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Wednesday / April 17.
HomemifashionOakley: Versatility You’ve Never Seen Before

Oakley: Versatility You’ve Never Seen Before

“If it’s not good enough for the world’s best, it’s not good enough.” So said Jim Jannard, founder of Oakley, who set the path for a company that is now internationally respected for eyewear that looks and performs as well on the sports field as it does in the office.

Jim Jannard believed in pushing the boundaries, and he believed in inventing products that helped others push the boundaries too. “He was a mad scientist who didn’t see problems, he only saw solutions,” said Jimmy Hendriks, Oakley’s RX Manager in Australia.

Jannard’s first invention had nothing to do with optics, but everything to do with performance. As a long haired, struggling university drop out, he came up with a concept for a new style of handgrip for motocross racers, with a unique tread and a shape that was a comfortable fit in the riders’ closed hand.

To get the product moving, he visited race-meets and handed out samples. Pretty soon Jim’s grips were the only ones serious riders cared for.

…we developed the active collection, which stands for versatility in ophthalmic eyewear

Seeing another opportunity, he moved on to design the O Frame goggle, again for motocross. With a lens curved in the perfect arc of a cylinder, the O Frame goggle was picked up by pros including Mark Barnett, Marty Smith, Johnny O‘Mara and Jeff Ward – and they remained the mainstay of racing for 17 years.

That was back in 1980 and Jim could see his view on the world was a little different from those around him – and that it was destined to take him far. His direction was clear – it was optics – and so he set out to find solutions to challenges that presented as obstacles for others.

By 1989, he had invented the world’s first sunglasses with taper corrected technology – now known as high definition optics – a technology the company continues to use today. That move pushed Oakley into the international realms of serious eyewear for sports people, an area the company has excelled in ever since.

Jimmy Hendriks has worked with Oakley for the past 15 years and been involved in the development of new collections, which he says, are all designed for performance. “I go to design meetings twice a year where a dozen of us, from various regions, sit around a table and discuss the new concepts coming through. We talk about what’s working and what’s not.”

As a Californian company, Oakley shares Australia’s beach culture, which influences the designs. “Our traditional market was sunglasses for young kids on the beach and we’ve protected that market in Australia by maintaining a collection of eyewear that we will only ever sell through surf stores. But then there’s the optics sports wear for men and women, and that’s a big part of the business,” said Jimmy.

Within the optics collection for men is Crosslink, which was released last year.

Active Optics

“A few years ago we saw an opportunity to develop an optical frame that people could rely on when playing their chosen sport and back in the office, so we developed the active collection, which stands for versatility in ophthalmic eyewear,” said Jimmy.

The result was Crosslink and Crosslink Switch. Crosslink has interchangeable temples, enabling the wearer to switch between a colourful, sporty look and a more muted, conservative look when they’re in the office.

Crosslink Switch comes with two different lenses – so wearers can switch between a prescription sun lens and a progressive lens for indoors. The lens is released and replaced with a simple squeeze of the nose-bridge.

He said other aspects of the Active Optics collection that make the frames unique are the O’Matter frames – a patented nylon based material that enables Oakley to sculpture the frames and include “really good ear socks and nose bombs” made from a rubberised material called unobtanium.

“When unobtanium comes into contact with moisture – or perspiration – it becomes tacky and so it sticks to the skin, which means it won’t slip,” said Jimmy.

He said Oakley’s patented three-point fit also helps to ensure the frames don’t move, even under intense activity. “There are three points of contact with the head – on the straight temples at the side of the head and at the nose bridge.”

In the Pipeline

Jimmy said the pipeline looks promising. “We’ve always got lots of new product coming through.

This year, across the range, you’ll see a lot of colour – but in little hints, not all over the frame. People want to be noticed but they don’t want the colour to scream out.

“For the first time, we will also release a lifestyle sun collection that enables wearers to change out the lenses, according to whether it’s a bright or a dull day. The switch lock we use on this collection has a lever that is simply flicked down to release and replace the lenses.”

Oakley is no longer operating under the direction of Jim Jannard. He moved on a few years ago and is now making digital movie cameras. However the company philosophy continues to be echoed in his vision: “Inventions wrapped in art. Oakley was founded on that concept and it still defines us.”