NEW YORK—Eyewear made in the U.S. has been experiencing a resurgence in the past few years, as newer firms and startups as well as older, long-time family companies with deep, historical roots in the sector are committed to furthering their presence in the business. Old and new, each is looking to develop or expand connections to a new generation of customers—and eyecare professionals and optical retailers—who appreciate brand stories and authentic history about how products are made and where they come from.
From larger players to newer startups, there are a range of looks, options, materials and design styles now coming on stream, even despite the absence (or limit) of many of the support specialty services, materials, tools and experienced labor which is so essential to the art and science of frame making.
It should be noted that the re-emergence of interest in American eyewear manufacturing really pre-dates this year’s expanding trade battles and pending tariffs with China. The trade import issue adds a new dimension to the story. But while there are those who are indeed interested in looking for alternate sources of supply, the complexities of moving production to the degree needed complicate the matter. Having eyeglasses and sunglasses made closer to home is of growing interest to some suppliers and retailers who are exploring options. While U.S. companies used to dominate the eyewear market for many years, today frame and sunwear imports from around the world comprise more than 95 percent of the eyewear sold here, most industry observers agree.
But the bigger priorities of the U.S.-based eyewear companies that VM spoke to for this feature, are to expand their existing base of business further into the optical retail channel, to cultivate an appreciation among ECPs for the work they’re doing, to build exposure and awareness among consumers about what’s possible.
The companies here are by no means the only firms out there. VM will shine a light on the others; watch for updates online and in VM soon.