Fashion & Grooming Editor, Ross Pollard talks to eyewear disruptors, You Mawo.
Customisation is more and more common. As we slip away from mass production back to the previous ideals of more tailored, more bespoke and more personal, we’re seeing it reach all facets of the world and of course, fashion.
But it’s not just in clothes, it’s in accessories. So, I was interested to catch up with You Mawo, a company that is at the forefront of developing change for the next generation. By bringing in multiple technologies they’ve cemented their place as one of the few true disruptors and innovators in eyewear.
Reading aids were first described as far back as the time of Ptolemy around 1,800 years ago with the first ‘eye glasses’ appearing in Italy around 800 years ago. With such history, was it difficult to come up with a concept that brought new ideas and creative opportunity to the industry?
The concept was the result of an entrepreneurial mind constantly looking for the opportunity to build a business and new technology maturing. This together brought the concept to life to create an easy and scalable solution to provide every human with his or her individual frame.
You use a material that differs from the usual acetates in the bespoke designs, how did you find it?
We use Polyamid which as a high-class nylon material that is used in industrial 3D printing as the gold standard. Polyamid brings many benefits such as: extreme stability, high flexibility, chemical resistance, high mechanical, and it has thermal stability in combination with biocompatibility making it the ideal product for eyewear frames.
This enables you to have frames that are more than 30% lighter than acetate – more stable and durable and higher life duration. The material is the gold standard for industrial additive parts.
I’ve tried the scanning process; how often are people surprised that it produces a virtual them rather than just an image? I was a bit freaked out that there I was in 3D form on an iPad!
People are very fascinated by our technology that creates a detailed and accurate 3D avatar of you in less than thirty seconds. Welcome to the future!
The try-before-you-buy aspect of the scanning is great, but when I’ve discussed it with others a few have asked if there a real difference in off-the-shelf vs. custom. What do you perceive as the biggest benefit to precision measuring frames?
The biggest benefit is that you get your individual frame that is only done for you. It is similar to a well-done bespoke suit. It has an optimal fit and perfectly suits the proportions of your face. A further benefit is that if you have a facial geometry that is not in line with the standard, you have also the chance to enjoy a top designer frame.
We did some market research and about 30% of customers of an optical store struggle to buy the frames that they wish because their face size and proportions don´t align with the average.
This for example is the case for my wife who has a small face and was before relying on children’s frames, or my brother who has down-syndrome who was also relying on kids’ frames.
This being said, we also sell standard frames that have an extremely good fit due to our knowledge about the market-specific average face.
We design standard frames that have a much better fit than regular frames. This is due to our capability that we do not rely on standard sizes that everyone else in the industry uses.
We are actually able in real time to virtually test frames for fit before finalising the sizes and designs.
Looking ahead, now that augmented reality is already an integral part of your business, do you perceive a time will come when 3D printing is so ubiquitous that clients will be able to order frames to be created in their homes?
To answer this question, one needs to separate some aspects. 3D printing as a technology is almost ubiquitous already through cheap desktop 3D printers like MakerBot that enable anyone to print some prototypes at home or at a service centre.
In order to create a premium product such as our frames, it takes much more than having a 3D printer. First, you need to have an additive manufacturing infrastructure worth more than €500K in order to even start producing such an accurate and stable raw frame. Then you need a complex finishing process going through more than ten steps.
Furthermore, to produce a premium product such as ours it is a little bit like a black art, where you need to control hundreds of variables in order to get such a premium product.
In principal the technology will get more robust and stable over time but it is not foreseeable that you will be able to develop a cheap printing technology that can overcome all the finishing steps so that you can print your premium frame at home like your photographs with your printer.
But what could be coming ten years down the road that is you can decentralise producing your frames to various print factories, almost like copy shops.
We’re seeing a shift in purchasing away from fast fashion; presumably with a custom frame, the lens could be changed as and when the wearer’s prescription changes, which is great if you have a statement style. Personally, I hate having to look for similar frames each time.
A benefit of our technology is that we have a scalable process that enables us to custom build.
When you order your standard frames, you can simply reach out via a You Mawo outlet at any time and provide us with your individual product serial number. Then we will rebuild your exact frame for you, also in a different colour if you wish and with a different prescription.
This actually happens quite regularly, people re-order their bespoke frame for example in a different colour. This is always very satisfying because this means people really enjoy their frames!
What do you think is the next tech step for eyewear?
First, we think that the trend will continue that people see their frames as an important accessory that should reflect their personality. Therefore, people will own multiple frames for different occasions, accompanying different styles.
This socio-economic trend towards mass personalization in combination with the technology trends around additive manufacturing, augmented reality and ubiquitous connectivity will lead to some very interesting developments in eyewear.
Generally, there will be a merge between fashion, mass customisation and integrated technology in the future.
We envision the following products coming soon:
Mass market applications for bespoke eyewear meaning that more than 50% of the market will be in bespoke eyewear. Many players tried to introduce a solution like ours to the market but failed. Since we showed for the first time to the industry that it is possible to produce bespoke eyewear through technology at scale, we see more and more competitors trying to enter the market.
Integration of augmented reality into frames.
Integration of connectivity into frames to make them smart.
Thank you for your time, I can’t wait to get my pair even if the quality of the scan did freak me out a bit! You can find out more by visiting the You Mawo website.