“Would you like to know why NASA has chosen Silhouette Eyewear?” asked Jean-Michel Ledeur.
Ledeur, Regional Sales Director Asia Pacific for Silhouette, explained that he has been lucky enough to meet astronauts and hear the answer first-hand. Space missions are carried out in harsh, gravity-free conditions. But an astronaut reported that he was able to wear a pair of Silhouette glasses for several hours without them moving or causing discomfort. Once astronauts are suited up in their space gear with their helmets on, there is no way that they can adjust the eyewear on their face.
“Another reason is that our products are crafted to be completely screwless, so there is no worry of components loosening, disassembling and hovering around the inside of a spacecraft,” Ledeur added.
In such a unique environment, this is a crucial factor, as even the smallest disruption could turn out to be a threat to safety.
The choice of NASA is a good example of the brand’s unique focus: to design glasses that are light, comfortable and that fit perfectly in all environments. And while not all Silhouette users are astronauts, anyone who wears glasses will appreciate eyewear that can be worn all day without the slightest discomfort.
Silhouette was launched in Austria in 1964 and has always focused on stylish top-quality glasses.
“We manage 100% of our products’ manufacturing and distribution,” said Ledeur. That includes all models of glasses and sunglasses, from frame to lens. Silhouette has maintained its “made-in-Austria” practice throughout its 55 years of heritage. Everything is made in Europe: the majority in Austria, with the small exception of certain parts, which are produced in the Czech Republic.
Mainland China and other Asian countries offer relatively cheaper manufacturing, as well as a copious and skilled labour force. So, has the company ever considered shifting its production lines?
No. The answer from Ledeur was firm. “Quality is a slave to production,” he said. Keeping production in-house, and the highly skilled workforce in Austria, are some of the key ways Silhouette maintains its brand standards.
As part of the company’s pursuit of continual improvements, many of Silhouette’s products undergo various phases of testing and prototyping. And the company’s devotion to overseeing all stages of the process extend beyond the glasses themselves. “Even some of the machines used in production are developed internally,” Ledeur said.
The eyewear sector is a “slow innovation industry,” as Ledeur puts it. To the casual observer, few changes may seem apparent when it comes to comparing glasses from five or ten years ago to their modern-day counterparts, apart from shifts in style and shape.
But, at Silhouette, behind these apparently simple products there is a great deal of new developments and constant refinement. “We are all about innovation and tech solutions,” Ledeur explained.
The brand’s pursuit of innovation is evident not just from its space-travelling products but also in its future vision, which includes improving the way the production process impacts the environment.
Right now, the current model of production of the eyewear industry means that around 50% of materials used in the process goes to waste. For instance, the common way of making an acetate frame is by cropping out the needed parts from sheets of plastic, with the leftovers thrown away. Silhouette, on the other hand, has created a new methods of constructing eyewear frames which, by modelling titanium wires, generates close to zero waste.
Another innovation involves using castor plant oil, instead of mineral oil, to manufacture plant-based plastic frames. The method of injection moulding leaves almost no leftover materials and it is currently possible to produce a frame of which two-third are made of castor oil. The goal is to produce 100% plant-based injected-plastic frames and the company hopes to turn this into reality as soon as next year.
Silhouette’s glasses are certainly stylish and sophisticated, but the company has never positioned itself as only a fashion brand. They do not follow the vogue, and might even be “anti-trend” occasionally, Ledeur said. But like every player in the industry, “we do strive to be relevant,” he added.
Ledeur explained how he became aware of the company’s reputation. “Before I worked here, my previous boss used to wear Silhouette glasses. He always told me that he could never wear another brand of eyewear because they are just too comfortable.”
This lightness combined with durability also overlaps with the demands of sporting environments, and the company is branching out with its own sub-brand. It is developing eyewear for top athletic performers, from sprinters to mountain bikers, that will have fully adjustable and replaceable parts. Besides such product expansions, Silhouette is targeting Asia to raise the company’s profile and grow further.
Silhouette is also known for its excellent aftersales service. For example, it guarantees repair and parts replacement for products discontinued for five years. Ledeur added that the company had recently helped a customer by repairing a pair of glasses that was at least nine years old. But he sees this dedication to quality service simply as part of the Silhouette experience.
“We are just doing our best to assist our customers.”
Company : Silhouette Asia Pacific Ltd
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