As brands and retailers endeavor to unlock the mystery surrounding consumers’ shopping habits and behaviors, the question of quality versus price comes into sharper focus. And according to recent research, consumers are increasingly choosing quality.
Almost 40 percent of Millennial consumers say quality is the most important factor that attracts them to products, which is almost double the proportion who stated that uniqueness is the next most attractive aspect of luxury, according to a study by Deloitte. And companies such as Eyevan 7285, a Japanese eyewear company, is meeting this growing demand.
The firm had its start in the early Seventies and launched with the ethos that eyewear was part of “dressing as a fashion item,” which was a novel concept at that time. Its no-label, minimalist aesthetic is not exactly identifiable – Eyevan eyewear does not tout a logo, yet it remains a favorite among discriminating Hollywood starlets and musicians. Centered on quality, modesty and delicacy (and the occasional cat-eye, retro-style frame), Eyevan is a low-profile product for the high-profile consumer. Its collections are sold at luxury retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York, among others.
Norihiro Hakamata, assistant manager of sales division and overseas division at Optec Japan Group USA and Donna Hoffman, the U.S. manager at the company, told WWD, “Our focus is primarily on detail-oriented design and simplicity with superior construction.” They added, “In traditional Japanese culture, the production process is highly complex. The minimal aesthetic requires innovative technology.”
Manufactured in the town of Sabae in Fukui Prefecture, Japan, its acetate and titanium eyewear is made one by one through a 200-step process. Hakamata and Hoffman told WWD, “Sabae is an isolated community known not only for its colder climates but also for its rich history in eyewear production. One in six residents work in the eyewear industry. It’s a detail-oriented element of the community that lends itself to the high quality of eyewear.”
Sabae’s start in eyewear was more than 100 years ago, when farmers began making eyeglasses as an off-season side job in wintertime, due to heavy snow in the area. Today, 90 percent of eyeglass frames made in Japan are produced in Sabae, according to the company. Sabae is considered a major global production center, along with Belluno, Italy and Dongguan, China.
Its products are manufactured by both hand and machine (via three-dimensional data processing technologies), with details stemming from a range of inspirations, including temple design influenced by French cutlery from the Forties; metal frames drawn from Seventies-era eye test equipment; additional parts inspired by arabesque patterns from old Japanese temples. A variety of signature, unique attributes promote the brand’s vintage feel, such as the one pin end-piece, which fixes a frame front and temple with one pin inside a hand-carved groove; its signature “Eyevan Gold” color on the temples; titanium nose pad; the carved “Daruma” shaped rim and the aluminum or tanned leather cases gleaned from antique cases in the 1920’s. Its polishing and adjusting processes rely 100 percent on craftsmanship, according to the firm. Japan’s Sabae brand has been preserved by the “overlapping passionate souls of every person who loves making things” under the Choba system, a division of labor system in which craftsman improve their skill over time, the company said.
And Japan’s growing economy has strengthened its presence in the U.S. and across other global markets: Japan is the third largest economy in the world after the U.S. and China, and it is the fourth-largest importer, all according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. “The industry is changing. Actually, [Japan’s] trade in fashion products is increasing,” said Kimihiko Inaba, director-general of JETRO’s manufacturing industry department. “The variety of product provided by Japanese companies is [unique to Japan], as each [product] has very characteristic features.”
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