It’s wartime in the eyewear industry: long gone are the days of monopoly by out-licensed fashion brands, overpriced and lack-luster design with little quality to match the sky-high prices. A new generation of producers are springing out of London, New York, Berlin, and now also Copenhagen, thanks to the people behind Jamie Looks. Less than a year old, the Danish design start-up has set out to revolutionize the sunwear market with sleek designs and direct engagement with customers, initially through their well-stocked online store, and as of this week, a Copenhagen pop-up. What forces are they up against? We sat down to get to know Jamie Looks.
What is Jamie Looks?
Jamie Looks is an fashion eyewear brand based in Copenhagen, born autumn 2017. Our mantra is “aesthetics with quality and purpose, made accessible”. As such, our DNA traces back to the strong Nordic design culture, which was of course shaped by the ideologies of our welfare society. To bring things back down to eye level (pun intended), four fundamental principles define what we are about: thoughtful design, quality craftsmanship, direct customer engagement, and accessible pricing. Today, these are far from given in the industry where consumers are faced with 80% of eyewear comprising of licensed brands, mass produced to often questionable quality, marketed through a sea of bland department stores and optometrists – and usually overpriced. Jamie Looks is none of this.
What were your backgrounds, and what brought you together to found Jamie Looks?
We are a diverse crew with backgrounds in creative and business – even technology (which is quite helpful in e-commerce). We came together around Jamie Looks because all were fundamentally amazed at how hard it still is to find great eyewear that doesn’t leave wallets bare. A movement has been forming over the past half-decade especially in the US and increasingly also in Europe to creative quality alternatives to … well overpriced junk, frankly speaking. We are part of that movement, aspiring to someday lead it with a fresh and honest approach. On a broader note, I think it is fair to say that we are fundamentally motivated to create great things, and doing so out of Copenhagen with eyes towards the world.
What are your thoughts on the eyewear industry, which is still highly dominated by licensed fashion brand accessories?
The market today is largely an illusion of choice. There are very few truly independent brands out there. Brands who themselves control all aspects of the customer experience; from product design and quality, to manufacturing and distribution, and of course marketing, pricing and customer service. Reality is that the eyewear industry is dominated by a single company that has hiked prices to artificially high levels over the past few decades. It has done so by a) entrenching the entire value chain and b) snagging up brands either through acquisition or license deals. The general public has been accustomed to paying the same for a pair of glasses as they pay for a tablet. It is absurd.
A movement has been forming over the past half-decade especially in the US and increasingly also in Europe to create quality alternatives to … well overpriced junk, frankly speaking. We are part of that movement, aspiring to someday lead it with a fresh and honest approach.
Where is your production located – and how has it been setting up a production model for Jamie Looks?
Our production is currently based in Hong Kong and the EU. We work directly with our partners who are strictly independents with decades long tradition of skilled craftmanship, paring traditional techniques with precision manufacturing. We are looking to further expand production within the EU – and potentially also look to Japan whose eyewear craft is renowned. In setting up the production model we did a great deal of up front diligence and prototyping to find the best partners offering a combination of high competence, flexibility, and understanding of our purpose. Transparency and a lean operating model was also key. Our promise to the customer depends on it.
Describe your design universe? There’s clear references to a Scandinavian design tradition, but with a clear playfulness and idiosyncracy.
Well thanks for picking up on exactly those cues. As mentioned above, we are as Copenhageners proudly rooted in a heritage of effortless and functional design. Yet we are not limited to its traditional minimalist expression. We take inspiration from the world around us, past and present. Designed in-house, our international creative team develops eyewear with a keen eye towards the latest movements, yet always rooted in sharp, classic shapes. Hence the playfulness and idiosyncrasies coming through in our launch collection of sunglasses.
How do you balance your accessible price point with high quality products?
The high price point of most quality eyewear today has nothing to do with the product itself. It has everything to do with the market condition described above. So, by circumventing traditional channels, designing glasses in-house, carefully sourcing quality materials, partnering with independent manufacturers, and engaging with customers directly, we can offer great eyewear at fraction of the going price. A straightforward value proposition. It’s a simple thing, really.
Where do you hope to stock your products?
Again, central to our model and value proposition is engaging directly with the consumer (which very few eyewear brands actually do). The only way to really accomplish this is via own webstore and in due time own physical brand shops. We launched online in May with an admittedly fairly basic setup. Being successful online with eyewear requires outstanding features to enhance customer experience and in a sense overcome the barrier of not being physical. We are working to introduce new features in the coming months such as a new virtual try-on technology, home-try-on, live video chat – along of course with plenty of crisp content to communicate our brand universe. In time the ambition is to operate own physical stores. A first step here is probably pop-up stores to “get out there”. In fact, already here in June we are on track to open in the center of Copenhagen. Very exciting.
What is your five-year plan for Jamie Looks?
The aspiration is to build a truly great eyewear brand from our base here in Copenhagen. And to do it via a thoughtful and honest approach delivering a fundamentally good product, done right, priced fairly.
For more information, see Jamie Looks
The Jamie Looks CPH pop-up store is open for the next month.