Self-taught eyewear designer debuts collection inspired by his own eyesight problems

Noko Malatjie, founder of Orme Atelier. Picture: Supplied.

Noko Malatjie, founder of Orme Atelier. Picture: Supplied.

Published Nov 23, 2023


While there aren’t many eyewear designers in South Africa, Noko Malatjie - founder of Orme Atelier - is looking to bridge the gap.

Orme Atelier is a proudly South African eyewear brand which specialises in sunglasses and prescribed eyewear.

Launched in 2019, the brand was born from a vision to showcase a South African luxury brand in the global eyewear industry, a sector where independent African brands were under-represented.

“Orme Atelier redefines luxury eyewear, intertwining exceptional design with a heartfelt mission,” said Malatjie.

He added that each creation is far more than just an accessory.

“It's a captivating story, an artistic journey that resonates with the soul of our brand. Our commitment goes beyond aesthetics."

Some of the Orme Atelier sunglasses. Supplied image.

Raised in both Durban and Johannesburg, Malatjie's decision to start an eyewear brand was inspired by his own struggle with weak eyesight.

“My inspiration comes from my personal struggle with eyesight issues and the lack of access to quality eyewear that resonated with my passion for design.”

“I wanted to create something that not only addresses a functional need, but also celebrates our culture."

And what sets Malatjie’s eyewear apart is that his craft is self-taught.

“My journey in eyewear design is a self-taught skill, driven by passion and curiosity with no formal education in design; I hold a B.Com Accounting Degree,” he said.

“This combination has allowed me to develop a unique approach to design that is both innovative and deeply rooted in traditional craftsmanship and entrepreneurship.”

Apart from his eyesight problem, the designer was driven to create the the brand because he believes eyewear is a fashion statement.

"Sunglasses are not just functional, they are a fashion statement, a form of self-expression. I chose sunglasses because they offer a unique canvas to blend utility with art, allowing wearers to showcase their style while enjoying the sun."

Inside the Orme Atelier pop-up store. Picture: Supplied.

On November 16, Orme Atelier launched its first collection titled “Akuyona eyokuqala, futhi akuyona yokugcina”.

Derived from IsiZulu, the meticulously crafted eyewear collection's name translates to “Not the first, nor the last,” reflecting the brand's timeless, classic designs.

The collection includes both statement sunglasses and prescription eyewear. Each frame embodies sophistication and artistic boldness.

The brand’s expertise lies in creating fully customised frames tailored to enhance the wearer's comfort, features and unique flair.

“Each piece in this collection symbolises our endless pursuit of innovation in eyewear design,” said Malatjie.

“There are no boundaries to achieving excellence. We celebrate timeless, sophisticated aesthetics along with craftsmanship. But our journey never ends. We will continue pushing limits with each new piece.”

To give back to the community, Malatjie has partnered with a non-profit organisation, "Isiboniso Foundation", to provide free vision testing to under-served schools and communities, using proceeds from the debut collection.

"This initiative is the cornerstone of our ethos, reflecting our dedication to social responsibility and the belief that vision is a right, not a privilege. Our pieces are not just eyewear; they are symbols of hope, change, and the power of community,” says Malatji.

Orme Atelier has a month-long pop-up retail experience at 44 Stanley Village in Johannesburg.

Other famous South African sunglasses brand include Era By DJ Zinhle Jiyane. Jiyane launched the brand in 2012 with a range of watched. In 2020, it expanded to sunglasses, handbags and jewellery.