But in its latest issue, US magazine FAST COMPANY has a nice little story about British eyeglass designer Tom Davies, who differentiates itself with custom made frames.
Prescription eyeglasses are always, in a sense, custom-made, but the focus in this $16 billion U.S. industry has been the lenses, not the frame. Most frames are made in one size, and can be adjusted in a heating process at the Optician after purchase to the shape of your head. But there are more options to really change the shape of the frame, as the Fast Company graphic explains on the left.
Tom Davies started in 2001 with "bespoke" glasses, at this time targeting the very upper class with price at £5,000 (then about $10,000). Over the years, he brought it down to mass customization, with an internet order system for opticians, skilled, low-cost labor in China and a modular product architecture. His glasses now are about $600 -- just in the middle of the price range of designer frames (but well above the U.S. average of $126). In 2009, Tom Davies made 36,000 frames, triple his 2008 tally. Sales have been strongest with buyers who need unusual sizes. But the aim is to reach the regular consumer.
The Fast Company article has more information about the process:
The linchpin in Davies's production process is a proprietary Web-based system called Supertool, which links his growing network of opticians to his Chinese workshop. After your optician measures you and helps you choose style and color, he'll plug the measurements and choices into Supertool; instantly, the data will pop up on a designer's screen in Shenzhen. Within two hours, that designer will have created a blueprint and a parts list for your frames. Then a team of technicians chooses the right arms -- for efficiency, "they are semifinished," Davies says -- and builds the front piece to order. Three to four weeks later, the glasses can be on your face.
Sounds like a great service for me that I will consider for my next pair of glasses.