“It’s inspired more by the America’s Cup,” says Drift’s founder/designer Chris Mantz. “For the first time in history, the race will take place this summer in San Francisco. I wanted to express my appreciation for the race and do something to highlight its history.”
Noting how yachting’s greatest competition has changed since it began in 1851, Mantz adds that he wanted to hew to “the simplicity of old racing yachts” in his design for the 12 Meter piece.
“It has to do with the ‘ratio of three’ in the guidelines for the boat designers,” he explains. “The height of the mast, length of the keel and width of the boat all had to fit within the parameters of equating to 12 meters.”
Mantz also wanted specific colors of famous boats in the 12 Meter frames, and came up with “mint green, navy blue and a ‘sea glass’ crystal matte.”
Drift specializes in handmade frames made of sustainable wood and laminated steel core, and found teak for the 12 Meter models in scrapped sailing boat decks.
“Teak is an endangered wood,” says Mantz. “You’re never able to find it in a way that’s responsible—which is a big part of what we sell. Ours is a beautiful color with a line pattern—a little thank-you for [the wood’s] years of service.”
Meanwhile, Drift is readying new shapes for its Delta Blues line.
“They seem to be something people can relate to,” says Mantz, noting that one of the heavily blues-influenced Rolling Stones rightly sports a pair.
He then recounts the goal of the distinctive Delta Blues line, the temples for which are made out of “sinkercypress”—dense cypress trees that had been harvested over a century ago in Mississippi Delta logging camps and floated up the river, but due to their density, had sunk to the bottom. Reclaimed today, the wood is now gorgeously textured and patterned by the waters and minerals and mud that seeped into it over the decades.
Much of the historic blues genre, of course, originated in the Delta, and is hence known as Delta blues.
“The music evolved as it went up the river and the logging camps to Memphis and then Chicago—where we are, so it’s important to us,” says Mantz. “But a lot of the bluesmen didn’t get royalties. Many are still working, without medical insurance or the ability to pay their gas bill. So we also wanted to find a way for people who don’t know that the bands they like wouldn’t exist without these guys, and that many of them are still around.”
The company continues to donate a portion of its Delta Blues earnings to the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a North Carolina-based charity whose goal is to help “the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of Southern music gain recognition and meet their day-to-day needs.”
“It even helps support their widows,” says Mantz.
Incidentally, Drift Eyewear also stands out for doing its own manufacturing, in Chicago.
“The thinking behind the wood is the same with the rest of our product,” says Mantz. “We use M49 plastic [an organic cellulose acetate] for the frames, which is recyclable and biodegradable.”
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