100% Optical is a reasonably new show to the UK optical industry; it is now in its seventh year. I worked with the show when it first began, back in February 2014, and the following year before going on maternity leave with my first baby. Fast forward to January 2020: I was back working with the show again. This time as a judge for the event’s new Love Eyewear Awards.
What did I think of the 2020 show? Compared to when it first started back in 2014, the show has certainly grown. For the 2020 show, they had some big-name exhibitors such as Luxottica, Marchon, Marcolin and Safilo who usually only exhibit at the likes of Opti, Mido and Silmo for their European markets. So, for them to have a presence in London is a big deal.
Aside from the big boys of the optical industry, 100% Optical also put a strong emphasis on supporting new startups. During the 2020 show, they had an incubator area for startup brands trying to break into the UK/European market. I thought that was a nice touch because, as an industry, we need to continue to support new brands. My favourite of these is LowercaseNYC. The frames are all made in New York with a team of only three people who do absolutely everything themselves; from making the frames, to marketing and packing orders.
Overall, 100% Optical is still a small show when compared to Opti, Mido and Silmo. As a result, a lot of brands are unwilling to do any big product launches at because the audience is not there. Plus, 100% Optical and Opti are only two weeks apart.
The show seems still to be mainly attracting a UK audience, and I feel there is a way to go before it attracts a large number of visitors from further afield. Nevertheless, 100% Optical is moving in the right direction if they want to compete with the big European shows.
To celebrate the year 2020, 100% Optical also had a new addition to the show: The Love Eyewear Awards. I was honoured to be asked to be part of the judging panel. The awards celebrate all things great within the optical industry. There were ten categories from eyewear to the best shop window display, and the judges were a real mix too; from optical industry professionals to eyewear bloggers, jewellery designers to architects.
There was plenty of debate among the judges. Some key questions we debated were, what makes a great frame? Is it commercially variable? How good is the design? What materials are used? What is the price point? Are they easy to glaze? And the list goes on. Congratulations to all the winners:
Women’s frame of the year – Albert Imstein
Men’s frame of the year – Gotti
Sunglasses of the year – Vysen
Kids’ frame of the year – Zoobug
New designer of the year – Adrian Muller
Luxury eyewear of the year – Vysen
International eyewear retailer of the year – Acuitis
Eyewear retailer of the year – The Eye Place
The most engaging practice window – Maskell + Josephson
Luxury eyewear retailer – Broadhurst Optometrists
My favourite part of attending any show is trend spotting. However, I have a confession to make; I did find it hard to spot trends during 100% Optical. It is only a small show and I attended Opti two weeks prior. So, I pretty much saw everything at Opti and most of what I spotted during 100% Optical was a repeat.
Nonetheless, I can tell you one big ‘trend’ that is coming in from Europe is one that I don’t really like to call a trend. I like to call it a movement: eco-friendly eyewear. A lot of companies are now exploring ways they can make their brands more eco-friendly. These include reducing packaging, using different packaging and frame materials, and exploring how easily their products can be recycled.
British company Eyespace has joined this movement and, at 100% Optical, launched their first-ever eco-conscious range. They are the first British brand to launch something like this. It was nice to see a British company following this movement, which is picking up momentum in Europe. The Eyespace ECO Conscious range consists of materials that don’t contain any harmful chemicals, dummy lenses that are fully biodegradable (within five years) and it uses plastic-free, FSC-accredited, fully biodegradable packaging. For each frame sold, they will plant a tree, in association with reforestation charity “One Tree Planted”.
The idea behind the collection may not be new, but the price point of the frame is very purse-friendly for the end user and the frames are great quality; a combination that is pretty rare.
In the near future, I do believe more brands will be thinking harder about the products they are producing. Not just the eyewear sector, but in contact lenses and beyond. It is a movement that will impact trends and how/what consumers purchase.
I think we can all agree, the environment of our planet is a big topic right now. It is not a fad, like trends are; it is an issue more people are taking more notice of and will continue to do so.
Siu-Yin Shing is an eyewear blogger born in Hong Kong, now based in the UK. She founded her eyewear blog MyGlassesAndMe.co.uk eight years ago and works with many brands worldwide.