Two individuals at Marchon take it upon themselves to ensure that athletes wearing the company’s glasses can achieve Olympic world-record results.
Senior design directors Billy Castro and Megan Greene — who are responsible for the Nike and Dragon brands, respectively — are tasked each day with developing eyewear that not only enables sight, but also aids in accomplishing athletic feats.
They are the individuals leading Marchon’s efforts behind Olympic running glasses, biking sunglasses and snowboarding and skiing goggles. They also expand on Marchon’s history of producing rigorous performance eyewear — a category in which the company holds multiple licenses. In addition to Nike, the business also holds the Spyder and Columbia licenses. Marchon acquired Dragon in 2012.
“Eyewear is still a medical device and is protective against sun and harmful rays, but these are trusted to help athletes avoid getting a bug or particle of dust in their eyes — something that would distract them,” said Castro, who is in charge of Nike, a license that Marchon has held since 1999.
Castro and Greene meet with athletes that represent their respective brands years out from the Olympics. Together, they troubleshoot issues and develop technology around the conditions expected at the forthcoming games. This enterprising work is then filtered out into wider commercial collections in the years afterward.
“We can’t wait [until the] last minute, so as soon as one Olympics finishes we are working on technology for the next one,” Castro said.
In the lead-up to the 2021 Tokyo summer Olympic Games, for instance, Castro worked with scientists to develop eyewear that had a cooling effect, which ultimately became the Nike 360 style. “In Tokyo it was predicted to be the hottest Olympics ever, so it was about, ‘How do we allow athletes to remain comfortable so they can focus on their skill and craft? Anything could take away from their focus, so how do we make something comfortable enough that they don’t know anything is on their face?’” he said.
He and his team worked with researchers on thermal imagery studies to focus on where heat most affects the eyes. “Women have higher cases of dry eye so it was about making protective lenses that direct an angle of wind flow to cool the face but not dry the eyes,” Castro said. The eyewear was a success and this research will now impact future eyewear designs for the wider market.
The same could be said of a recent Dragon goggle development. “We just released our Swiftlock magnetics changing system and were working 24 months out on research and development. It takes a long time with engineering,” Greene said. The technology allows skiers and snowboarders to change out the goggle lenses with one hand, rather than two — enabling a more ergonomic flow on the mountain.
Safety is a chief concern when developing products to roll out in the wider commercial market. “We are seeing to athletes at multiple points throughout development to test in different conditions — whether skiing in Japan or Australia. It’s about having an athlete do 30 runs without the goggles flying off his face. It’s definitely scary when we talk about skiing and snowboarding how much danger is involved,” Greene said.
The same research and development went into other technological advances by Dragon including floatable sunglasses developed for sport fishing and frameless goggles.
Performance eyewear has seen a boon since the pandemic and an uptick in outdoor leisure time. According to Castro, this has translated into brands developing special eyewear for every element of an athletic event — for professionals and hobbyists alike.
“We are looking into new spaces like baseball, cricket, golf as well as fashion in the tunnel — everything from the bus to the arena. Nike has a saying, ‘if you are a body you are an athlete,’ so we are reaching everything from top-tier influencers to regular weekend warriors to marathon runners,” he said.
Runway designers including Martine Rose and Heron Preston are also collaborating with Nike, and therefore Castro and his team, to distill performance eyewear aesthetics into high fashion.
“What we have seen in the past is performance eyewear used solely for performance, then lifestyle and fashion, but now we see fashion take from performance and vice versa. The Martine Rose skeletal frame style was a cross expression. It’s dynamic now how people look to multiple styles — same thing with Heron Preston’s shield,” he said.
The next main developments on performance’s horizon are an expanded offering for women and children. “There is a great opportunity for Nike and other brands to expand diversity and fit for women’s — which in the past has only seen a sort of ‘shrink it and pink it’ mentality. Athletes from all walks of life want the same colors and fits and that fluidity needs to be reflected in eyewear,” Castro said.