Did you know that most ready-made eyewear are designed around “Caucasian” nasal features (narrow and high nasal bridges)? Well, racial bias exists in designing spectacles and sunglasses too. As a result, Black and Southeast Asian people, who mostly have low and wide bridges, wear ill-suited glasses.
Set to change status quo
Reframd, an Afropolitan eyewear brand, is all set to change the status quo. The company designs and produces custom-fit eyewear products driven by each customer’s facial measurements.
Although the frames and software are primarily developed for Black people, the company’s algorithm can make them fit anyone with any nose profile, claims Reframd. It also plans to offer prescription eyewear soon.
Considering environmental wastages Reframd produces all their frames on demand, leaving them with no wasted stock.
- Design frames :Liptitika, Moni, Planga, Umoyo
- Colours: Black, Khaki, Bordeaux & Orange
- Zeiss lens options: Blue, Brown, and Orange.
- Material: 3D printed nylon frames, Zeiss polyamide lenses, spring hinges.
How it all started
Ackeem Ngwenya and Shariff Vreugd founded Refrmd in 2020 in Berlin, due to personal frustration of not finding fitting glasses.
In an exclusive conversation with Silicon Canals, Shariff Vreugd, Co-founder, reveals, “Whenever we tried glasses, we felt unease at how they looked on us; for a long time, we felt that our face was just not meant for glasses. At some point, we realised the problem wasn’t with our faces but with the glasses themselves. After this eureka moment, it became clear that the glasses were not made for people like us, and we decided to do something about it.”
He continues, “I met Ackeem in Berlin two years ago at a festival where he walked around with 3d printed prototype frames asking people to try them on. After trying on a pair, I was blown away! When I was trying the prototype, the first thing that came to mind was just that they were so comfortable around my nose bridge. So I told Ackeem: ‘This makes complete sense. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? “
“After our initial meeting, I stayed in touch with Ackeem. Then, I went to his office to try on different designs. I was still very impressed by his products and wanted to learn more about the business model and his current stage. He told me that he’s an industrial designer and primarily focuses on the product aspect. I proposed to help with the business development, and 7 months later, we incorporated Reframd in the Berlin commercial register,” he tells Silicon Canals.
Talking about the challenges, Vreugdm says, “Some potential investors or funders think that Reframd can’t be solving a real problem. Otherwise, someone else would have been working on it already, But we don’t think anyone is purposefully not wanting to develop glasses for Black people’s nose profiles. We believe it’s a question of diversity and power: Who can decide what products are made, for whom they are made, and who makes them?”
He notes, “For the fashion accessories industry – or indeed, any industry – to ensure it is catering to all races and identities, it needs diverse teams throughout. We need inclusion, representation, and participation of diverse groups of people at different levels of product development.
According to Vreugdm, Reframd is a DTC brand- and customer-centric online retailer for stylish, high-end customised sunglasses. The company also plans to offer prescription eyewear in the future.
Reframd works by using a parametric algorithm that runs in a 3D program. Put simply, customers use the front-facing camera on their smartphones to capture their face landmarks. These parameters drive frame creation for a particular person and that frame is then sent to the production partner and made for the customer. It will be shipped in two weeks from the date of order, claims the company.
Vreugdm explains, “Low price but high quality can be achieved by vertical integration and cutting out the middleman: We design the glasses in-house and sell them directly to our customers (most brands do not design and manufacture themselves). We’re highly conscious about our brand and value perception: every touchpoint in the customer journey is thoroughly designed.”
The frames are 3D printed by Materialise in Belgium. The lenses are produced by the world-renowned German manufacturer Zeiss, and the spring hinges are made in Austria by Redtenbacher. Notably, Reframd gains revenue directly from its customers by cutting out the middle man.
Reframd has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, on Tuesday, to raise around $43,643 (approx €36,000). As of writing this article, Reframd has collected $9,080 with 52 backers. The crowdfunding campaign is live till July 15.
According to the company, on Kickstarter, the glasses are available for €150, with an exclusive €99 to early backers. The future retail price will be approximately €180.
Explaining the reason behind choosing to crowdfund, Vreugdm says, “Crowdfunding allows us to break beyond the traditional methods like loans, investment, and grass to discover that we can offer each other value through creation without a middleman dictating the product and term of a project. The crowdfunding campaign will be an excellent way to introduce our overall mission and vision to our target audience and the entire market. With the help of Kickstarter, our potential reach will also significantly expand. The momentum created by crowdfunding campaigns can eventually attract investment from the traditional channels and attention from media outlets.”
Reframd will be using the fund to finalise a range of things including the virtual try-on, a frame generating algorithm, and the app. Part of the funding will be used to accelerate Frame production and lenses and procure lens cutting machines.
“We’re aiming for a turnover of €100,000 for the first year (2021)”, says Vreugdm.
The company has been witnessing a 300 per cent + growth in both newsletter subscribers and unique monthly website visitors.
“Our assumptions have been validated by positive feedback and interest in our products from people across Western Europe, the USA, Brazil, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Japan). However, a real eye-opener for us has been the number of people expressing that they feel acknowledged, seen, and valued because products are being developed especially for them.”
At present, Ackeem is managing the product and strategy department, whereas, Shariff is taking care of marketing, communication, and business development.
“We’re not hiring now, but we’ll look for a full-stack developer and a marketing manager in the near future,” he confirms to Silicon Canals.
According to him, the company is focusing on the US market due to potential opportunities, but Europe and the UK are definitely on the cards.
He says, “We’re currently focusing on the US because that’s our biggest market. However, since we are located in Europe, it’s less complex to ship our products within the EU. After the Kickstarter campaign, we’ll focus on major cities in the EU. Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Berlin and in the UK London of course.”
According to him, the company also plan to host pop-up stores regularly in its key markets to engage with its customers offline, which will allow it to engage and share its story. “Customers can learn about Reframd and the story behind our products. These events will also coincide with co-creation workshops and real-life- exhibitions with local Artists.”