“All of my favorite brands didn’t make eyewear and smaller brands can’t get into eyewear,” said founder and chief executive officer Andrew Lipovsky. “Luxottica makes product for billion-dollar players.”
That dynamic, along with the appeal of the direct-to-consumer e-commerce model that’s become so attractive to entrepreneurs, was the impetus behind Eponym.
The five-year-old start-up already produces eyewear for Steven Alan, and recently added licensing agreements for Alice + Olivia and Jason Wu. In addition to taking optical and sunglasses from concept to completion, the company facilitates the selling of product on partner Web sites and supports an in-store component. The company, which raised a $1 million seed round in 2012, is headquartered in Chelsea here and employs a team of 30.
Eponym will launch Alice + Olivia’s eyewear with a 16-piece resort collection composed of eight sun and eight optical silhouettes. The frames are heavy on cat-eye and oversize, round styles that are similar to those frequently worn by Stacey Bendet, ceo and creative director of Alice + Olivia.
Starting in mid-November, the glasses will be sold on both aliceandolivia.com and a branded eyewear site created by Eponym. The product will also roll out to all of Alice + Olivia’s 20 stores in November and be supported by logo campaigns, digital marketing, in-store events and a point of sale system built by Eponym.
“Eyewear is a critical component of my personal style,” said Bendet. “Entering the eyewear category has been on my priority list for a long time.”
Beyond a strong digital footprint, Lipovsky said price is a differentiator for Eponym’s glasses. The styles will be priced according to brands’ existing offerings. For instance, Alice + Olivia’s glasses will retail for $225, including prescription lenses. Steven Alan’s looks range from $165 to $195, and Jason Wu’s will be priced a bit higher to mirror the designer’s ready-to-wear collection.
For Steven Alan’s existing range, which launched in 2013, more than 200 stockkeeping units are sold on stevenalanoptical.com. This includes 20 to 40 styles at any given time that come in three to four colors. The selection is split evenly between optical and sun styles.
“We pay brands royalties based on retail prices — direct-to-consumer prices — rather than wholesale prices,” Lipovsky said.
Under this approach, consumers get access to designer brands and the designer a sweeter royalty payment than they might have otherwise as well as marketing and in-store support.
He said the company is first and foremost focused on an e-commerce approach, but supplements this with an in-store presence that’s relevant to the designer and intended to maximize both sales and brand awareness.
Beyond building its designer licensee business, Eponym maintains a private label collection, “Classic Specs,” at Classicspecs.com. Priced slightly below styles from eyewear e-commerce pioneer Warby Parker, glasses and sunglasses start at $89. Lipovksy expects this segment of the business to be a much smaller part than licensed brands, though, calling it “a testing ground for new features we roll out to brands.”