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Saturday / May 18.
HomemifashionNaturally Inspired: Maui Jim Optical

Naturally Inspired: Maui Jim Optical

Maui Jim, well known for its premium lifestyle polarised sunglasses, has launched Maui Jim Optical, a line of ophthalmic frames fitted with personalised lenses that are manufactured and digitally compensated at the company’s state of the art lab in Peoria, Illinois, USA. mivision spoke to Maui Jim VP of Global Marketing, Jay Black, and its marketing director of ophthalmic, Craig LaManna, about the decision to expand into optical.

Born on the bright, sun burnt beaches of Maui in the 1980s, it stands to reason that quality lens technology has always been at the heart of Maui Jim’s business model.

While an easy wearing, good looking frame has been vital to its success, the emphasis has been on research and development to achieve the lightest weight lens material with the highest ABBE value. Having come up with the proprietary MauiBrilliant lens (offering the clarity of glass with just a third of the weight), Walter Hester, owner/CEO, who purchased Maui Jim from its founders back in 1991, was searching for the next business building opportunity.

Retailers presented the company with the solution. “We like working closely with our retail partners and they told us they were looking for a brand like Maui Jim to launch an optical line which can produce both premium frames and lenses,” said Jay Black.

our retail partners… told us they were looking for a brand like Maui Jim to launch an optical line which can produce both premium frames and lenses

“It was good timing, having fine tuned our lab and our technology to manufacture the MauiBrilliant lens, we had the capability to produce personalised digitally compensated lenses for both sun and clear lenses that are ten times more accurate than those produced from conventional labs.”

Maui Jim sunglass designers – Walter Hester, Richard Walker and Jen Williams – have designed the full collection of Maui Jim Optical frames. The three of them have many years’ experience designing eyewear: Walter has designed for the brand since he acquired it in 1991, Jen began designing for him in 2001 and Richard, who was already designing in the industry, began working for Maui Jim in 2008.

Inspired by Nature

The Maui Jim Optical designs were inspired by the brand’s Hawaiian heritage. “For example, the temples of our acetate frames are inspired by Kapa cloth designs, which were worn to designate Hawaiian royalty in ancient times. Kapa sticks were naturally the same shape as the wire core inside our temples,” said Jay.

“The colours found in the flora and fauna of Hawaii led naturally to the beautiful shades we chose for many of our acetate frames. We were also inspired by the colour palette of sea glass. It is a popular tradition to collect sea glass on the beaches of Hawaii and to look for coloured pebbles which are formed from glass and tableware that’s been worn down by the waves and shoreline. Some of these colours include translucent blue, matte amber, and khaki green.”

On shape and style, Jay said, “There isn’t an iconic Maui Jim style – we have 59 styles which fall under six material collections: Italian acetate, specialty metals (i.e. beta titanium), thin injected nylon, rimless, metals (i.e. stainless steel), and clip-ons. All are lightweight and comfortable to wear, and many have nose pads to enhance the fit.”

Functional Elegance

Like its sunglass collection, Maui Jim’s optical frames and lenses are targeted at consumer psychographics rather than demographics. “Our sunglass demographics go across all age groups (18–65yrs old) and evenly between men (49 per cent) and women (51 per cent),” said Jay. “Mindset is what connects all of our customers – we call them ‘the functional elegant’ because they appreciate quality products that not only look good, but also function very well for them.

“Our customers are willing to pay a premium for good quality eyewear, and know that, thanks to our high level of customer service and warranty, they will be happy with their purchase for a long time.”

Unique Lens Technology

Maui Jim manufactures all of its ophthalmic frames in Italy and Japan, while lenses are produced in its own state-of-the-art lab in Illinois.

“We offer six clear lens materials, two of which are proprietary to Maui Jim,” said Craig LaManna, who has been appointed to the role of Marketing Director, Ophthalmic.

Those two lenses are the 1.67 HEV managing lens and the 1.67 High Contrast. The 1.67 HEV filters harmful blue light (78 per cent at 420nm, and 14 per cent at 440nm) while allowing beneficial blue light to reach the eye. The HEV filter is built into the lens rather than being applied as a coating, and, according to Craig, is very clear when compared to other HEV lenses, which have a yellow or blue tint. Other benefits include: protecting the consumer against eyestrain related headaches, tired eyes, blurred vision and potential retinal damage from digital devices and artificial lighting.

“The 1.67 High Contrast lens has high contrast properties that are built into the lens material (again, as opposed to a coating), which reduce yellow light by 55 per cent at 585 nm, where red and green photo receptors overlap and can be perceived as glare,” said Craig. “This unique lens transmits 90 per cent of the primary colours of vision, to enhance colour contrast, making it easier to read fine print, and reduces glare from headlights and streetlights, making it perfect for night driving.”

Truly an Eyewear Brand

Craig said adding an optical collection to the Maui Jim range was an “exciting” step for the company, because it “has now truly become an ‘eyewear’ brand”.

“Along with launching optical, we launched the concept of ‘One’ – that is, we are now one single point of contact for sun and optical frames and lenses. We know that our lenses and frames will work perfectly together, and there can be no finger pointing if something goes wrong.”

He said the concept also refers to pricing and customer service. “Optometrists only need to invest once in Maui Jim product, then they can keep the frames on display, even when they’re sold. They simply order a new frame, fitted with personalised lenses from our lab and take delivery within seven business days, even when ordering from Australia. We have also developed one all-inclusive price point that includes premium coatings, edging, grooving, and drilling; and we’ve established one customer service number for warranty and repairs.”

Looking Ahead

Having launched the new ophthalmic collection in January at OPTI Munich and in March at Vision Expo East, New York City, the Maui Jim design team is looking to the future. “On the frame side I think we will see more brands producing frames from lightweight, environmentally conscious materials, and in neutral colour combinations. I also believe the industry will look for new lens materials which offer additional benefits to the consumer, such as protection from HEV,” said Jay.

“Our design team will continue to keep elegance, comfort and fit in mind when working on new styles. They will look to develop interesting shapes, colours, materials and possibly some limited edition collections to add to the portfolio.”

Contact: Maui Jim (AUS) 02 9452 5575