BUSINESS Made in USA American Eyewear Makers and ECPs Reflect on a Historic Year By gwendolyn plummer Friday, September 10, 2021 1:00 AM RELATED CONTENT State and AO Reach New Heights 100+ Years of American-Made for ArtCraft Optical Thema’s Winning Combo: Italian Designed, American Made Made in Brooklyn, With Love from Modo Hilco Vision’s American Safety Randolph’s American Dream Like Its Home City, Lowercase Never Sleeps The McGee Group Plans to Start Making Frames in the U.S. Download a PDF of Made in USA.NEW YORK—In late October of last year, The Reshoring Institute, a non-partisan nonprofit that aims to support companies starting, restarting or expanding manufacturing within the U.S., published some new research (https://reshoringinstitute.org/made-in-usa-survey/). Consumers are fond of products made in the USA, The Reshoring Institute found—in fact, their research shows that nearly 70 percent of those surveyed would pay up to 20 percent more for products that they know are made in the U.S. Consumers associate Made in the USA labels with better quality products too, according to The Reshoring Institute’s research: “Over 46 percent of respondents believe that products manufactured in America are better quality than those manufactured in other countries. In our survey, there was no evidence offered that American-made products are better—it was simply a perception.” Regardless of how one feels about the state of the nation, the positives surrounding American manufacturing are hard to ignore: supporting American-made products means supporting people in your own community. It often means supporting a small business, and it almost always means having a direct, positive impact on the people around you. The American-made label also likely means consumers feel like they have a connection to what they’re buying—and that is almost always a positive for everyone involved. ECPs see this firsthand when customers react to the Made in USA eyewear in-store. Marcus McDowell, optical manager at East Memphis Optical in Tennessee, said Made in USA eyewear is “more personable, and it just feels better…” The practice operates on a slogan of “Buy Local, See the Difference,” and eyewear made at home fits perfectly into that. “We believe in supporting local businesses and that extends to Made in the USA Eyewear.” In particular, McDowell and his team see success with Thema. They stock five of Thema’s lines, and McDowell said, “you feel like you’re part of the [Thema] family.” The same goes for hyperlocal brands—Randolph, for example, located just outside Boston, Massachusetts, hears positive reinforcement from New England EPCs often. Marketing manager Amy Bean told VM, “Our ECPs tell us their customers love that Randolph Sunglasses are handmade, of exceptional quality and made locally by an independent business. Their customers are proud to support a local independent business with a strong American heritage. One account in Marblehead Mass., recently told us ‘My customers think Randolphs are the real deal and are premium quality, and own many pairs.’” Johnna Dukes, owner and optician at Optique in Spirit Lake, Iowa told VM that she didn’t initially set out to prioritize American-made eyewear, “but, when I saw the frames firsthand and felt the quality of the product, it was a really easy decision for me to get involved.” Dukes likes to give patients a feel for the culture and history of each frame company that she presents to patients, and has found it special to share her own experience with American-made eyewear, especially State and American Optical. She said, “When I am presenting State Optical or American Optical products, I get to tell the story about actually getting to visit the factory in Chicago and getting to see firsthand how much care goes into making each of these frames. And when it comes to American Optical, we discuss the heritage and history of the frames and having stories with pictures that show John F. Kennedy wearing the Saratoga frame or the astronauts from the Apollo mission wearing the AO Original Pilot.” This level of personal connection piques patients’ interest, usually. Dukes concluded, “It really makes purchasing these products kind of a prideful purchase for many of my patients, I believe they feel like they’re owning and wearing a piece of history.” Ruth Domber, co-founder of 10/10 Optics in New York City, told VM that “Some patients care if the frames are made in the USA and some do not. But all patients appreciate knowing that the collections we carry have a relationship with us as independents.” On the practice’s website, each vendor and country of origin is mentioned, and Domber fully believes that “every collection always has a story to tell… we always discuss the frame’s place in the world of optics.” Domber has also seen a real change in American-made eyewear over the past decade. She explained, “’Made in the USA’ means something different now than it did a few years ago. When I’d search for eyewear designs that would complement our curated eyewear collections I was looking for innovative wearable artistic eyewear by independent artists. Customs was not an issue, nor was availability or the value of the dollar. Until the last 10 years there also were not many choices for stylish eyewear made in the USA. All of that has changed. Adding eyewear collections that support our economy, small business owners and designers as well as a simpler supply chain makes ‘Made in the USA’ more attractive and easier than ever.” When it comes to fashion and eyewear, it’s true that consumers like to travel the world with their purchases and to tap into the high-fashion experience of Italian-made, or the high-tech expertise of Japanese eyewear—but there’s something special about American made, too. And with the theme for this year’s Met Gala, often considered to be the most important night in fashion, set as “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” there’s no question that American-made is about to rocket to the forefront of the fashion and manufacturing conversation. This year, we’re once again embarking on our annual Made in the USA feature, taking a look at eyewear companies from coast to coast who do their work right here at home. It’s been a tumultuous two years, and just about everything about how we live and work has changed—but these companies have adapted, grown and reimagined the path forward.