American Made Luxury: STATE Optical Co.10:07 PM
One thing that hasn't been associated with eyewear for a while: "Made in America." For decades eyewear design and manufacture has been split into 2 realms: luxury craftmanship in European markets like Italy or France, versus low cost, mass produced frames made in high production markets like China. American eyewear designers were plentiful, but actual frame production was always sent overseas. Through the early 2000s, many American industrial cities were plummeting into economic crisis as manufacturing jobs continued to rush off shore to drive down production costs. But there were many in the world of optical that wanted to move manufacturing back stateside. Enter the team behind STATE Optical Co. - the first luxury eyewear brand to be designed and manufactured in the USA.
How did STATE Optical turn the tide? In 1977 Alan and Cynthia Shapiro founded Europa, an industry leading eyewear company out of their garage. Fast forward to 2011 when their son, Scott Shapiro began working with Europa president Jerry Wolowicz on ways to bring producation of acetate eyewear to the US. They had the will, but they needed someone with the know how and craftmanship expertise to actually manufacture luxury eyewear - rare to find in the US since the industry had been international for so many years. They teamed up with the improbable pair of cousins Marc Franchi and Jason Staley -- men with a history of working primarily in the automotive field that had a passion for making things with their hands. When they learned so few eyeglasses were made in the US, they started learning the trade on their own. "Of course everyone told them they were crazy, and that the idea wasn't economically feasible," says Scott Shapiro.
Franchi and Staley learned eyewear manufacturing from the ground up, touring manufacturing facilities overseas and observing craftsmen at work. "They literally taught themselves how to produce acetate eyewear," marvels Shapiro. Shapiro and Wolowicz were first introduced to the cousins when they came across their original made in America eyewear, "Frieze Frames." They were wowed by the quality of the frames, unparalleled in the small American eyewear market. The partnership was born: the cousins and now 45 additional highly skilled eyewear craftsmen now produce frames out of the state-of-the-art Chicago home of State Optical Co.
|Blake Kuwahara is the lauded American eyewear designer behind his popular eponymous frame line and a recent capsule collection with l.a. Eyeworks to name a few|
"Part of our vision for building this factory was that optical professionals and eyewear lovers from around the country could come to our facility and see how frames are made. When you buy a pair of STATE frames and open the case, you’ll see the statement, “come see how your frames are made”. Our factory is open to the public. Anyone can make an appointment for a factory tour right from our website, STATEopticalco.com."
|Each STATE Optical Co design features a pyramid of 21 drill dots reminiscent of the stars on the United States flag to represent Illinois, the 21st state of the union.|
"Our major focus right now is just on continuing to increase the capacity of our factory, and Marc and Jason are continuing to train our craftsmen to perfect these long-lost skills. As we achieve that, we will be able to take on some of the other wild endeavors we have on our white board. As for now, we’re preparing to make 2017 a very big year for STATE Optical Co."
Check out the entire collection on their website and get sneak peaks into the manufacturing process and the detailed hand-craftmanship behind each frame on their Instagram account.