Zeal Optics is pushing the boundaries of sustainable production, and encouraging wearers to push their own personal boundaries too. mivision caught up with Joe Prebich, Zeal’s Director of Marketing, to hear the story of this adventurous Colorado-based brand.
Boulder, Colorado is home to Zeal Optics and the mecca of America’s outdoor industry. With its head office perfectly positioned on the foothills of the majestic Rocky Mountains, the young eyewear company’s designers take all their inspiration from the environment around them for styles, colours, manufacturing philosophies (it’s 100 per cent sustainable) and even positioning – Zeal is promoted as an active lifestyle brand.
There are plenty of companies promoting their frames as 100 per cent sustainable. What are you doing that’s different?
When we decided to focus on sustainability, we went all the way. We worked with Mazzucchelli in Italy for two years to develop an exclusive, biodegradable, injected acetate for our frames.
we’re constantly manicuring the brand…
We also developed lenses made from a plant based resin – that’s a commitment no other company is making, and the grinding, edging and fitting is done in our zero waste laboratory. Every piece of promotional material is printed on certified sustainably forested paper and the brand image we project is totally environmental.
Does the commitment to environmental sustainability impact lens quality?
The inclusion of castor into the lens as the bonding agent has really been a great achievement for us because the castor oil is a higher purity and density than the petroleum based alternatives, so we get
a higher quality product.
The castor oil works just as a traditional plastic does in the lab, so there haven’t been any negative reactions to grinding or edging at all. It just goes to show, you don’t have to trade one for the other – you don’t have to give anything up to be eco-conscious.
How do you describe the styling of Zeal?
Zeal is an active lifestyle brand. We design frames that blend function with fashion with the aim to make our customers feel as comfortable wearing Zeal on their bike as they do hanging by the pool, walking into
a café or arriving at the office.
In terms of shape and colour, Zeal is conservative but fun. Over the past two years the colours have been predominantly earthy but recently we started to introduce a few pops of colour – the idea being to introduce subtle fashion elements that people won’t be scared to wear.
This fashion element is something you’re going to see more of in the Zeal collections to come – we’re constantly manicuring the brand.
Where does this inspiration for new design come from?
The world around us… John Sanchez (Zeal Optics President) and I spend so much time travelling and firing ideas off each other – we’re constantly evolving the direction of the company. We’ll push the functional aspect of a design then we’ll evolve it with a greater fashion element and then move back to performance.
How do you prioritise functionality?
Functionality is always really important. You want to be able to go paddle boarding without your glasses falling off your face, they need to be lightweight, comfortable and safe to wear – because we’re all about encouraging people to be adventurous, to try something new.
For instance, while we’ve introduced a fashionable Italian spring hinge, it’s been embedded into the frame so that if you fall off your paddleboard, it’s not going to be dangerous. We’ve also done some subtle sculpting – every one of the temples is hand sculpted on the inside to reduce the weight. This creates an I-beam construction, which also makes the frame stronger than it would have been if the temple had been solid.
Our Essential piece has a subtle rubber throughout the frame, which results in a great 8-base wrap – so it’s as comfortable on when you go for a run, as it is when you’re having a coffee.
Who is your target market?
Someone who is represented not by age but more by interest – so if you’re into an active, healthy lifestyle, in being eco-conscious, no matter what age you are – there’s something in the range.
Our brand campaign is ‘Explore More’ – this can be as aggressive and adrenaline focused as you like – so it’s just as relevant to someone who is into climbing Mount Everest as it is to someone who’s going to try a new coffee shop. We hope when someone puts on Zeal frames, they feel confident to go out there, to try something new – and what they’re going to see through our lenses is a better optical experience – their eyes will be protected and they’re going to create memories.
What excites you about developing the Zeal brand?
Listening to consumer stories is what I love the most – people who have said they’ve pushed their own personal boundaries in these glasses.
Winning awards for Zeal is also amazing (Zeal’s Brewer frame won the best sunglass in the outdoor class in Germany’s ISPO, the worlds largest outdoor fair). It’s the greatest feeling in the world – when you have your fingerprints on something, and you take it from zero and grow it.
We’re here to make a difference; we have a story to tell, it’s not just eyewear, there’s a much deeper story here and that makes it such an interesting opportunity for independent optometrists.