STATE Optical Co.: Expanding Its Story, Its Factory and Its Approach to American-Made


VERNON HILLS, Ill.—STATE Optical Co. describes itself is a “first-of-its-kind brand of luxury American eyewear proudly being manufactured in Chicago, USA.” After much investment since the company started as they partnered with then California Frieze Frame founders Marc Franchi and Jason Stanley, to relocate, build and create the new endeavor here, Scott Shapiro, STATE’s CEO recalls, “From a manufacturing standpoint, we have learned so much in five years, including the real obstacles of making eyeglasses in the U.S. without the infrastructure that supports such an endeavor. The machinery, servicing it, the raw materials to bring in, the tools, the training of a workforce is just the beginning.” 

This month, STATE boosted its commitment by acquiring AO Eyewear, the former division of American Optical (see sidebar below), which will complement the acetate eyewear focus of STATE by bringing metal frame making into the company, including historical and iconic eyewear to its roster.

Said Shapiro, “We’ve learned, too, the importance of the storytelling component to our initiative and bringing excitement about the story of manufacturing and craftsmanship through our reps to our ECP supporters and to consumers. Our footprint has expanded three times since our start. And we want to be transparent about what we do.” To date, 2,000 ECPs have toured the inside of STATE and the company encourages visitors.

Added Nico Roseillier, creative director of Europa and STATE, “We are close to 50 active styles today, in three to four colors each. And we’ll continue to add new styles as an evolution of shapes and colors, including a new water-inspired group, this fall.”

STATE Acquires AO Eyewear

CHICAGO—This month, STATE Optical Co. announced the acquisition of AO Eyewear, Inc., a prominent former division of American Optical Corporation, bringing together two American-made eyewear brands and businesses. The transaction for AO Eyewear took place earlier this summer, executives said, and the details were not disclosed. STATE acquired the business from Alan McKinley, who will be general manager of AO Eyewear going forward. Scott Shapiro, CEO of STATE, told VM that STATE has transferred the frame-making equipment from AO and added 10,000 square feet to its manufacturing facility here, virtually doubling its size.

STATE will be producing AO Eyewear, carrying through many of the company’s sunwear styles and, in 2020, bringing out a new collection of sunwear, and, longer-term, optical frames.

STATE said, “As an eyewear brand dedicated to reinvigorating American eyewear craftsmanship and manufacturing, STATE has been creating luxury acetate eyewear since 2014 and has long looked up to American Optical, the oldest optical company in America.” AO Eyewear’s heritage, dates back to 1833. Their sunglasses were also the first on the moon; the iconic style, now known as the Original Pilot, was worn by the entire Apollo 11 crew and is now on exhibit at the Smithsonian. JFK’s favorite pair of sunglasses was the AO Saratoga.

Said Shapiro, “This opportunity creates the perfect marriage between a luxury acetate collection in STATE and a classic metal collection in AO Eyewear.”