It seems the best products are always born out of the designer’s personal need, and Meeyye, the eyewear line founded by former fashion communications executive Masako Kumakura, is no different.
Settling last year in Newport Beach, Calif., after stints in London, Paris and Hong Kong, Kumakura found herself with some extra time on her hands.
“All my career I’ve been marketing and communicating brands for other people, but I’ve never created anything. I was born in 1959, so at one point I started needing reading glasses. I remember preparing beginning-of-year budgets at Gucci Group and I started holding the papers closer and closer to my face,” she laughed.
“So I said, ‘OK, I’m going to make what I need, and what my friends need. There are so many products everywhere, but I couldn’t find reading glasses that I wanted to wear that were also reasonable. I took my designer glasses to the optician and they told me it was impossible, or very expensive, to put in progressive lenses.”
So she sourced a factory in China with the capability to make not only high-quality frames, but the progressive lenses as well. The frames are 3-D printed from her CAD sketches.
The result is Meeyye, with retail prices ranging from $65 to $70 and which launches on Matchesfashion.com at the end of May. Kumakura calls Meeyye the first fashion eyewear line to feature progressive lenses.
Customers use the same standard grades as drugstore-brand reading glasses to determine which strength lens to buy, and on its web site, Meeyye offers a visual tool to help them determine whether they are plus-one, plus-two, etcetera.
Part of the appeal of a fashionable product at a good price point is that people don’t hesitate to buy multiples. “What if you want to wear them at the pool? What if you forget them or break them? I want one in my office, at my bedside, in the kitchen, in the car, and I don’t want to spend $5,000,” Kumakura said.
The debut collection includes three ladies’ silhouettes: a classic acetate oversize round; a metal aviator, and a fashion-forward Seventies style combining acetate and metal. There is also a unisex Wayfarer-inspired style.
As for the lenses, which are all progressive reading bifocals, Kumakura classifies them as “clean” or clear lenses, sunglass lenses and “cosmetic” lenses, which are lighter colors that can be worn both indoors and outdoors.
The name, she says, is sort of an inside joke. “They say you can’t make anyone else happy unless you are happy yourself, so it’s really all about me,” she said. “My friends always say, ‘Masako, how much do you love yourself?’ but I do, I love myself.” She decided to call the line “Me Eye” but found that domain was already taken, so “I just changed the spelling.”
Kumakura added refined details such as the “m” and “e” logo built into the temple hinges, and the brand’s signature teal color on all the enameling and many of the temples. The extras were also carefully considered. The cases are made from biodegradable plastic and the pouches double as cleaning cloths.
For the next season, she plans to develop more on-trend styles and is aiming to grow distribution in luxury resort retail shops.
Her brand pillars are creativity, honesty and value. The first and last are obvious. As for transparency, she said, “Today customers are so smart and they just want to know the true story. They don’t care that things are made in China, they just want to know where things come from. My factory produces all the best glasses and lenses, for many brands who’d rather not say that.”