Frame Executive Helmuth G. Igel Dies at 77


Helmuth G. Igel.

DELMAR, Calif.—Helmuth G. Igel, who founded and managed the U.S. distributor of German eyewear manufacturer Neostyle for 37 years, died here on Nov. 23. He was 77 and had been battling a brain tumor. Trained as an optician in Germany, Igel moved to New York in the early 1960s, along with his wife, Helga and two year-old son, Helmut. He searched for an optician job in Manhattan, knowing only how to say “I am a German optician and I would like a job,” according to Helmut Igel. “Optical owners knew that German opticians were well trained, and he landed a job with Meyrowitz Optical where many great optical business people worked over the years,” Helmut Igel explained. “At Meyrowitz, he worked alongside legendary opticians such as Ono Popinger, grinding lenses and slowly learning English from his associates and from TV shows such as the Honeymooners and Mickey Mouse show.”

After relocating to San Diego in 1965, Igel worked for San Diego Optical and Grossmont Optical, both high end optical shops. His goal was to have his own business, and after researching the market found the Neostyle brand, founded by Walter Nufer. Igel established U.S. distribution for Neostyle in 1971, and the brand quickly became known for high end, high fashion and solid gold eyewear.

In 1972, Neostyle introduced the Polaris, Boutique 380 “the box,” which was worn by Alan Ludden on the TV game show Password, and the Nautic, which was made famous by Elvis wearing it with his famous logo “TCB” (Taking Care of Business) on the temple. Sammy Davis, Jr., Lee Majors, Elizabeth Taylor and other celebrities wore the Nautic frame which was available in solid gold and was part of the largest solid gold collection in the world.

Neostyle grew to achieve a national presence and helped pave the way for unique luxury eyewear products. Many sales representatives had their start working for Igel.

After retiring in 2006, Igel spent the last 12 years traveling the world with Helga. He is survived by Helga, his wife of 57 years, his son Helmut, daughter Nancy and seven grandchildren.