years, and what has stayed the same?

Gerhard Fuchs: The basic technical idea hasn’t changed—the rimless design, low weight, flex zone, and screwless attachment are just the same.

Michael Schmied: On the other hand, the materials and production processes in design have continued to evolve. The lens has also been manufactured on-site in our own Lens Lab since 2017. The eyewear is “100% Silhouette,” which means that every component, frames and lenses, and the entire manufacturing process of Silhouette eyewear takes place directly at our site in Linz.

Was Titan Minimal Art a success right from the start?

Gerhard Fuchs: It was too much for the market at first, and there was skepticism on the part of the sales team. But we still sold over one million pairs of glasses in the first year.

Michael Schmied: We made the switch from short-term, trend-based collections to a long-term product in the 1990s, which required a change from the inside-out and a willingness to pursue new approaches. Titan Minimal Art demonstrated that Silhouette was capable of doing this. From a creative perspective, maintaining interest in something you already have is a bigger challenge than inventing something new.

How did Titan Minimal Art end up traveling into space?

Gerhard Fuchs: That was a coincidence. An optician at a major space agency figured out that it was the best eyewear for space because it doesn’t have any screws and has a better fit even under an astronaut’s helmet.

Michael Schmied: Titan Minimal Art glasses have been on several missions and have spent countless hours in space. And we didn’t have to change a thing. They can even withstand rocket launches and zero-gravity spacewalks, which also gives consumers on our planet the lightness they need to navigate daily life with ease.

“I think every vision has potential for the future. The difficult part is actually making it a reality.”

Gerhard Fuchs, Titan Minimal Art designer

Where does Silhouette stand in terms of sustainable production?

Gerhard Fuchs: When I talk about “lightness” as a design principle, sustainability is already a substantial part of this. The less material we use, the more sustainable our work becomes.

Michael Schmied: It was an important aspect for us from the very start. Our plant in the Scharlinz water conservation area is proud to work in line with all the established criteria. We have more than halved the carbon emissions produced in the manufacturing of our eyewear over the past few years and compensated for the remainder. Our goal is to be carbon neutral without external compensation by 2027.

How do generational changes and age differences in the company affect the creative process?

Gerhard Fuchs: All three generations of the company have had forward-looking visions, and every era has left something behind for the one to come.

Michael Schmied: Design is a creative way of perceiving the world. It’s important to have different perspectives from different age groups so they can inspire each other. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that our designs function independently of generations.

How would you define success?

Gerhard Fuchs: Success and failure are closely intertwined. The key things are timing, seamless technology, and the right people who use and support the design at the right time.

Michael Schmied: Adding to this, you need the entrepreneurial belief that your vision is feasible, and you need to be willing to take some calculated risks. With this combination, you might ultimately revolutionize the world in some small way.

What boundaries has Silhouette broken through to date, and which ones do you aim to break in the future?

Michael Schmied: The Silhouette brand was founded with a pioneering spirit, great attention to detail, ambition to create the most beautiful designs, and a commitment to premium quality. Over time, we have delighted our customers internationally in over 100 countries with countless innovations in both technical and design areas. With our products, we have literally overcome gravity. The world of tomorrow belongs to the bold, so we constantly strive to improve, try new things, innovate to proactively shape the future, and redefine the limits of what is possible.

“Titan Minimal Art glasses have been on several missions and have spent countless hours in space. We didn’t have to change a single element of the original design for these missions.”
Michael Schmied, CMO at Silhouette