4 young entrepreneurs redefine eyewear industry

A top Filipino-British commercial model has teamed up with a young couple and a US-based fashion designer to redefine the Philippine eyewear industry.

“I got together with my friends [in 2013]. I was in LA at that time. I said, let’s create something really cool and do something we really love,” Georgina Wilson, the former host of Asia’s Next Top Model, says to explain how they built a company called Sunnies Studios.

After launching the lifestyle eyewear brand Sunnies and selling more than a million pairs of sunglasses since 2013, the business partners are expanding their venture to include an optical or prescription eyewear line.

Wilson along with her cousin Martine Cajucom and entrepreneurs Eric and Bea Soriano-Dee decided to expand the Sunnies Studios company, which has created a niche in the sunglass sector, to introduce an optical line under the brand Sunnies Specs.

“While Sunnies is more of the adventurous kind of sunglasses, we’ve considered, due to increasing demand and queries, to broaden the brand to optical lenses,” says Eric Dee, director for finance at Sunnies Studios.

Sunnies Studios launches an optical line under the brand Sunnies Specs.  Shown during the media launching at DasmariÒas Village in Makati City are Sunnies Studios owners (from left) Bea Soriano-Dee, Eric Dee, Martine Cajucom and Georgina Wilson. KATHREEN ABAYA
“This led us to more researches and studies on the ideal package, the perfect price points and the right amount of fashion sense,” says Dee.

Wilson serves as the marketing director of Sunnies Studios, Bea is the operations director while Cajucom is the creative director.

Sunnies Studios, established in 2013, was originally called Sunnies by Charlie as a part of the clothing brand Charlie, which Wilson co-owned. “Well, we really created something that wasn’t available in the market—the simple, stylish and affordable, and that is exactly what we did for Specs too,” says Wilson.

Three years into its operation, the corporation has opened 40 stores nationwide and expanded online in other Asian markets such as Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

The Sunnies eyewear brand which offers “trendy and modern but with a touch of vintage” sunglasses has been receiving suggestions to introduce prescription eyewear.

“We listen to our customers. People were saying, ‘Can you make eyewear please? We buy your sunglasses and we change them [into prescription].’ We wanted to make a one-stop shop, and we did. We made Sunnies Specs. There’s nothing like it in the market because it’s stylish, simple and affordable, and that is the core of Sunnies Specs,” says Wilson.

Cajucom says: “We wanted to sell products that we personally love, so we created prescription eyeglasses that are affordable, stylish, design-driven and accessible to everyone. Just like Sunnies, we wanted to make it fun and fit the style of everyone.”

Customers may choose from 10 unique pantone colors. The Sunnies Studios team also curated five styles of frames to fit every face shape and personality. 

Sunnies Studios established three pilot stores for Sunny Specs at Glorietta 2 in Makati City, UP Town Center in Quezon City and SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City.  Sunnies Specs will add two more shops at Trinoma and SM Cebu City in July and five more before the end of 2016, says Dee. 

By the end of 2016, the group aims to have a total of 10 branches nationwide.

The company is spending a lot for the campaign especially for shoots that are usually out of the Philippines, as it also explores foreign markets.

Sunnies and Sunnies Specs’s ad campaigns were shot in countries such as Japan, Australia and the US.

“It is something that reflects our brand. And everything is well worth the investments we spent for promotions. Right now, what we want is to keep everything company-owned. We’re sure for now how much we’re allocating for expansion, but we’re ready to go global,” says Dee.

Within the year, Sunnies will be available in California through online stores. The brand is also available via the same platform in seven other Southeast Asian countries. Physical expansion is the next phase of the company’s global plan.

Dee says Sunnies and Sunnies Specs are both priced competitively, with Sunnies costing from P399 to P599 a pair and Specs at a fixed price point of P1,999 per pair, with frame and multi-coated lens included.

Dee says the company has the same consumer base for Sunnies and Specs, as “most people do not know that they are in need of optical glasses.’

“Most of the time, they go to our shop, get in love with the sunglasses because of style, not knowing that when the doctors asked them to have their eyes checked, they too are in need of glasses.”

Sunnies Studios have suppliers from Europe and China for the frames while lenses are sourced from Korea and India.

Packaging is the only piece assembled locally. The cases oftentimes undergo overhaul in sync with promotions and seasonality. Cases and packaging change regularly with the season’s collection.

In step with the expansion of physical stores, Sunnies are available on digital platforms such as Sunny Studios website and  fashion site Zalora.  It is also available via direct selling firm Avon.

“We’re one of the brands that Avon has brought into the company. We’re exclusively designing for Avon, as well,” Dee says.

Since 2013, the company has sold more than a million pairs of Sunnies with as many as 200 stock keeping units of frames available at any given time.

Every month, the company introduces 10 to 20 new designs while retiring older frames to keep attuned to new fashion trends.

“The new stocks make them want for new pairs. We make sure that our product fits perfectly with our consumers, size and style-wise. We realized before we ventured into this that there is a gap between affordability and style. And this is what we want to address. We are fashion forward but we never compromise style for price,” Dee says.

Sunnies Studios has a creative team that comes up with new, trendy and stylish pieces both for Sunnies and Specs.

While other optical shops carry multiple brands with multiple prices, Sunnies Specs has one brand with one fixed price point. “So you’ll need not worry that your budget of P2,000 will become P3,000 or P4,000,” says Dee.

Dee says Sunnies Studios expects to continue the enormous growth the company is enjoying, as sales posted a high double-digit to even triple-digit growth at some point.

The company invested a huge amount to bring state-of-the-art machines for eye check-up and refraction.  Each Specs store has two to three resident doctors who walk customers through the process.

“For Specs, we’ll be more aggressive. Not only because this is a new brand but because of the need to have people realize their eye needs corrective [lenses] and protection, in the least,” Dee says.

Sunnies Studios currently has 40 physical stores for Sunnies and plans to add five more by end-2016.

The company also plans to put up another business called Sunnies Cafe at Bonifacio Global City. The cafe will feature some of the owners’ favorite food and drinks.  “You will see the most ‘instagrammable’ hub,” says Wilson. With Kathreen Abaya and Regina Lintag

Topics: Sunnies specs , young entrepreneurs , redefine eyewear industry , eyewear
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