No More Boring Boards

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“If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.” Henry Ford

Could your system for filling your frame boards benefit from a fresh, data-driven approach? Are you missing opportunities to make your inventory turn more quickly? More profitably? Could a more strategic frame selection process streamline the purchase decision for you and your clients?

Category managers in large retail chains have been perfecting disciplined approaches to selecting and merchandising their product assortments for decades. Some of their techniques might help you boost your board performance, while reducing your investment in time and inventory.

Consider these three proven techniques of retail category managers:

  1. “Storyboard” to create excitement. Borrow this technique from graphic novelists and advertisers. Think of each frame board as a page in a graphic novel or a scene from a movie where the plot unfolds as you move from one board to the next. Each brand you carry and every frame position on your board should play a well-defined role in the story your offering communicates to customers. Typical characters in the drama you are creating might include:
    • Traffic Drivers: high mind share (consumers recall these brands quickly and without prompting), frequently purchased, high percentage of sales; example: Ray-Ban.
    • Transaction Builders: higher price point, they build loyal, repeat customers; examples: Orgreen, Maui Jim.
    • Profit Generators: higher gross margin, strong inventory turns; examples: Tom Ford, Gucci.
    • Cash Generators: higher inventory turns, frequently purchased; example:  Kate Spade.
    • Exc­itement Creators: impulse, lifestyle-oriented, seasonal, new product or segment; examples:  NO LOGO, Etnia Barcelona, Tekka.
    • Image En­­hancers: highly promoted, impulse, unique items, seasonal; example: Dior, Chloe.
    • Turf Defenders: used to draw in traditional customer base; examples: Prada, Lafont.

Decide how much space on your frame boards you want to dedicate to each of these categories. ­­Remember the 80:20 rule: 80 per cent of your sales will tend to come from 20 per cent of your frame selection. Reflect this reality by stocking 80 per cent of your frames from the Traffic Drivers. Successful category managers resist the temptation to expand the supporting roles.

Merchandise precisely, according to the experience you want to create. Build instant credibility and comfort by greeting customers with Turf Defenders near the entrance. Create moments of delight by allocating Excitement Creators horizontally as your customers walk through the store. Place Image Creators strategically at eye level and sprinkle Profit Generators into the mix. Draw customers through the store by making Traffic Drivers visible towards the back. Transaction Builders deserve special attention, with freestanding displays and targeted, point-of-purchase messaging.

  1. Analyze data to quantify your space management. “Planogram” software can be used to map out your space at little or no cost. A planogram is a useful tool to analyze and maximize the direct profitability of each space on your frame board. It supports data-driven conversations with your vendor sales representatives. Brands are given precisely the same share of space as their share of sales. New entrants without proven sales records need to earn their space, perhaps with promotional allowances or extended payment terms, before displacing current offerings.

Extract frame sales information from your point-of-sale information. Geocode it by postal code and use tools like Environics Analytics Prizm5 (http://www.environicsanalytics.ca/prizm5) to identify the incomes and psychographics of your most profitable customer demographic. Use this mapping data to zero in on your target market sweet spot for future frame selection and digital promotions.

  1. Be ruthless, no matter how much you like your sales representative, and no matter how much you personally like a new frame design! The best category managers do not make exceptions. For every new frame added, be sure you know the position and role it will play and which frame it is replacing.

Frame boards will be anything but boring if you infuse them with deliberately chosen characters that tell your story in a consistent and impactful way. Your unique audience will be thrilled and your results will earn rave reviews.

By Margaret Osborne

Luxury Eyewear: It’s More than Bling

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“Luxury is what you don’t see.” – Coco Chanel

There’s more to luxury eyewear than jewels, precious metals and big price tags. Luxury is as much a state of mind as anything tangible.

“Luxury is focused at an abstract level on people’s aspirations and dreams,” says Margaret Osborne, professor in the School of Marketing at Seneca College. “Consumers look to luxury brands to fulfill their social and belonging needs. They want to project an image of themselves to the outside world, reward themselves for their achievements and earn recognition from their peers.”

For this reason, the retailer’s pitch must focus on the item’s intangible benefits, says Osborne. “It’s important to meet the consumer’s self-image with the concept or personality of the brand.”

As customers identify their luxury brand preferences they are sending important signals about their values to sales personnel, she notes. “For example, the Dolce and Gabbana brand personality can be described as innovative, extravagant, stylish and trendsetting. A customer stating a preference for this brand is signalling that she aspires to this “look and feel” in her eyewear, even if her final choice is a different one.”

Another important factor is availability, says Osborne, adding that the most important aspect of a luxury image is exclusivity. “The more available a luxury brand is, the less desirable it becomes.”

Not that tangibles are unimportant. Price is certainly a consideration — some people continue to associate luxury with high cost — but Sue Randhawa, owner of The Optical Boutique in Vancouver puts greater emphasis on outstanding quality and craftsmanship when making buying decisions. “Things like high-end materials, and how and where the product is made become very important.”

When a product resonates with a client, they buy it, she says, “not just because of its looks but they fall in love with the story. That’s why product knowledge is so important in our industry. In some cases, there are years of family history to talk about.

She cites Oliver Goldsmith, whose story goes back to 1926. “We use this information to sell the product. Clients feel they’re buying a piece of history and this adds to their overall experience.”

That experience begins when a client walks into the store.

Your product and service offering must be carefully crafted to support the “white glove” treatment luxury consumers expect, says Osborne.

“From valet parking to personalized greetings to music to sales staff interaction, your supporting environment needs to be perfect. Aspirational point-of-sale material is critical. No courier boxes, plastic lab trays, unpolished mirrors… all supporting merchandising activities should take place out of sight.”

Collections must have presence, so you need to have many different colours and shapes on hand, says Randhawa. “That requires an investment. For example, I have 100 pieces each of Theo and Anne et Valentin.”

Staff training is critical so they can talk about how the frames are made, lens technology and style news, such as who is wearing what in Hollywood, she adds.

“Our approach is always the same – we ask a lot of “lifestyle” questions, discuss their current dissatisfactions and areas they want to address. This usually leads to a frank discussion about wants, needs and budgets.”

Ultimately, the goal is to create a unique experience that will keep customers coming back. “It’s not a transaction — you want to create a relationship with the client. After that, the bond is solid. The feeling I give them is so special that they remember it and they won’t want to go anywhere else.”

Here is a look at the latest luxury offerings from some of the world’s top eyewear companies.

ic! berlin

ic! berlin’s new silk collection marries technical innovation with avant-garde design, says Katie Murphy, director of marketing and communications. “Our eyewear is made for people who appreciate technology and a high-quality product that doesn’t forego fashion.”

The 10-piece, stainless steel collection features limited-edition, handcrafted sunglasses with innovative new colour treatments. ic! berlin’s revolutionary screwless hinge is just 3.5 mm across and uses a patented forked hook to secure the temple to the front. This discreet, elegant feature creates a streamlined transition from front to temple, reflecting the company’s design philosophy: naked and pure.

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mod: Bise

“Bise”, a cat’s eye style for women, features laqueur on the upper half in pink, red or black, with Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) on the bottom.

High-end materials are key to the exclusivity of ic! berlin frames, notes Murphy. Light, durable and flexible, all frames are designed, hand made and distributed from the company’s Berlin, Germany facilities.

Marcolin Eyewear

Classic and modern, discreet, clean and linear: these qualities define the new Tom Ford spring/summer eyewear collection from Marcolin.

The collection represents pure luxury, with handcrafted materials, including natural cotton Italian-made acetates. Combinations of metal and acetate give the vintage-inspired models a modern touch, while refined, innovative materials result in lighter, more comfortable styles.

The collection appeals to men over 30 and women 25+ who appreciate an artisanal approach to eyewear and understand the value of craftsmanship, along with high fashion and cutting-edge design, says Lada Silva, president of Marca Eyewear Group, Marcolin’s Canadian partner.

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Integrating the characteristics of the iconic Tom Ford ‘T’ into the temples and using a 75-step process by hand, help to distinguish the brand. Designer Tom Ford is also an important part of the design process, a commitment that appeals to customers who want a premium brand.

Match Eyewear

The Judith Leiber brand has redefined the accessory category through its cutting-edge fashion and timeless style. The eponymous eyewear collection from Match Eyewear consists of 26 optical styles and eight sun styles, handcrafted in the finest Mazzucchelli acetate, which provides superior-quality optical plastics.

From amethyst to sapphire crystals, each frame is a dazzling sculptural work of art. Adorned with Swarovski crystals made from the purest raw materials, the frames feature unique Italian acetate colorations, such as Bordeaux, Graphite, Orchid and Denim Blue.

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mod: JL 3030

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mod: JL 3028

The collection’s latest additions take a new design direction for Millennials, using metal embellishments. The JL 3030 is an acetate front sun style with mottled metal design elements on each side of the frame and temples. Keeping with the sleek metal theme, optical style JL 3028 features a multi-dimensional metal globe detail on the temples.

Perfect Optical

A harmonious blend of technology and art, design and inspiration, the Premium Collection from LineArt CHARMANT, available from Perfect Optical, is aimed at women aged 50+. “They’re not necessarily drawn to brands,” says Perfect Optical President Adrian Maas. “They’re interested in the article itself and appreciate the craftsmanship, materials and design that sets LineArt apart.”

LineArt uses a patented laser welding process called braising to create a laser weld at the juncture of two pieces of metal; this helps to ensure the frame’s strength. All frame temples are made of Excellence Titan, a titanium alloy that retains titanium’s strength and durability, yet is hypoallergenic and highly flexible with superb memory function.

Vivace, the latest design line in the LineArt CHARMANT collection, is a contemporary interpretation of elegant understatement, characterized by its sleek temple design: two fine, parallel lines produce a smooth, streamlined look.

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mod: XL2113

Vivace models project feminine flair and a touch of luxury and are very comfortable to wear. The colourful upper rim of XL2113 VIVACE forms the striking highlight of the full-rim frame, made of the finest titanium. All colour versions have gold-plated temples.

Prisme Optical

The French-made Charriol collection from Prisme Optical Group makes a bold statement about those who wear it, says Prisme President Richard Stortini. “These are people for whom brand is important. Charriol frames are easily identifiable, thanks to the «C» logo engraved on the outside of each tip. They’re noticeable, not discreet, and definitely not for everyone.”

Designed for people 50+, particularly wealthy men who want to celebrate their success, the eyewear is primarily composed of black acetate with gold or silver details on the side.

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Style PC7501 C3 is a men’s frame in black acetate, with the signature Charriol cable in monel. PC71002 C1 is a luxurious style for elegant women in Tortoise. Made from acetate and monel, it features Swarovski crystals adorned by hand.

Selective in its distribution, Charriol offers independent opticians an alternative to more widely available luxury brands. All Charriol frames are identified by an individual serial number and come with a worldwide guaranty card.

Spectacle Eyeworks

Two stunning new stainless steel styles, featuring 3D-inspired patterns and multi-dimensional effects, come to us from Spectacle Eyeworks. These elegantly edgy designs exude a refined boldness that is sure to intrigue even the most discerning audience, says Director and Chief Designer Mehran Baghaie.

 

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“I wanted to create something that would intertwine the strength of geometric lines and angles with multi-faceted, slightly textured patterns and contouring,” said Baghaie. The result: Khai and Karl, two understated, yet striking creations that give life to the designer’s vision.

These German-made frames feature diverse dimensions, tactile elements, and rich, earthy hues. Each is available in seven colour options, including a burgundy jewel tone and metallic pewter. All frames include a signature case and two-year warranty.

WestGroupe

New to the luxury eyewear segment, WestGroupe is proud to offer the ZEISS Eyewear collection. Featuring 14 optical styles (seven men’s, four women’s and three unisex) for those with a sophisticated eyewear palate, the collection maintains the high quality and integrity of the ZEISS brand.

The materials of choice are titanium and TX5, a state-of-the-art material for premium plastic frames. They create ultra-light frames, combined with great strength and transparency.

Rich, saturated colours range from classic neutrals to high-fashion shades, coupled with gold and silver accents for a touch of opulence. Custom-integrated spring hinges, titanium temple tip caps, and titanium nose pads enhance the brand’s luxury appeal.

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mod: ZS-10007

For women, ZS-10007 features a modified square shape that is easy-to-wear in TX5 material. Titanium double-wire-style temples create an airy, lightweight look and are finished with titanium inlays at the end piece.

ZS-20004 is a men’s style featuring a tonal gradient TX5 front with matte finish. A titanium inlay connects the end piece and temples for a signature design detail. An integrated spring hinge provides additional comfort.

Sàfilo

Glamorous, enchanted, classic: that’s Jimmy Choo, the women’s luxury fashion eyewear brand from Sàfilo.

The 10-piece SS18 ophthalmic collection offers an unparalleled level of product distinction, using exotic materials, luxurious detailing and Swarovski crystals.

Styles are offered in metal, with a star pattern, acetate (with and without glitter) and combination frames. A new material used in the collection is an exclusive, ultra-fine Swarovski crystal embellishment.

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mod: JC 200

The highlight of this season’s collection is a rounded aviator shape (Jimmy Choo JC 200) in a thin, lightweight metal construction with star cutout detailing along the side of the temples for a sophisticated, playful look.

 

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mod: Priya

There are 11 new sunglass styles in the SS18 collection, some of which feature ultra-fine Swarovski crystal embellishment. The ‘Priya’ sunglasse feature a signature glitter finish on the temples. Shiny metals and sleek acetates are also used on certain styles.

Jimmy Choo eyewear is designed for women 25+, who are passionate about fashion and appreciate timeless and iconic luxury accessories with exceptional Italian craftsmanship.

Marchon Eyewear

Classic styles married to French allure define the Longchamp collection from Marchon. Wearable and fashionable with easy styling, the collection’s 13 optical and 12 sun styles are perfect for the active woman 30+.

The collection includes a large offering of metal frames, plus thin-profile acetates with iconic details and rich, eye-catching colours. Gold elements at the hinges, leather detailing in the temples and gold horse emblems on every acetate frame exude luxury.

The collection is available in a wide range of shades and bright colour combinations. A finished marble effect on select frames creates an elevated look and feel.

LO617S

From the Roseau collection, the LO617S features a feminine cat-eye frame made of acetate, with beautiful marble-effect colours, highlighted by gold metal temples and comfortable acetate tips. The Roseau collection utilizes a bamboo-style hinge, taken from the namesake line of bags. Chic and modern, the Roseau line adds a level of sophistication to the full collection.

By JoAnne Sommers

Did You Put that Fly in My Soup? The Service Recovery Paradox

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Wait staff have long known that their tips will be higher if they go to great lengths to fix a mistake they made with your meal order. An urban legend suggests that some waiters make mistakes on purpose so they can wow you with an exceptional response to your concerns. They find their tips are higher with excellent service recovery than if there was no mix-up with your order at all!

This scenario is called the service recovery paradox. A customer will think more highly of an organization after it corrects a problem with its service, compared to how the customer would have perceived the organization if no service failure had happened. Needless to say, no ECP could ethically conceive of deliberately staging service failures. So how can this phenomenon be relevant to us?

What ECP’s can do with this knowledge is to manage our rare but inevitable service failures as effectively as possible. We can benefit from the same halo effect by converting glitches into golden opportunities. To be successful with service recovery we need to understand that consumer dissatisfaction styles fall into four distinct groups and respond to each group appropriately.

The Passives, Voicers, Irates and Activists

  1. Passives are the non-complainers. You won’t hear anything from them. You won’t even know they had a problem. And they won’t be back. We’ve all met people who bought glasses two years ago ‘somewhere else’ and never wore them because they felt something wasn’t quite right. Over 70 percent of consumers who experience a service failure never complain directly to the manufacturer or seller. It’s common to underestimate how many of our own patients are in this category. Routine follow-up calls asking them to rate the main aspects of your products and services are the best way to reach this group. You may offer them immediate low-cost remedies for any dissatisfaction you uncover but they are unlikely to return. Use this feedback to improve your service and the customer’s perception of your business.
  2. Voicers complain directly to you and expect you to fix the problem. These consumers don’t want to switch to another ECP, nor do they want to spread bad reviews. They definitely won’t ‘go public’. You will benefit the most from the service recovery paradox if you make the voicer style the most attractive choice for your patients. Do this by working to convince everyone who interacts with your practice that you welcome complaints and that they will be handled seriously. Easy-to-use non-confrontational methods of eliciting feedback like anonymous checklists in-store or on social media are essential to encourage voicers. Handled graciously, this group will become your most vocal advocates.
  3. Irates are the angry consumers who not only complain to you but will spread negative word of mouth to friends and relatives. They will, however, stop short of complaining publicly to regulators or other third parties. You’ll need to roll out a well-planned, comprehensive complaint management system to manage service recovery with this group both in person and on social media. It is best to be prepared with ‘over and above’ compensation for their perceived aggravation before their complaints go viral.
  4. Activists are dissatisfied consumers who use all available channels for complaining (the Better Business Bureau, traditional and social media, regulatory bodies). They believe they should not only look after their own issue but take care of all the other customers who might possibly have had issues with your service— perhaps even with your inability to overcome the laws of optics! Proceed swiftly with the same response as with the previous group, however, be prepared to raise the stakes with appropriate mediation and/or legal representation.

Remember that it is essential to keep an open mind towards complaining customers instead of regarding them as costly, difficult, or a psychological strain. Hug your haters: they offer insights for improvement and will be extremely loyal if you deal with service issues promptly and fairly.

By Margaret Osborne, BSc MBA RO

Silmo Paris: A Truly Golden Anniversary

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Energy, originality, dynamism. Those are some of the terms Canadian optical professionals used to describe the 50th anniversary edition of the Silmo Paris exhibition.

Last October’s event attracted more than 37,000 visitors, fully 10.5 per cent more than 2016, and almost 1,000 exhibitors from 42 countries, many of whom were exhibiting at Silmo for the first time.

Among the show’s highlights was the 50th anniversary gala evening, featuring the Silmo d’Or awards ceremony, which took place against the spectacular backdrop of the Grand Palais.

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It all helped to create a mood of pride and excitement that represented a dramatic rebound from last year’s rather lackluster event, said Julia Rapp, partner in Toronto’s Rapp Optical.

“There was much more originality at this year’s show, thanks, in part, to the large number of smaller, independent companies who exhibited,” said Rapp. “New ideas are the lifeblood of our industry and it was great to see so many people visiting the booths. It’s a sign that the industry is really healthy.”

Namita Karir, an optician with Toronto’s Karir Eyewear, was also impressed with the exciting new ideas on display.

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“Coming to Silmo is a great way to discover where fashion is going and get away from the ‘every day’. Seeing the work of designers and other creative minds also helps to re-fuel your passion for your own practice.”

Sue Randhawa, owner of The Optical Boutique in Vancouver, says she likes to attend Paris Fashion Week as well as Silmo, which she says is her favourite optical show.

“Eyewear has been strong on the runways and it’s a great opportunity to compare it with what I see at Silmo. This year’s show was fantastic for us business-wise. The vendors I regularly deal with had great releases for spring 2018 and I met new vendors with whom I’ll be doing business in the future.”

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Beverly Suliteanu, creative director and VP of product development with WestGroupe in Montreal, enjoyed the celebratory mood that marked the 50th anniversary show.

“Silmo allows us to meet with our global distributors and sign new countries for our brands. We launch our fall/winter collections to our European distributors and meet with the key European trade magazines to update them on what’s new.”

WestGroupe was thrilled to be included in a special Silmo anniversary edition of 20/20 Europe magazine, as well as having some of its frames chosen for display in the Silmo POP’UP Gallery.

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On the product side, Suliteanu noticed a definite move to metal this year, both thin and fine wire reminiscent of the ‘90s as well as monoblock stainless steel, titanium and aluminum.

Rapp also reported a swing to metal. “There was a huge range on display, from super-embellishment to great simplicity.”

Colour is now universally accepted,” she added. “As always in times of political upheaval, people are going a little conservative, with burnished, deeper tones that are shaded for a very rich look.”

Make sure to save the date for next year’s Silmo, scheduled for September 28 to October 1, 2018.

By JoAnne Sommers

The Italian Scene: An Interview with Giovanni Vitaloni

MIDO 2017 - Milano Eyewear Show

Last summer, Giovanni Vitaloni became president of Associazione Nazionale Fabbricanti Articoli Ottici (ANFAO). This association of manufacturers from the Italian eyewear industry, founded in 1954, brings together over 100 member companies from across the industry via various political and promotional activities, including MIDO, a world-leading annual trade show (of which he is also President).

Vitaloni hails from a family of Turin automotive industrialists and is the founder and director of the eyewear manufacturer Nico Design. With over 30 years’ experience in the eyewear industry, Vitaloni is a keen strategist and enthusiastic promoter of the Made in Italy brand, as you will see in this interview. As background, the Italian optical industry exports over 85 per cent of its production, and employs over 17,000 people nationally with earnings of over 3.5 million euros (as of 2015).

ENVISION: With so much vertical integration in the industry, are there still opportunities for optical industry start-ups in Italy?

VITALONI: On an international level, the sector is very buoyant and dynamic, and in Italy there are many new companies arriving on the market. This phenomenon is reflected in the sector’s most important fair, MIDO, which for many years has dedicated an area to start-ups from Italy and around the world via The Lab Academy. ANFAO supports growth in the sector and the old generation is giving way to the new through the creation of new groups within the association, which act as incubators for innovation and stimulate the association’s growth.

ENVISION: Overall, how is the Italian eyewear sector doing?

VITALONI: Italy is the global leader in the high-end segment. In the first half of 2017, we experienced 3.2 per cent growth in exports for sunglasses and 4.3 per cent growth for prescription frames. After about 10 years of work, there are now dozens of new Italian optical companies, with the majority manufacturing in Italy and exporting internationally.

The vast majority of Italian producers are small- to- medium-sized enterprises (SME), who handcraft their products, with particular attention to quality. Indeed, almost all Italian companies share a long tradition of excellence in the conception, creation and sale of products rich in originality and innovation, and it is on these factors that they base their business proposition. In Italy, today, our growth in SMEs rivals France and Scandinavia.

ENVISION: How has ANFAO furthered its relationship with the world of fashion?

VITALONI: We are part of an association, Confindustria Moda, which brings together other manufacturing associations in the world of fashion, in sectors such as leather goods and accessories, footwear and jewellery. This federation represents 67,000 Made in Italy companies that generate more than 88 billion euros annually. Confindustria Moda offers legal services, industrial relations management and research from its offices in Milan.

ENVISION: What is DaTE?

VITALONI: DaTE is an event, organized by MIDO, which blends experimentation, innovation, and luxury, and is dedicated to Italian opticians and buyers in the optics sector. At the latest event, which was held in September in Florence, there were roughly 3,500 buyers and professionals (a 40 per cent increase from last year), who came to see a preview of creations from 136 selected companies, of which more than 50 per cent were from outside Italy.

ENVISION: MIDO is already a leading optical trade show. How can it be better?

VITALONI: We focus as much as possible on the needs of exhibitors and visitors who are by nature, and rightly so in these times of rapid change, continually evolving. At MIDO 2018, we will put the spotlight on fostering innovation. You will find a spectacular emphasis on new technologies, which allow for innovation throughout the industry, in the MIDO Tech section. We create an environment that offers an immersive experience for visitors and the entire world of eyewear. MIDO’s success also comes from its ability to represent big companies, while also showcasing all market niches, which are of increasing interest for independent opticians.

By Paddy Kamen

Portrait of a Designer The Phoenix Rises: Philippe Vergez Comes into His Own

Philippe Vergez

Philippe Vergez

Continually reinventing himself, Philippe Vergez is a relentless perfectionist and world-class designer with a new(ish) brand— Philippe V —that truly reflects his values.

Swords connote power and competition, athleticism and precision. Philippe Vergez fashioned his first sword out of wood at age four, and those themes have stayed a vital part of his psychologicalmake up ever since. Vergez grew up in a creative family in south-west France. A solitary boy, he loved the worlds of fantasy and magic, animals, the ocean and making things.

As it turned out, he also had a gift for mathematics. “I was good at it and got a university degree but I didn’t have a passion for it,” he says. His passions at that time were surfing and travel, so he made his first surfboard, travelled the world and later got a job as a sales administrator for Quiksilver in Biarritz. Within three years he was a sales director, but the job wasn’t using his full potential.

The eyewear industry came calling in 1988, when Vergez started working for Oakley’s marketing department for Europe. That’s when he met Greg Arnette and the two went on to set-up the iconic brand Arnette. While gaining experience in branding and marketing for several leading companies, Vergez took a stealth approach to learning the intricacies of frame design. “I am very curious and good with my hands so I started drawing concepts and making prototypes. Luxottica was the first to bring a couple of my creations to life.”

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Leonardo Del Vecchio, founder and chairman of Luxottica Group, made a big impression on Vergez. “I was in his office one day and he had an emotionally affecting painting of orphans behind his desk. He was an orphan himself, and I was very impressed with what he had achieved as a self-mademan, and noticed his hands-on involvement with every aspect of the company. He told me, ‘Marketing does not make a product,product makes the marketing.’ At the time, I thought it was not only wrong, but stupid. Now I understand what he meant”. Vergez did not stay long at Luxottica because of his refusal to be tamed by corporate culture.

Hard times came knocking when investors in Jee Vice, the highly successful eyewear brand started by Vergez in 2004, decided that he was dispensable. “It was upsetting; I have seen financial greed edge out creativity on more than one occasion. But I moved to Hong Kong and regrouped. I wanted to create a situation where that could not happen again, build a business that married my experience andideals. I joined forces with my childhood friend, Thierry Halbroth, a creative director from the advertising industry, and we started shaping the story of our brand to reflect our values. Philippe V (pronounced “Philip Vee”) is what we are and we laid a deep groundwork before finally launching in 2016.”

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Vergez employs his competitive nature and mathematical acumen in the development of frames that excel from every angle. “My math and geometry skills help me see in four dimensions as I envision frames. I studied morphology to ensure my designs adapt to the face and are super comfortable. The fourth dimension is the way the frame enhances beauty and the inner sense of being. When I translate those values into design and the wearer says, ‘oh, wow’, I feel amazingly satisfied.”

By Paddy Kamen

Design in Three Dimensions: 3D Frames Signal a Shift

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Exciting…fun…expensive…not up to snuff…marvelous: descriptors and opinions abound when it comes to 3D printing of eyewear frames.

3D printing is poised to significantly change the traditional manufacturing landscape. It could mean far less outsourcing to other countries as, over time, it becomes cheaper to print frames close to the place where they are ordered. And if 3D printing becomes the predominant method of manufacture, there will be no need for retailers to carry much, if any stock, because frames can be seen on the face via virtual 3D images and custom designed with software at the dispensary. 3D printing of frames has the advantage of generating almost no waste, in contrast to working with sheets of metal or acetate, which does the opposite. In addition, with 3D printing there is no need to over-manufacture products that may not sell because frames can be printed on a just-in-time basis. Finally, mass-customization becomes a reality with 3D printing, presumably making customers happier.

This feature brings you the best of what is currently available in Canada. We cover three manufacturers and four designers, all of whom use 3D printing for all or part of their work. In some cases, 3D printing results in far lower costs, such as when manufacturers use it for almost-instant prototyping; in other cases, the costs can go through the roof, as with 3D printing in titanium. One thing is for sure—this technology stands to shake up the industry big time.

Patrick Hoet, owner and designer for his eponymous brand, Hoet, based in Bruges, Belgium, took a pioneering position with 3D printed frames beginning in 2011. When he couldn’t attract partners he used his own assets to fund research and development, eventually launching the titanium 3D Hoet Couture collection at Silmo 2014. His daughter, Bieke, followed with a polymer 3D collection the following year.

 

Mod : DS9/ Patrick Hoet

Mod : DS9/ Patrick Hoet

Known for premium-quality artisanal frames, Hoet says that titanium printed in 3D is as good, if not better than traditionally manufactured frames. The polymer (nylon) used in the Cabrio collection has the advantage of being lighter and stronger than acetate, while also withstanding the ageing of acetate caused sweat and chemical agents. “However, colour possibilities and surface quality are somewhat diminished, for the time being,” he notes.

As a designer, Hoet says that 3D printing is “thrilling and challenging: a game changer. It’s like being a kid with his first Lego blocks—it’s not easy to master, but then it wouldn’t be as much fun if it was.”

Hoet helped to develop, and designed the initial frame collection for a 3D printing solution partnership between the Leuven, Belgium firm Materialise and HOYA Vision Care. The Yuniku project, which gives the eyecare professional the opportunity to create custom 3D frames made to order with personalized lenses, is not yet available in North America. He also created a 3D sports eyewear collection for Seiko called Seiko Xchanger.

His experience with 3D printing has made Hoet a big fan of the technology. “Waste is significantly reduced, while creating a product that is completely adapted to the needs of the customer. 3D printing will have a very positive impact on our ecological footprint. I have grandchildren and I want to leave them a better world.”

Sàfilo Group has developed a trend-setting collection, Oxydo Eyewear, in which frames of gold, ruthenium and palladium are enhanced by surrounding, lattice-like architectural structures created with 3D printers. Aesthetics and innovation meet in this striking collection of four styles, entirely Made in Italy. Multi-dimensional and quirky, Oxydo designs are wearable sculptures, one of which was created by New York-based artist Francis Bitonti.

mod: O.N 1.5 /OXYDO

mod: O.N 1.5 /OXYDO

Sàfilo also uses in-house 3D printing to develop prototypes for almost all of its brands. Vladimiro Baldin, chief product design and creation officer, says: “We currently use 3D printing on prototypes. Design ideas are embraced, refined or abandoned based on the look and feel of a prototype. To hasten and sharpen that crucial decision–making, we brought the 3D printing process in–house. Thanks to this, we can produce whole product prototypes in full colour, even with multiple materials, textures and gradients in as little as a few hours, speeding up the process of product development tremendously.”

Baldin sees a bright future for 3D printing: “There are huge opportunities, which consist in constantly refining the materials used, giving rise to products that are unique and tailor-made. And this is key in driving a future of customization. Currently, 3D printing systems are less cost-efficient than traditional mass production techniques, such as metal cutting or plastic injection moulding, but they are set to become better and cheaper over time, radically lowering barriers to entry for start-ups, no matter how small their production runs.”

Oliver Goldsmith, owner and designer of his eponymous London-based company, jumped on the 3D bandwagon with alacrity. “I was very excited by the fact that one can reproduce spectacles that would be impossible by traditional methods,” he says.

Goldsmith worked with Belgium-based 3D printing company, Materialise. “It took over a year to reach the point where I had some production samples in hand, as I had to educate them on the fine points of eyewear design, including six base toric curves for the lenses to fit correctly, getting the bridge fittings to be super-comfortable and joint angles according to the height of the temples being fitted to the fronts.”

Goldsmith and Materialise reproduced four models from Goldsmith’s father’s designs from the 1950s, including SATAN, which he enhanced with a finish that can only be done with 3D printing. The collection is for demonstration purposes only, however, as Goldsmith feels the perceived quality is not yet at the premium eyewear level. “While the actual quality is excellent, 3D printing cannot yet achieve the beautiful colours and colour combinations available in acetate. They are working on water transfer coatings, but this is still in the experimental stages. Also the look and feel in the hand are not the same.”

Oliver-Goldsmith-3D-0027

With the slogan, 20th century design meets 21st century production, Goldsmith’s first 3D collection will be used for window display and publicity purposes. He is hopeful, however, that he can bring a 3D collection to market as materials improve and prices come down.

Specsy is a Toronto-based 3D printing company with a turnkey printing solution for eyecare professionals. Founder and Product Development Manager, Milan Madhavji, a dental radiologist, has been manufacturing high-precision dental products since 2010 for his company, Canaray. He decided to turn his attention to the eyewear industry and launched Specsy in 2017.

SPECSY-5855

Madhavji developed a solution that covers all the bases for ECPs. He explains: “They don’t need a web presence or even a computer or technical know-how to use the Specsy system. We provide what they need to give the customer a customized 3D printed frame, including an iPad equipped with the necessary software, 3D camera, brochures for customers, and a short training manual for opticians that includes information like how to set a lens in a 3D printed frame and how to adjust the shape. Engaging with a customer is as simple as taking her picture, bringing it up on the iPad and helping her select from a variety of frames, which are viewed on her virtual picture. Everything can be done in under five minutes.”

Specsy frames are currently available in a proprietary polymer material. All frames are printed at their Mississauga plant and the turnaround is approximately five days. The company will soon introduce a new printer to create metal frames, as well as software that will allow for increasingly sophisticated customization.

Specsy should be available Canada-wide by March, after which they will launch in the U.S. All manufacturing will remain in Canada, says Madhavji.

WestGroupe, always on the hunt for new processes and technologies that will enhance product and improve service, has been using 3D printing for prototype development since late 2016. Beverly Suliteanu, vice president, product development and creative director, says the learning curve was not without its hiccups: “It took us a bit of time initially to determine the proper setup parameters for metal frames due to the thinness of some of the parts. When separating the 3D frame from the support base, we initially had a lot of breakage by the nose pad guard arm and some of the thin filigree detailing. It was a process of trial and error to determine the proper setup to ensure the 3D prototypes were perfect.”

Due to the fact that there are limitations on the type of colouring and detailing one can have in a 3D printed frame, WestGroupe chose their printer based solely on the need for rapid prototyping. “Knowing that we wanted to better evaluate fit rather than design, we chose a printer that made economic sense for us,” says Suliteanu. “It has offered a great return on investment and most importantly, it has improved the products that we bring to market.”

Rapp Optical designer Shilo Rapp, trained as a goldsmith, loves 3D printing technology. “It has completely transformed the design and fabrication process and I regard it as an extremely useful tool for anyone creating anything, including eyewear,” he says.

Before getting into eyewear design, Rapp freelanced for many jewellers in Toronto, providing them with 3D models for complex custom orders. “While completely eliminating the wax carving and mold maker, these ‘virtual’, though geometrically accurate, computer files would go to 3D printers and eventually become a physical object, ready for metal casting, polish and diamond setting, which is pretty amazing,” he says.

As a designer, Rapp still prefers to transform raw materials manually. “To me it is more fun to use my hands. However, we will continue to employ both the modelling and 3D printing technologies in our design process, prototypes and mechanical fixture making. Our latest collection of combination frames, while not 3D printed, were conceived and designed using 3D modelling software. And, over the years we have utilized the technology in the same way a jeweller would: adding embellished components to our frames, though mostly for one-off pieces.

“As for 3D metal printing, there are some truly amazing examples in the eyewear sector, but for us the technology costs are still high, especially in our preferred material titanium, and would catapult our products into an astronomic price range. When it comes to 3D printed polymers, I have to say that the warmth, along with colour, texture and pattern available in acetate is still unmatched compared to 3D printed frames, though maybe not for long. Whatever happens, we will be ready!”

Colin Redmond, designer for and owner of Niloca Eyewear (see our designer profile of Redmond in the November/December 2017 issue), is an undisputed expert on 3D printing. Educated as an industrial designer, he also has a degree in polymer science. Redmond, based in Melbourne, Australia owned a 3D printing company—Plastic Ink—serving all manner of industries from 2005 – 2010.

DSC_0585

Redmond says that while 3D printing technology is getting faster and more reliable, the polymer science is lagging in improving materials. The biggest issue is maintaining climate control, as fluctuations in temperature, humidity, air chemistry, air pressure and even light, affect the printing, forming and fusing of layers.

Producing consistently perfect A-Class surfaces is the big challenge for 3D printing. “The material deficits result in surface finishes that aren’t great. If there is a slight blemish on a large object like a car hood it wouldn’t really show, but on a frame it is obvious. There are tricks to hide the blemishes, but that’s accepting defeat and selling a lesser product. I wouldn’t want to do that to my clientele,” says Redmond.

Despite the challenges, Redmond will release three 3D printed collections in June 2018. Something to look forward to!

As you can see, 3D printing is not yet an unalloyed success or necessarily cost-effective. The promise is great, however, and given the esteem accorded to the professionals covered herein, you can be certain of the best of the best in their 3D printed creations.

Lenses for Sale

LensesForSaleBy Brian P. Dunleavy

These days, more and more clients visit optical shops after seeing advertisements for spectacle lens products, either on television or in major magazines – and Dennis Higgins believes this is both good and bad.

“In general, it’s great that eyeglass wearers are more informed about lens products, whether they are certain lens designs or coatings,” says the optician and owner of Higgins Fine Opticians in London, ON. “But with advertisements, they don’t get all the facts. Lenses aren’t like prescription drugs. When you go to a pharmacist, you have a prescription for one drug that’s supposed to treat a specific condition. But with eyeglasses lenses, the potential combination of products is endless – reading glasses, lenses for distance, progressives, sports glasses, tints and coatings. Just because clients see something advertised doesn’t mean it will be the right product for them.”

Efforts to brand various spectacle lens products with consumers have created an interesting conundrum for eyecare professionals (ECPs): on one hand, independents struggling in a competitive marketplace appreciate anything that drives more traffic through their doors and many have sought to leverage branding programs by prominently displaying signage and other point-of-purchase materials for products their clients may see advertised on TV or in print.

“If you can do a good window promotion and if clients see that name and it draws them in the door, once they’re in, you can get them to the products they need,” notes Higgins. “That’s the trick to get them in the door.”

But Deborah Perry, optician and owner of Optika Eclectic Eyewear in Saskatoon, recalls a few instances in which clients were so impressed by the lenses they saw advertised – either by the touted technology or features and benefits – that it was a bit challenging to direct them toward the products they actually needed. Interestingly, in Perry’s experience, despite significant efforts on the part of some lens manufacturers to “brand” their products with consumers, “nine times out of 10, when you ask people what they’re wearing, they haven’t got a clue.” Progressive wearers, she notes, tend to be loyal to a specific brand if they are happy with their lenses, but otherwise there is not a lot of brand loyalty when it comes to spectacles.

“Overall, very few people care that much about the brand name of the lens,” she says. “What matters is that they are happy and comfortable with it. Advertising is a funny thing. People may remember it, but they likely don’t remember all of it, or where they saw it.” To illustrate, she relates that she advertises her shop at two bus stops in Saskatoon, and while these ads are effective at bringing in customers, those who come in after seeing them routinely forget where they saw them. “They’ll say, ‘I saw your ad in Sutherland,’ and I’ll think to myself, ‘No you didn’t, because they’re on Clarence [Avenue].’”

This is not to say that ECPs don’t appreciate the efforts of lens manufacturers to support their businesses and increase consumer demand for the products they sell. Quite the contrary. However, many of them would also like to see corresponding enhancements to branded point-of-purchase materials as well as increased funding for educational programs that help opticians and optometrists better understand lens technology.

“Advertising is great, but lenses sell themselves if opticians take time to explain the technology and build a level of trust with the client,” Higgins clarifies. “To do that, they need to understand what the different products are, how they work and how they can improve vision. And that takes education.”

2015 VEE Show Shines Spotlight on New Products

VEE2015By JoAnne Sommers

Spring is the season of new beginnings. So what better time to roll out exciting new eyewear products than the recent International Vision Expo East (VEE) show in New York? More than 22,000 visitors and exhibitors from 90 countries, including many Canadians, participated in this year’s event. Here is an overview of some of the great products they found.

Adlens®
AdlensFocussTM, the world-leading Variable Power Optics (VPOTM) eyewear from Adlens®, provides four times more viewable area at near, intermediate and distance than the best freeform progressive lens. High acuity and unmatched viewable area for all distances is achieved by turning a dial. The fashion-forward frame design isn’t compromised by its adjustable function as the dial and VPO system are hidden within the frame.

Alternative & Plan “B” Eyewear
Get the perfect mix of style and function with three new models from Alternative Eyewear’s Clip Tech line. Model K3772 features a bold, retro shape combined with cool temple details and a keyhole bridge. Models 3774 and 3775 have a chunky acetate look and feature interesting patterns and eye-catching colour. All are made from high-quality acetate and come with a polarized magnetic clip-on, which is rimless, light and features a back-mounting system.

Ic! Berlin
Ic! Berlin presents plotic – 3D-printed eyewear created by Selective Laser Sintering. Finely tuned lasers fuse together powder particles to create eyewear that’s lighter, stronger, more flexible and more environmentally friendly than traditional materials. Plotic comes in eight rich colours, two plotic-metal hybrids and two plotic sunglasses with an innovative new nosepad solution.

LensPen®
VEE_LensPenLensPen presents PeepsTM, an all-in-one cleaner using a simple two-step process. First, wipe the lens with the retractable goat-hair brush, then slide the arms out from the holder and clean the lens with smooth circular motions of the cleaning tips. When the arms slide back into the holder, the carbon on the cleaning tips is replenished; Peeps’ cleaning tips can be recharged up to 500 times.

 


Modo Eyewear
New additions to Modo’s Super Thin acetate collection feature marbled hues and patterns and the signature metal-on-metal hinge. Handmade in Japan, the two new men’s shapes are classic squares with a straight, yet casual brow line. The rich acetate colour range brings classic shapes to a new level. Two new cat-eye-inspired women’s shapes are rectangular with a flattering upsweep. Model 6521 is a stylish square shape; 6522 is geometrical and feminine.

J.F. Rey
The “Au masculin” collection cultivates masculinity in a vintage-chic look. The St-Germain celebrates elegant fashion for the trendy guy who loves sharp lines and sophisticated colours. Club is a vintage-style frame made with beautiful Italian leathers. Factory appeals to the urban man looking for quality and style. Titanium clip-on sunglasses with mirror lenses complete this piece of art.

Prisme Optical Group
VEE_PrismeOpticalGroupThe new Frederic Beausoleil sunwear collection features four models, each in four colours. A tribute to the ‘70s, the designs represent glamour and fantasy. Made with exclusive cotton flower acetate plaque, some have silk-printed colours while others have gradient colours. Model S454, with a vintage look, features the iconic six-point Frederic Beausoleil hinge.

 


Optika Eyewear
The Nat & Coco eyewear collection includes 15 new styles for men and women: ladies’ styles feature textured acetates in animal prints with a mix of rhinestones, which creates an elegant flair; men’s acetates have a bold wood look. All are cut thin, extra lightweight and comfortable to wear.

New ladies’ styles are also available in metal with a three-tone finish, featuring new and original colour blends and patterns. All metal frames are crafted from super-lightweight stainless steel for extra comfort and durability

Spectacle Eyeworks
VEE_SpectacleEyeworksThis new stainless steel collection breaks boundaries with six unisex styles. The multi-layered contrasting colours of each frame combine deep, rich shades with pastel hues. Daring cutouts along the outside of each frame accentuate its angular shape. Modern, clean chic with just the right amount of flavour makes these German-made frames extremely wearable.


WestGroupe
VEE_WestgroupeThe 10-piece stainless steel and acetate FyshUK collection was inspired by soft, feminine colours and the intricate use of pattern to create texture. Eye shapes range from sexy cat-eyes to retro, ‘70s-inspired squares.

The Kliik collection includes 10 models in acetate and stainless steel. Features include special laminates, faux wood laser finishes and acid etching.

The eight-piece Evatik collection is modern and masculine. Accent colours bring life to warm neutrals and varied finishes and treatments provide interesting details. Acetate predominates, ranging from ultra-thin profile to retro-heavy.

Zig Eyewear
VEE_ZiggyZig Eyewear introduces 10 new ZIGGY and 10 new Jean-Reno models, and SUNNY’s, a sun collection in acetate and metal.

SUNNY 104 is an ultra-feminine, metal, bi-colour frame. It comes with polarized lenses and can be used with progressives.

ZIGGY 1506 is ultra-delicate and feminine, with a double wire that gives volume to a small frame.

The retro-modern, bi-colour stainless steel RENO 1565 frame can be used with progressive lenses and comes in three colours.

Mido 2015 Sets New Standards for Attendance, Convenience

Mido2015By JoAnne Sommers

‘Milan’ is the top fashion buzzword for 2015, according to the Global Language Monitor. So it’s fitting that Milan is also home to the annual Mido eyewear exhibition, which ranks high among the world’s pre-eminent optical shows.

The 45th annual Mido, which ran from February 28 to March 2, drew record attendance of more than 49,000 visitors, 56 per cent of them — including some 300 Canadians — from outside Italy. The 8.7 per cent increase over 2014’s numbers is “extraordinary, especially considering the economic uncertainty that still affects some countries,” according to show organizers.

Mido President Cirillo Marcolin said the new communication campaign, new logo, pavilions located closer to the subway, and the revamped and more streamlined layout all made for a considerably larger exhibition space and more exhibitors (150 new companies).

Added Vice President Giovanni Vitaloni: “Attendees took advantage of the more visitor friendly layout to visit all the theme areas: Fashion District, Lenses and the FAiR East Pavilion (the exclusive showcase for Asian manufacturers).”

One major highlight was the new LabAcademy theme area within Mido Design Lab, which was reserved for exciting young designers who were first-time Mido participants.

“It’s an incubator of ideas, reserved for a careful selection of emerging creative talents and fresh, original brands that experiment with new outside the box concepts.”

Otticlub, a multi-function area for seminars, conferences, courses and educational meetings, attracted keen audiences, “which is another sign of the dynamic atmosphere pervading the industry,” added Marcolin.

The show also saw the debut of Bestore, an international award for the store that ensured its customers the best shopping experience in terms of creativity, innovation and ambience. The inaugural honours were awarded to the Leidmann store of Munich. The Bestand award for the most attractive and communicative stand, went to Italy’s Blackfin (see designer story on page 22 of this issue).

Mido’s importance has been recognized by Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development, which includes the exhibition in its special Made in Italy promotion program. The ministry organized a special event to which international buyers and journalists were invited.

Among them was Richard Stortini, president of Montreal-based Prisme Optical Group, one of four Canadian companies that exhibited at Mido. “We used the opportunity to meet with eyewear manufacturers,” he notes. “Mido is a great place to get together with our suppliers, see new products and make purchases.”

WestGroupe President Michael Suliteanu liked the exhibition’s move to a new pavilion. “Our booth was busy and we made a lot of new contacts compared to previous years.”

Mido is a key show for WestGroupe in terms of building its international distribution network, said Suliteanu. “Our brands continue to grow and we’ve added an international export sales manager based in Italy. That should further strengthen our international growth, particularly in Europe.”

In terms of trends, Beverly Suliteanu, WestGroupe’s vice-president of marketing and product development, noticed the continued strength of the retro or vintage look. “Acetate was still strong, but in a more refined and thinner profile,” she said. “We also saw more metal and a wide array of finishes and colours. Round and P3 were definitely the key shapes in Europe.”

Plans are already under way for next year’s Mido, which will be held from February 27 to 29, 2016, said Marcolin.