AM Eyewear is a local brand with an international reach that’s being grown by a team of dedicated individuals based in Sydney and Haarlem (just outside of Amsterdam). We asked founder and creative lead, Simon Ponnusamy, to share the secrets behind the success of his brand’s fashion-forward optical collection.
1. What’s your philosophy for life and how do you interpret this through your eyewear design?
I was raised with the view of looking after what I have and to look after our earth – this philosophy is very evident in our eyewear. I’m a big believer in buying investment pieces that can be worn over many years and that can be passed on to other generations.
2. What makes your eyewear stand out from the crowd?
I’d say a combination of the design elements that have become signature to us (flat tops and straight edges), the use of luxury materials, and not being afraid to have a frame scream “look at me”.
3. How do you profile your typical wearer?
I’ve learnt not to pigeonhole our customers because over the years I’ve seen our young rat-bag customers evolve into lawyers and doctors. In our 17 years we’ve sold our frames to everyone from Princes (of Monaco and the Netherlands) to underworld figures like Carl Williams.
4. When did you start AM Eyewear?
I started the brand in 2003 after not being able to find eyewear that was both youthful and high quality. Originally it was just a friend (who was a teenager) and myself (in my early twenties) working from a kitchen table out the back of an optical store in Paddington. Now it’s offices in different time zones and calls at midnight. I often think of that kitchen table and the advice I would give to those two kids.
5. What experience in design did you bring to the table and how were you able to apply this experience to eyewear?
I have always been drawn to fashion and design. When I was a teenager, I had a girlfriend whose mother was a jewellery designer and she taught me. I started designing jewellery pieces for myself and my loved ones, and now I’m designing eyewear for a living. Originally, all the optical crafts people made both jewellery and optical frames, so it makes sense.
6. What do you particularly enjoy about designing eyewear?
It feels like Christmas morning when I receive a notification from our courier company advising me that the samples of my latest designs are out for delivery. The creative process, of taking something from a concept in my head to a physical product in my hands, is why I do this.
7. You’ve got a strong presence overseas – what is it that the overseas market loves about AM Eyewear that perhaps the local market is only just beginning to understand?
For many years AM Eyewear was seen as ‘just a young sunglass brand that had big parties’. The truth is we stopped doing parties back in 2010. When we released our first dedicated optical collection in 2012 at Silmo, we realised we had to think of the optical industry above the fashion industry. Don’t get me wrong, we are still very fashion forward with whatever we do, however, the quality, structure and fit is just as important. I now use terms like pantoscopic tilt more often than I talk about which band was in our office.
8. Where are your frames made?
We produce frames and components predominately in Italy, Japan and South Korea.
9. How do you work with suppliers to source and develop the materials and tooling needed for your frames?
The process changes from year to year. Some years, when we’ve used an unusual acetate that people haven’t seen before, it’s because I’ve seen something and then designed an acetate around it. Other times, it’s because my friend who’s the head of sales for Mazzucchelli, has let me spend a day in their archive in Varese and I’ve unearthed an acetate from many years ago. I also have my own acetate library now – I’d say I’ve collected upwards of 3,000 different acetates.
10. How involved are you in the manufacturing process to ensure the end result is as you anticipated?
I’m very hands on with our production – I’m a Virgo and I spend a lot of time on details. I was once accidently cc’d on an email an employee of a factory we were working with sent to her boss. It was in Italian and naturally I translated it. It read “it’s like he is working with magnification, he is a pain in my CULO” (which translates to backside).
11. Where do you get your next ideas from?
My inspiration always comes from popular culture. Music, fashion and media, with a dash of technical innovation.
12. What’s coming up in the new season?
Bold, playful statements to make everyone who has felt invisible and hidden away at home say, “HERE I AM”.
13. What’s your advice for practices post COVID-19?
I think there’ll be people who have stayed in employment, who would have saved a lot of money by being at home, and they’ll be ready to spend. There’ll also be people who have paid their health fund each month and they’ll want to get every benefit they’re entitled to. Every practice has a database of patients however, many feel uncomfortable about marketing to it. I think our industry needs to stop thinking of digital marketing as spam and to start thinking of it as delivering their patients’ information.
Contact: AM Eyewear (AUS) 02 9357 4550