Lowercase: New York at the Center

Lowercase founder Gerard Masci knew from the start that his brand would be built around local production—production in New York City specifically. Together with head of design Brian Vallario, Masci told VM, “I brought a passion for acetate frames and Brian brought a passion for local small batch production. At the center of our approach was that we commit to making everything ourselves in NYC.”

Of course, COVID-19 hit New York City fast, and it hit New York City hard. The city shut down in mid-March, and has remained at least partially locked down since. This hit New York’s small businesses hard—Lowercase, Masci explained, had to close its Brooklyn-based workshop for three to four months.

Thankfully, Masci did not have to lay anyone off, but he and the rest of the Lowercase team have had to find a way to pivot in light of the way the city and the workplace has changed. He explained, “Even as we returned to work we scheduled the work week around a 7-day work week instead of a 5-day, which allowed us to limit the number of people in the workshop at any one time.”

The biggest change, though? Sales. Masci is Lowercase’s only salesperson in the U.S., so he’s used to constant travel and in-person interaction with potential customers—two things that are pretty much entirely out of the question now. So far, Lowercase has adjusted by sending sample sets to interested accounts and supplemented with Zoom tours of their Brooklyn workshop, but Masci said, “nothing can replace the value of in-person human to human interaction. We certainly long for the days of trade shows and free travel.”

Despite these changes and new challenges, though, the Made in USA—and Made in New York City—story remains central to Lowercase’s brand identity. Masci said, “Local production is a key tenant of our ethos so Lowercase doesn’t work if the product is not made in the U.S.”

For Lowercase, local production means the ability to invite customers to see the process firsthand, adding another layer to that personal connection. Masci said, “I don’t think the average consumer is very knowledgeable about the eyewear supply chain and thus is not always sure what to make of American made frames but when educated about where most frames are made and how little production is done domestically, I do think it resonates very loudly.

“We’ve found an even bigger connection comes when someone tours the workshop and walks through the production process. Most people are taken aback at how long and difficult the process is to make a single pair of frames and at the end of the tour is when I really see customers attitudes toward Made in America frames take a decidedly positive turn.”