When we observe Scandinavia, its cleanliness, minimalism and understatement, are never far from sight. Standing out seems to be a definite ‘’no-go’’ and true eccentrics are indeed quite rare. How different things are at a fresh Norwegian design studio, setting out to shake things up. Cue KAIBOSH, with Helge Flo at the helm. These understated eyewear outfitters have made it their mission to propose glasses as part of our daily wardrobes, encouraging expressive sartorial silhouettes. The concept is clean and simple: eyewear that is accessible, well-made and unobtrusive, ready to pick and mix. Add to this, Helge’s passion for his craft, of which we spoke extensively during a recent visit to his Bergen atelier. It takes consideration and time, but altering the way the world sees specs and sunnies, is definitely worthwhile. Our expressions are dominated by donning them, so why not seek out some discerning advice.  Welcome to the KAIBOSH-way…


Helge, let’s begin with the foundation. Could you tell me what eventually led you towards becoming an eyewear designer?

In retrospect, I like to think of my upbringing as rich in practical substance. Everything had to be made so it would last forever, everything had a reason and if you understood the reason you could take the right decisions. As a young professional, I did not think of myself as a designer, I was more driven by the necessity of things. At this time we were distributing other designs, but I thought that if we adjusted or re-designed the collections they would better fit with the Scandinavian market and they would be a lot easier to sell. I did all this without thinking of it as design as such but more as a practical twist that I just had to do. When I first met Michelle (ed. Helge’s partner in crime); she pointed out that I could easily go all the way and design the collections from scratch myself. That marked my true start as an eyewear designer.

When we met in the Bergen studio recently, you told me so much about this rich history of designing optical frames you have. For those of us not in the know, could you describe your creative process?

Our creative process is about merging function with both the familiar and unexpected. We always start by gathering feedback from the market. We listen to sales and marketing, we work in the shops to gather customer insight and we mingle with the target customers in their environment. The second step is to analyze all this information to find uncovered gaps. These can be both technical and aesthetic. I guess that, in fact, we have several different creative processes depending on our goal.  When we design products we can try several approaches and do not necessarily follow the same design procedure from collection to collection. Our creative team can for instance deliberately use time and distraction as components in the design process. Here we try to look at questions such as: What happens if we let a total outsider influence on the process and what happens if we do not have an overly rigid direction? Sometimes if we allow technically impossible designs to develop they lead us into something that actually can be realized.

KAIBOSH is a quintessentially Scandinavian brand. In how far do you let this Nordic-feel shine through in the collections?

Well, I believe that this Nordic feel is most visible when it comes to our colour palette. We feel most comfortable with muted tones and natural colours. KAIBOSH overall has a very practical and honest feeling, there is not room for too much clutter.  When it comes to inspiration we very often find ourselves in the crossing point of being Scandinavian and at the same time being part of the rest of the world with its abundance of trends and influences. I guess that we cannot escape such Scandinavia aesthetics, as this is where we are based. Our lives have been shaped by the Nordic nature and how for instance the ice has carved the mountains and fjords. Next to this our political system and stability are also important ingredients that make for a Scandinavian feel.

And are there other references that are important to you, let´s say in film, music or art?

When it comes to music,  I am influenced by local musicians that I get to know.  However,  to me it always is more the musician themselves that have a direct influence. Their personas, feel and mood. The music itself is more a medium to allow my thoughts to drift, wander and to put me in the right mood while designing. When it comes to art, my trick is to let it bring me to new places – like a vehicle to create my own universe. This is how I gain inspiration, through sincere reflection.

In many ways picking a pair of shades or glasses, is a most personal choice, as it alters one´s appearance completely. How do you look at matching designs with personalities? Is there a ‘‘formula’’ here?

Absolutely! Glasses sit in the middle of your face and are what we see even before we see your eyes. They are, as you say, highly personal and can shape your perception of others and even how you feel about yourself.  This is the reason why KAIBOSH is not there to tell you what to wear, but rather what each frame can do for you.  It is about guiding, but never telling. Each individual has to tell us if they want to be center stage and shine or prefer the comfort of the crowd. The funny thing is that they often choose both! This choice can be rather new, so we try to guide them sensibly. Perhaps, sunglasses are more suitable for the limelight, whereas optical glasses portray more credibility and wisdom. I guess that our ‘‘formula’’ is to listen and observe carefully, whilst using our in depth knowledge about our designs and the signals they give off to others.


When we look into heritage and craftsmanship, I am also interested in hearing how you work with materials and construction. What is the technical process behind crafting each pair?

From the first ever collection we made, we have always been working on combining the new with the already familiar. Most of our collection is currently made from sheet acetate. This is an old material but so rich and impactful that we stick with it. The raw material is a big sheet that we cut into small sheets in the size of each frame. The starting point is this flat sheet and depending on the chosen production technique we either bend it into shape before or after cutting.

When we develop new prototypes, we use a manual process all the way, totally hand-made, working mainly with hand-held tools. This requires extremely skilled craftsmen, as they bring our initial drawings to life. They cut and mill, laminate and polish until the product jumps at you and you just want to put them on your nose. They are real magicians who have my utmost respect. The connection we have with our artisans, I carefully developed an nurtured for over a decade. Their knowledge and our experience, are a perfect match, for which we are most thankful.

With a design studio in Bergen, Norway and physical stores in Bergen, Oslo and Copenhagen, KAIBOSH seems keen on developing a true rounded brand-feel. Personally, I like this fresh approach to retail. What to you makes for the identity of KAIBOSH?

When it comes to retail, it is so important to build your universe around your customer. I think that the combination of interesting and inspirational product design, the quality we stand for and its clear pricing, are an important foundation. Add onto this the visuals we work with and the feeling of creativity we wish to give each individual that visits our stores, and you can feel that true KAIBOSH identity. We are thankful to have so many wonderful customers that willingly share their experiences, which allows us to come up with suggestions that can match their needs or on the other hand can challenge their perception on what a pair of glasses can do for them. The feel and interior of the stores, also reflects our love from merging the new with the old, keeping historical frames and references in tact, whilst crafting a clean modular space. The environment is meant to be inviting, triggering your senses and allowing you to browse and connect to our designs.

Fashion has expanded so much over the past couple of decades. The offering has become massive, whereas reflection and restraint are often overlooked. If we look at the current eyewear market: what do you wish to contribute?

At first, when it comes to fashion, I think it is important to differentiate between optical frames and sunglasses. Sunglasses are much closer linked to fashion and remain more exposed on the catwalks and in campaigns. Optical frames, up to now, in a way have remained a little detached from fashion for most people. There is a lot of wonderful design on the market and there are certainly a lot of really clever and desirable brands around. Nonetheless, I think that most people have regard glasses as an item that simply enhances your sight, not as an accessory. Each pair of specs normally has a life span of about three years,  which is not compatible with fashion as we see it nowadays. For too long, people have seen glasses as a generic product that is not meant be expressive, but should fit practically in their daily lives. If we look at the consumers of today, they are so much more complex, informed, open and diverse. That is why it is so important for us to offer a well designed product that allows people, to play around with a wide variety of colours and styles. It is about challenging people and literally opening their eyes to new expressions!

As our magazine is rooted on the power of Youth. What does Youth mean to you?

Youth is the period of innocence, naivety and experimentation. The period where you ask more questions then you give answers. It is a time where you lack respect for the established and you mix and match the ingredients of life. It can be those years, before you get corrupted and cynical, a free for all, where you discover and decide who you are or who you want to be. I believe that we can keep parts of youth in us, during our lives. All it takes is for us, is to be aware of our inner youngster. Naturally one should remain alert, and never wane into conformity and the self-implied rules of society. Remain free!