Giovanni Ribisi | Interview

A New Role for Ribisi

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

By Laura Neilson
Photos by Tim Cadiente
Stylist : Melissa Crook
Art Director: Juan Mendez

Giovanni Ribisi isn’t just another celebrity playing the role of a stand-in designer. 

As the collaborator behind two newly debuted styles for eyewear label Barton Perreira, the aptly-named “Giovanni” and the “Ribisi,” the actor’s bona fides are a stellar combination of killer personal style and a formal training in the world of 3D animation. Granted, the latter was intended to land him in Hollywood’s expanding world of blue screens, but like any serious actor, Ribisi isn’t one for being typecast.   

You collaborated with Barton Perreira on two of their sunglass styles. How did these two particular designs reflect your own aesthetic?

The “Ribisis” are modeled after a frame from the 1930s. It reminded me of a motorcyclist and maybe somebody who is into physics or science. I’ve always been a fan what felt like a more innocent time, and a time where there were values in quality craftsmanship. That first pair was designed more or less in a selfish way—it was really more of a solipsistic thing for me where it was like, “What would I wear?”

That seems like a natural inclination, though. 

Granted, they were the first glasses I’ve ever designed.  I had a model of my face, actually, so I truly was designing for that—not because it was my face, but because it was the only human model or scan that I had for geometry. The second style, the “Giovanni,” is another variety that I would want to wear, as well as something that I thought would work in a more universal way.

You mentioned having a vintage-inspired aesthetic—what is it about the past that appeals to you? 

In my mind, I associate it with a certain value system that we, as an American culture, lack today. There was necessity. We had an identity, we took pride in its expression through work and craftsmanship, and perhaps this gave way to an “industrious” aesthetic.

You’re no stranger to 3D renderings, we hear.

I went to school for that stuff, actually, a while back. I went to Gnomon, in Hollywood. A lot of people I went to school with—years later—were visual effects artists working on Avatar.

How did you get interested in that world?

It’s kind of a hobby of mine. I did a movie a long time ago, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, where the whole film was done on blue screen. It definitely inspired me to try to investigate to see what the CGI world was like.

What programs and tools did you end up using for this project?

Maya, which is an Autodesk and an AutoCAD program, and another called ZBrush by Pixelogic. Those are mainly used for Shrek or for film, but a lot of people use them in the design industry, as well.

What kind of challenges did you encounter?

You’re designing something that’s meant to be worn on one of the most personal aspects of an individual—their face—and one of the more sensitive aspects, too. Having said that, I realized at a certain point that’s one of the reasons why I focused the task more on myself. I could just go, “Well, this is my fantasy for what I want in sunglasses.”

You mean, the character you want to play?

Yeah! Exactly! And there’s nothing that speaks to that more than sunglasses.

Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet, would you do more collaborations in the design world?

Absolutely. Yes, I am very interested in collaborating and creating. For me, while the word “design” implies an aesthetic perspective, it more importantly necessitates function, and the balance between these two dynamics is what interests me. I'm by no means an expert—or even educated for that matter—in any one particular field of design, but that learning curve is also something I enjoy. 

Giovanni Ribisi on Twitter

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