For the past few years I have been privileged enough to visit the two biggest eyewear trade fairs annually. At these fairs, I meet with international suppliers, visit all the halls and various booths to see what’s new and what’s interesting in the business of eyewear and spend time in two wonderful European cities – Paris and Milan. What could be better?
In this article, I would like to share some of my personal insights from my most recent visit to MIDO in Milan, as well as a visit to an eyewear production area in Italy, called Longarone.
- Casual is the new smart – in design and in attire, it seems as if the mix of different materials and different genres remains a success story. From dressing in a suit, with sneakers, to combining bright, fun acetates in conventional silhouettes, there seems to be a beautiful contrast to combining the unexpected. My take home message is clear, do not spend too much money on formal clothes to visit a fair, rather invest in good basics, leather shoes, a warm neat coat and of course, a trendy pair of sneakers. Nowadays, anything goes.
- There will always be something new to see – In the city cool new bars, coffee shops and bistro’s pop up every year. New fashion brands open stores and old brands reinvent themselves. In the same way, at every fair, there are mind-blowing new brands, handcrafted items, bespoke eyewear; some eyewear pieces so fantastical that it is hard to imagine someone actually wearing it, but always something unexpected. I enjoyed seeing the return to simplicity this year. Eyewear not as heavy and bold, but refined and beautiful, simple and elegant. There was a strong natural, organic influence. Eyewear manufactured from wood, recycled paper, recycled plastic and many other interesting materials is becoming more and more mainstream.
- Technology is a primary influencer in this industry – The evolution of 3D printing, now even in acetate, as well as in the making of prototypes will revolutionise the business. One company makes frames cut to size, colour, angle and personally selected shape in a 3D machine. On the one side, technology stands in firm contrast to the craftsmanship of handmade eyewear, where items are individually made and finished with the guarantee that each item is unique. On the other hand, technology is being used to improve on this. The factory I visited in Longarone, is using technology to improve on craftsmanship, by making processes quicker, more standardised, but even more precise and perfect than in the hands of a master. They are using stricter quality control methods, based on impeccable standards to create exceptional product. I can’t wait to see what will come in future. Clinical equipment has become cleaner, smarter and more in line with clinical needs with every new release. I was screened on a machine that measured my prescription at distance, in dark and light conditions, across various points of the cornea, corneal topography and intra ocular pressure, in a minute or so. I still think the input of a good clinician is important to every patient, but the tools available to the optometrist can make for quite an impressive visit.
- Marketing remains essential – there are three marketing approaches that caught my eye at the fair. They are all proof that age old marketing tactics still work today:
- Exclusivity – the visitors to any shop or fair will always be fascinated by what they cannot see. Many of the most visited booths were covered all around, with no opportunity for the uninvited to know what is happening inside. This creates quite a strong desire to be privy to what these brands may be showing. The added advantage is that these brands are limiting the opportunity for eyewear to be copied as fast as it is possible with today’s technology.
- Shock tactics – the other most visited booths are those sporting young ladies in skimpy bathing wear. I think the owners of these brands should be fined, for asking of these girls to work in no clothing in sub-zero temperatures, but they definitely achieved the desired effect. The approach of these specific brands had the ability to slow any passer-by down to take note of the offering. Enough said.
- Money, money, money – the other option, if budget allows and if you see your brand as something above all of the rest, is to spend money on huge digital displays, big booths, with no eyewear on display and expensive food and drink on tap.
In the end it is all about how each company sees themselves and their brand. The key to success, I suppose, of an organisation and even an individual is to know who you are, what you stand for and what you want the world to take home from what you show of yourself.
The hours in transit on this trip allowed me some time to think about my own personal message to the world. Society asks of us to have a clear LinkedIn profile, a well-manicured image on Facebook, even regular status updates on WhatsApp. For me personally, I know who I am and what I stand for and I am not too concerned about what message the “world” takes from my social media profiles. This probably equates me to one of the smaller booths, simple, with an uncomplicated message; “what is your personal truth?”