Brooklyn’s Lowercase Commits to Made in America Manufacturing

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(L to R) Ryan Langer, Gerard Masci and Brian Vallario in the Lowercase factory.
BROOKLYN, N.Y.—Lowercase, a Brooklyn-based eyewear company that launched in January 2017 is as unique as the location it calls home, and the young company is on a path of revitalizing the ways in which eyewear manufacturing can be done in the U.S.

With an interest in origins, more consumers want to know where things are made, how they’re made and who’s making them. Independent brands are becoming more distinctive.

Now, companies like Lowercase are starting to breathe new life into “Made in America” products as they’re choosing to plant their manufacturing roots firmly in the U.S.

A sun frame and accompanying case from the Lowercase eyewear line.
The small Lowercase team includes co-founders Gerard Masci and Brian Vallario; Ryan Langer, head of production and Aiko Austin, head of communications. Together, the tightknit crew incorporates the latest manufacturing techniques along with fine hand work in the company’s factory located in Sunset Park’s historic Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT).

Their BAT factory headquarters, which are just over 2,000 square feet, provide the solid floors that are needed to support their machinery, something many commercial landlords weren’t keen on housing. Along with this, the rent is a fraction of what they would pay elsewhere in New York City, Masci noted.

Formerly a military depot and supply base that saw the departure of soldiers from the U.S. to locations around the world during World War II (Elvis included), the once abandoned terminal is slowly being transformed into a manufacturing hub. Lowercase is just one of the first companies to start out there with a “Made in New York” eyewear concept.

The new eyewear company utilizes a model of vertical integration. This allows them to explore how manufacturing and design can both be done in-house as the entire 30-step eyewear making process is completed in their factory. It gives them more control over their product.

But before venturing into the eyewear industry, Masci was previously in finance. It wasn’t until he took a hiatus from his career that he considered exploring a role in optical.

“I was thinking about how much I love glasses. I’ve worn them since I was about 13 and collect them,” Masci said. “I started doing my own research using my finance skills and applying it to eyewear, and I found that there used to be American manufacturers, and asked why do they not exist anymore?”

Eyewear manufacturing machinery housed in the Lowercase factory at the Brooklyn Army Terminal.
A bird’s eye view from the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park, home of the Lowercase eyewear factory.
Brian Vallario, formerly in architecture, joined in on the venture after being introduced to Masci through a mutual friend, and Langer, a former colleague of Vallario’s came on board to head production.

As for everyone’s day-to-day roles in this closely connected team, Masci refers to Brian and Ryan as “real craftsman” and himself as a “support craftsman.”

The frames, which are all crafted from Mazzucchelli acetate, are designed by Vallario and produced from start to finish with the help of all three, Masci, Vallario and Langer taking part in the process.

“I do tasks like preparing the acetate to be cut, cutting the tablets into smaller slices along with operating some of the equipment that is pretty straight forward in its use,” he said. “We all do the tumbling, and I do all of the packing. All three of us touch every frame. No one else.”

While the process of starting a “Made in New York” eyewear company has been one of diving into the unknown, trial and error and a lot of networking, the new company continues to expand. Soon they will be growing their small factory space by adding more square footage to include the vacant area right outside of their current space.

Now with a two-person sales team, Lowercase has stockists in California, Connecticut, Kansas, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. They also sell direct to consumers via their website, lowercasenyc.com, to individuals who do not have stockists in their state.

The site currently features eight sun styles and five optical styles, all of which are unisex.

Lowercase’s mission is about renewing the heritage that comes along with American Made eyewear production. Its name, a printing press term, which harkens back to a time when more things were being printed and crafted seems fitting—especially for eyewear. “Lowercase speaks to the visualization of language,” Masci said.