When you grace our Manchester premise, or peruse the virtual aisles on our website, you’ll hopefully notice we have a bit of a thing for original independent eyewear. Be it new styles from Garrett Leight, the latest collection from Jacques Marie Mage, or something exciting from a new upcoming designer, you can usually find them under our real, or server-hosted, roof.
"It’s probably down to our experience and passion for eyewear, a bit of gut feeling, and a healthy dollop of elbow grease..."
So how do we stay ahead of the curve and bring you the best in original opticals? Magic? Blind luck? Not exactly. It’s probably down to our experience and passion for eyewear, a bit of gut feeling, and a healthy dollop of elbow grease. That’s how we know about the best independent eyewear events taking place, and why we make sure we’re at the front of the queue when they’re happening.
Erika and Colette with Anne from Anne et Valentin at SILMO 2016
Hi Erika and Colette. For those of us that haven’t experienced one, what even are optical tradeshows? How would you describe them?
[COLETTE] A good optical trade fair is both brilliant and intense. There are thousands of distributors and hundreds of thousands of frames, shades, lenses and equipment. You’ve got to take your ‘A Game’ with you. Cool kids wear comfy shoes because you’re on your feet & treading the halls for hours, so if your feet are happy it’ll be hours of fun.
[ERIKA] There also places to be educated about modern technology, what impact it has on optics and how it’s used in the optical world when it comes to frame and lens manufacturing. The shows are amazing. I love the buzz about it all.
Erika with the actual Garrett Leight at last year's SILMO
Wow, that sounds tiring. And where does SILMO rank among tradeshows? What’s so special about it?
[ERIKA] SILMO is the biggest optical trade show in Europe. It’s fun, the different styles presented are incredible and what we see can be MIND BLOWING.
[COLETTE] It also has the best showcases. Companies debut their new lines at the fair. They may have had them ready to launch months prior but they wait for SILMO to do so.
So it’s a pretty big deal then? Do you have a game plan for this year? What are you looking for?
[COLETTE] It’s important for me to revisit things I’ve been previously charmed by to check that the allure is still there, that the company and its designers still feel like the innovators I want them to be. It can often take a few visits to convince me to roll with a collection. In real time that could be two to three years.
[ERIKA] For me it’s sitting with our existing brands to find out what they’ve been up to. What changed about their frames, what influenced them to change certain things, what frame style is the new hype this season, and what direction styling is taking. Then deciding whether their frames are still something we want on the Seen shelves or if it’s time to take a look for something new.
That’s quite a busy schedule. Who are the designers you’re planning on making a beeline for?
[ERIKA] I’ve fallen in love with Niloca. I see Seen as a platform for educating people about niche eyewear and making people enjoy wearing glasses. So it’s independent designers like Colin from Niloca who feed our passions for glasses and styling.
[COLETTE] It’s no lie, I LOVE ORGREEN! I always have and I always will. It’s one of the simpler collections here at Seen but to me that’s where its beauty lies. I’m always excited to see what colours they’re working with each year and as yet, I’ve never felt let down.
Orgreen's stand from last year's SILMO
Do you go in with a pretty good idea of the sort of frames that would go down well at Seen or do you like to throw in a few surprises?
[COLETTE] This is all relative to the collection you’re viewing. Garrett Leight for example, we know what we want, we go, we get it. On the flip side, Anne et Valentin, we know what we have back at Seen, we go, we’re surprised and we buy EVERYTHING!
[ERIKA] I believe we know our clients well, we know just how far we can push boundaries when it comes to frame selection. We often get excited about frames that are very avant-garde, revolutionary masterpieces but we are not always able to select them. Sometimes the reason being is that we and our clients might not be ready for them yet!
But there are times when some of our clients do surprise us and jump completely on board with whatever weird and wonderful frame we throw at them.
And is it all hard work and no play or is there a bit of a social side as well?
[ERIKA] Yeah, it’s a great place to meet up with friends from the optical industry. Some of them we only get to see on the show so it's nice to have a catch-up and see their faces.
[COLETTE] We have such great relationships with so many of our suppliers and other optical stores. A while back, akin to the Oscars, each of the big players would hold an ‘after party’ at a tres cool location. These days, a more nonchalant approach is often the way. This suits me so much better, less schmoozing, more intimate numbers, dinner, drinks and ultimately creative chat!
So hopefully that gives a little flavour of what happens. Sadly Colette can’t be at SILMO this year but Erika, sounds like you’re going to have a good time.
[ERIKA] Hell yeah! Get me on that flight ‘cos I'm ready to work hard and bring back the best eyewear for Manchester and our clients.