Visages Launches 3D Printed Glasses Line

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French startup Visages has released a service that lets you customize your own glasses, which are then produced on demand using eco-friendly materials. The company aims to be a digital artisan, making products for your face efficiently with radical and new designs. The customer journey starts with a smartphone app, where a scan allows the glasses to be made specifically for your face. In addition to capturing the face, the scan measures pupillary height. The firm hopes this will enable customers to order progressive or corrective lenses from their armchairs.

Customers can also customize the texture or add an inscription to the glasses. The company says AI helps make the scan more accurate, achieving precision to a tenth of a millimeter. Besides providing a better fit, the company aims to reduce waste. In eyewear, a lot of product is scrapped each year as fickle consumers cycle through many brands and styles. Therefore, a more environmental approach is warranted.

Visages has been under development for over four years. The company hopes to become a platform for brands to offer customized 3D printed glasses, similar to King Children, and made in France. We reached out to Co-Founder Marc Junior Zouari, who told us, “Using the full potential of AI and 3D printing technologies, brands will have the opportunity to create unique eyewear products with no upfront costs, manufactured locally, with a made-to-order model, individualized to fit customers ‘facial features, while solving mass production and waste challenges in the eyewear industry.”

A Belated Revolution

Eyewear desperately needs a revolution. The industry is incredibly wasteful. A large percentage of glasses are scrapped, while another large percentage are sold at steep discounts. Moreover, many glasses are made of thermoset plastics, which are not recyclable in any meaningful way. Reverse integration and the ensuing market power have made a few players very dominant.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Italian and French haute couture fashion brands grew into globally recognized names. Everyone licensed their names to anyone for almost anything. It was wild. There were several different Lacostes, three Burberrys, and dozens of Christian Diors and Yves Saint Laurents. If you had the cash, you could buy a license to be exclusive to a brand for Japan or create a new collection just for the Middle East. Star designers wanted cash for themselves and their collections and didn’t care about diluting the brand. Their arena was the salons of Paris, and they knew their customers by name. If someone wanted to wear a polo with their logo in Bahrain or New Zealand, they couldn’t care less.

This has changed, with most of these brands now coming under well-curated professional management. But for the houses of Paco Rabanne, Dior, and more, three things emerged. An excellent tailor like Balenciaga could shine brightly in Madrid and Paris, and this light would continue to shine long after his death, as long as his impact was significant enough during his life and he had left enough creative crumbs to mine for decades. Balenciaga actually closed his house initially because, without him, what would be the point?

Global distribution of high-margin casual, capsule, and other collections was far more profitable than couture. And you could indeed put your name on just about anything as long as you did it with care. Rather than using licensing to power couture collections, high-powered couture collections became the concept cars and PR events that launched more accessible items worldwide.

Luxury Brand Globalization

In addition to those three realizations, there were also three new audiences in luxury. Rather than just those in Paris, in the know, there was a group of less fashion-conscious but still wealthy high-net-worth individuals who would be more than happy to shell out $1,000 for a sweater if they were convinced it was a safe and interesting choice. Additionally, there was a global audience for fashion, unlocking billions in revenue in countries like South Korea, Japan, and even Nigeria. Thirdly, there was a group of millions of aspirational fashion-interested people who could not afford a $10,000 couture dress or a $1,000 sweater but might save up for a $5,000 bag or a $300 cap. Paris became a mine of global recognition and relevance, potentially in perpetuity.

In addition to clothing, two other huge multi-billion categories emerged: fragrances and eyewear. In fragrances, companies like Puig and others design, develop, and market your dream in a bottle. In eyewear, Safilo and, most notably, Luxottica are vertically integrated powerhouses that make everything from screws to sales.

Fan Service

By derisking brands, these companies can design your glasses, make the molds, produce all the components, handle production runs, distribute them, and then just give you the cash. You can focus on your brand while they deploy it to the eyewear category. Initially, the global eyewear industry had a focal point in Italy, the probable location of the invention of contemporary eyeglasses. Small companies in regions and cities made small metal components, metal frames, or resin frames, for example, in areas like the province of Belluno or the city of Agordo. Competitors and suppliers in these areas were bound together to competitively and flexibly produce metal and later resin frames.

Luxottica emerged from this environment, evolving from supplying components to complete frames and later retail. This allowed the company to design components in tandem with subassemblies and final products rather than focus on standardized components for all or highly customized small production run parts. The effects of vertical integration let it cater to expanding brands such as Armani well, making billions for themselves and their customers with little effort on the part of the customers. The ability to cater to all needs, along with distribution and good management of capital, meant that brand relationships were sticky. This allowed the more integrated firm to eke out more margin along its entire value chain, offering better conditions and pricing to brands.

Furthermore, its market power could make consumers desire the glasses it offered, allowing them to shape trends and limit consumer choices. Bigger brands and continuous reissues of old models are simply better business for them. It’s not like a council of glitterati is demanding the 159th reissue of the Wayfarer.

Disruption

Now, companies are realizing they can potentially disrupt Luxottica, which essentially controls the market for frames and glasses. The $24 billion group’s grip on eyewear is based on dominating the entire value chain. However, by creating an app and partnering with a Cipres or Erpro for production, you could disrupt them.

I love this market very much. I think it will be very difficult to disrupt a larger player like Luxottica, but if you only do it a teensy-weensy tiny bit, you could be very successful without having to invest a lot of capital. Why not get your own luxury brand rather than spend money on other people’s luxury brands?

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