OKIA: changing the sustainable eyewear production game

Author: valeria martinez

Interview of the Month
April 19, 2022

Jacky Lam, Managing Director, OKIA

Hong Kong-based OKIA kicked off its first sustainability eyewear projects in 2018. Almost four years later, the eyewear service provider has since then developed a full range of eco products from biodegradable materials to a certified upcycled water bottle collection, RESHAPE™. 

So far, the company has turned over 3.8 million plastic bottles into eyeglasses and related accessories. As OKIA is awarded with the Hong Kong Sustainability Award 2020/21 for its green attitude in eyewear production, managing director Jacky Lam looks back on the firm’s most memorable highlights, the source of its commitment to sustainable eyewear and shares what we can expect from the company as we head towards summer 2022.

Q: If you could pinpoint the three most important moments in the brand’s evolution since its founding in Hong Kong in 1999, which would they be?

A: 2008: OKIA had firstly launched its HD Acetate worldwide patent technology, and the “Designers World Revolution” campaign had gained huge success in MIDO 2008. The HD technology allows the transformation of textures and colours into crisp high definition which shows depth, a range of textures and patterns on acetate sheets. It instantly won numerous designers and brands support and these techniques were applied in many worldwide brands. With a wide range of specific colours, gradients and patterns, HD technology is opening up completely new possibilities for product design and development. Besides enriching the depth and showing vivid, life-like patterns, HD technology can embellish the frame material with the illusion of 3D effects and textures. It is also a milestone not only for OKIA but in the eyewear industry.

2018: in collaboration with WGSN the leading global trend authority, the first edition of the #SeetheFuture Eyewear Summit was held at Mido 2018. We had shared the latest trends that are shaping the market, exploring the key drivers, and we got positive feedback from manufacturers, suppliers, buyers, designers and editors over the market.

2018: OKIA sustainability project kicked off and we started with a series of eco materials - BioCA and BioLens. After a year in 2019, our upcycled plastic bottles collection RESHAPE™ and recyclable metal alloy material SUFLEXIUMTM, which had earned all brands attention with the increased awareness of the businesses sustainability in the industry. Our GRS certification RPET materials applied in RESHAPE™ collection are 100% recycled from PET plastic bottle materials, and Global Recycled System certification provides for the traceability of our products.

December 2021: OKIA Optical was awarded for its green consciousness. The company won the Special Recognition for Outstanding Sustainability Initiative (Environmental Dimension) of the Hong Kong Sustainability Award 2020/21 organised by The Hong Kong Management Association. This year is particularly important for us as after years of efforts put in increasing our company’s sustainability, our hard work was finally seen in the various awards we won. After years in the eyewear industry, we have built a reliable reputation which further demonstrates our ability to anticipate the trends and our deep commitment to offering products that respect the environment.

Q: When did your commitment for sustainable eyewear commence and with what priorities in mind? How have your sustainability priorities as a company changed or evolved since then?

A: The green idea is starting from 2017, when we saw millions of pairs of lenses consumed in our production and most of them were piled up into landfill or discarded into the environment to waste away over hundreds of years; this motivated us to launch our first version of BioLens in 2017 MIDO. By 2021, 2.7 million biodegradable lenses are shipped with our products.

Q: Tell us about RESHAPE. How did the idea for the project come about and how has it been received by your customers? In which markets have you experienced the strongest demand?

A: As a father of 3 kids, one day my boy came home with an eco-project about water bottles. The pollution of plastic was threatening our earth. He asked me “What can we do about it? Can we use bottles to make eyeglasses?”. With support of our OKIA R&D and Compliance team, who work 24/7 to solve not only technical issues but also the ethnic and compliance side of the project, ultimately our recycled plastic bottle collection RESHAPE™ was born in 2019. We upcycled 5 bottles to produce 1 pair of eyeglasses.

Q: Last year, the brand shipped nine million glasses worldwide. Looking to 2022, what are your expectations for growth? Are there any new projects in the pipeline?

A: Very optimistic! Statistics showed that the eyewear industry is recovering from the pandemic. We saw financial performance of industry key players which are picking up the sales gradually.

Our eco sustainable products will be the key projects, our various biodegradable materials, and upcycled RPET plastic bottle products RESHAPE™ are still on pipelines, also our recyclable metal alloy materials SUFLEXIUM™ is applied for various global brands…and more and more new materials and ideas are coming up, stay tuned!

Q: Are there any targets you would like to reach in the new year? Are there any new markets you would like to expand to? If so, why?

A: In 2019, we raised the “One Million Bottle Challenge”, we are so enthusiastic to announce we have already upcycled 3.8 million plastic bottles into eyeglasses and related accessories by 2021.

Q: What is your current 5-year business plan? Would you ever consider a collaboration with another eyewear company?

A: Innovation and sustainability, also tech eyewear will be the key in the coming 5+years. OKIA is always eager to collaborate with different parties, such as the global leading trend authority WGSN. Together we carried a success #SeetheFuture Eyewear Submit in 2018.

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