One thing quickly becomes clear: Dieter Funk is not an onlooker, but a man of action. He is a creative visionary and, together with his crew, a passionate spectacle maker. At the time, his strict instructor literally forces him to precisely apply what he has learned. He makes his first pair of glasses by hand and discovers his passion at that moment.
We sit together in the kitchen of the old farmhouse and drink cold Dachsbräu from the bottle. Dieter tells us about his beginnings in the optics industry and his dream of owning his own factory. "However, many more years passed with countless 'branches' in my professional development before I could realise this dream."
The move from Munich out to the countryside in 2002 acts as a game changer. Suddenly there is enough space, the foundation for FUNK as we know the company today is created.
"When the first machines for making glasses finally arrived and I sat alone in my very first glasses factory, it was like Christmas, birthday, Easter, Christmas, birthday and Christmas again all rolled into one."
Today, Dieter Funk produces his collection by hand in his own eyewear factory in Kinsau, Bavaria. In the process, the designer preserves old colouring techniques, for example, and uses vintage acetate or his latest innovation: recycled acetate. Quality and transparency always remain uncompromising.
"In retrospect? Please do everything exactly the same again."
Dieter does not see the long years as a DJ as a diversion. Rather, he compares them to looking around the corner on his actual course as a designer, optician and spectacle maker. "The urban impressions, the many encounters, the revival of trends within the international club scene; all this represents an incredibly important part of my development and my design work." In the summer of 1992, he founded his company and took the step towards self-employment.
Looking back, Dieter says, he would do everything exactly the same way again. "Because all the experiences of the past, the good as well as the bad, have led to the now. And the now, it's pretty good the way it is."
When asked what inspires him in the creative process, Dieter turns up the volume on the music that has been playing discreetly in the background. It continues to play a tone-setting role in his life and triggers thought processes. But the greatest source of inspiration, he says, are the conversations with his wife Sashee Schuster. The evenings in the kitchen of the old farmhouse bring new ideas to light. Due to the existing possibilities of quick implementation, products, spaces and concepts are realised behind which the Funks stand 100%.
"We call this process of creation a creative-mental ping pong game. It's not unusual for us to have friends over here in Kinsau and if this kitchen table could talk, it would tell stories no one would believe!"
Earlier, in the hallway, we noticed a pinboard. There are photos of Cappadonna from the Wu-Tang Clan, Rae Garvey, Gizz Butt, Moop Mama and IAMX. Now we are sitting here and while Dieter is talking, we almost feel as if we had been there ourselves on those evenings.
"Depending on my mood, I wear a different favourite pair of glasses almost every day."
Dieter himself is severely short-sighted. Glasses have always been a part of him. Over the years, he has collected a whole range of favourite models and can hardly count how many pairs of glasses he has worn. He currently chooses from around 16 pairs of glasses and sunglasses in his prescription, wears a different pair almost every day.
The designer's designs are strong in form and expression. "I don't address a specific target group, but simply everyone who feels a desire for individuality and an honest product made in Germany. The glasses sit right in the middle of the face, so they should definitely fit the character, become part of the overall appearance. In short, they should support your own charisma." In his design work, Dieter Funk pays special attention to anatomy, a sense of form and harmony in interaction with the face. Although some designs or even finished glasses are described as "extreme" at first glance, these in particular merge with the matching type, becoming almost one with the person.
We are interested in how Dieter comes up with the names of his collections and eyewear. Numbers are too impersonal for him, he tells us. And as it is in life, the naming of his work is also subject to development. In 1992, he named his first collection FUNKsunglasses. A little later, his label was called FUNKeyewear, and his next collection FUNKroyal. FUNKeyewear has remained the umbrella brand to this day, but his collection is now simply named after himself: DIETER FUNK. "It takes a certain process of creation to come up with that," Dieter says with a twinkle in his eye. An honest examination of the self according to the principle of "less is more", one might rather say.
"The names that my glasses still bear lie in the origin of the FUNKroyal collection. Whether rulers, princes, kings, generals, pharaohs or beings of mythology - an almost infinite field opens up here. In addition, there is a story behind each name, which makes it much more interesting. Be curious to see what else is to come."
"Look carefully and ask questions!"
The events of the last few months have not left FUNK unscathed. What has been on Dieter's banner for a long time now seems to be more topical than ever. "Focus on the independent, on the individual, on the story behind the product! Who makes it, where does it come from and how is it produced?" Dieter Funk believes everyone can make the world a little better by questioning their consumer behaviour and looking closely. "Big corporations don't need to become even bigger and more powerful. Please support small companies that put their heart and soul into their philosophy and products!"
It's getting late, and before we say goodbye, we ask Dieter for a forecast for the optics industry. "That depends entirely on the people. They determine the future of eyewear history, and we are more or less powerless. With a bit of luck, we can inspire and influence the future in this way. Personally, I am very positive about this future. Because an initial trend is becoming a movement: support your local, think before your buy, support individuality.
A beautiful conclusion, we can only agree with him. Thank you Dieter, for the insights and the enlightening conversation at the kitchen table in Kinsau. We will be back! Eva and Magdalena (Spectacle mad)
We interviewed Dieter in 2020.