20/20 Europe’s Editor in chief, Clodagh Norton was invited to visit Silhouette Eyewear in Linz and the new Silhouette Vision Sensation Lens Lab, a state-of-the-art lens production facility introduced in Spring 2017.
Interview with Marcus Wecht, Head of Business Unit Lenses.
Q: Silhouette’s current location in Linz, Austria is where the company was first opened in 1964. How has the site changed over the years in line with the growth and developments of Silhouette.
A: What began with a vision – eyewear as an accessory – has today become the world's leading brand in lightweight quality eyewear: Silhouette. Under this brand, the lightest eyewear in the world is produced in Austria with a great love of detail, crafted mostly by hand in an individualized design using only the best materials and state-of-the-art technologies and exported to 100 countries across the globe.
Since 1964, Silhouette has stood for stylish, premium frames. Now the brand went one step further by building the new Lens Lab.
Q: The Company is now producing frames and its own premium lenses. How has this affected Company HQ and what measures were taken to achieve this new possibility in “perfectly harmonised frames and lenses”.
A: Silhouette is well-known for its bold business decisions, its commitment to continuous innovation and the resulting unlimited visual experiences. A perfect marriage of frame and lens is vital for this. We have now taken this step. With our complete spectacles concept, we are securing a considerable competitive advantage for ourselves, paving the way for us to move towards "Industry 4.0". We are building on our existing position and establishing ourselves even more decisively as an expert in all matters related to an individual unlimited visual experience.
It's always been standard in our industry that the lens supplier doesn't know the design parameters of the frame and the frame supplier doesn't know the parameters of the lens supplier. We are now taking an innovative step by bringing two previously separate areas together. The most important advantage is that we know the parameters and requirements of both sides and can therefore create spectacles that are perfectly tailor-made for the wearer.
Q: Tell us about the new Lens Lab and your hopes for this new opportunity.
A: With Vision Sensation we are setting a new milestone for the company by expanding its concept of “seeing without boundaries” with a new range of rimless spectacles. Thereby we are expanding the existing business model – by adding the production of top-quality lenses in the newly built Lens Lab at the family company’s headquarters in Linz to our portfolio. Silhouette now is a single source supplier of top-quality and stylish eyewear.
Q: Explain the qualities of a Silhouette Vision Sensation lens and how it fits with the Silhouette frame concept.
A: Together with Prof. Dr. Peter Baumbach, one of the leading capacities in the development of individual and personalized spectacle lenses and a professor at the Aalen University of Applied Sciences, we have developed the progressive lenses - Silhouette Panorama. Prof. Baumbach has mathematically defined the optimal viewing zones in the progressive lens for us.
Working with the Schneider company, a leading player in the machine technology sector, the machines were precisely tailored to our individual requirements for production using free-form technology. From a sustainability point of view, locating the Silhouette Lens Lab at the Linz headquarters also means short distances between departments, the ability to work closely with our own Research & Development department and consistent quality due to ongoing checks.
The fitting of the frame follows that of the demo frame. The lenses are produced while taking these exact parameters into account. The result is a perfect fit and optimal visual experience. The lens design is optimized for base curve , without any compromises or any interpretations in the outer zones.
Q: What has been the reaction to this new opportunity so far with your partner opticians?
A: Our partner opticians reacted quintessentially very positively! We pay particular attention to the area at the edge of the lenses and the related limitless vision. Because we know exactly what lens shape the optician’s costumer has chosen for their glasses, we can calculate the parameters right up to the very edge of the finished lens shapes.
Q: Please add anything additional about the introduction of lens production at SILHOUETTE and how this will affect the future of the company.
A: We selectively started the roll out of our new concept in our own subsidiaries Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy launched Silhouette Vision Sensation in March 2017. In May 2017 we continued with the launch in the UK, Spain and Benelux.
Of course we have big plans for the upcoming year. Highlights will be roll out to the US, roll out for our distributors.
We also have plans to enlarge the product portfolio in 2018.