Keep an eye on: Megan Stewart from Smec Eyewear

In an Industry that has had turbulent times over the last few years here in Australia, it is refreshing when you find someone doing something unique and pushing the boundaries. Not many young people I know would consider going into designing Eyewear, and if they did, they would be quickly led into the mass-produced companies on other shores.

But not Megan Stewart. Although ‘accidental’ that she fell into designing Eyewear under the label SMEC, her passion for design, texture and detail have always been her passion. And if you ask me, that’s exactly what eyewear should be. Unafraid to experiment and play with the technical side, Megan’s ideas stem from a strong design aesthetic and her colour work is absolutely stunning. Although only young, this girl is going places – FAST.

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I first came across Megan on good ‘ol Instagram, where I was browsing her feed and knew I just HAD to reach out to her. I mean, she’s young, fun, inspired and pushing Eyewear boundaries – Everything I stand for! After emails back and forth I knew her natural passion for her products was going to be contagious not just to me, but for everyone that comes into contact with her stunning collection.

Founded in 2016, SMEC eyewear has started to develop into a collection that attracts a specific consumer; one that appreciates design and detail, sees eyewear as a statement, not something to hide behind, and someone who understands the power of story-telling. So, even if it was unintentional to end up designing Eyewear, Megan has truly found a unique niche market that is going to support her and SMEC moving forward in the Australian, and International Eyewear scene.

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Lucky for me, I was able to try, play and review some on the SMEC prototypes from the first couple of collections. I could not contain my excitement when I opened the box full of all of these unique designs! The colours are what attracts me to each piece initially. All the samples I saw were made of Titanium, and had been coloured with Blues, purples, golds and pinks and were reminiscent of oil-beads from the 70’s. Absolutely stunning, and due to the process used to finish these frames, no two are ever exactly the same. You all know I LOVE when you can get something unique, that is not mass produced!

Being Titanium, of course they are extremely lightweight to wear, and having metal frames coming back into fashion at the moment, these designs are leading the way. The shapes are like nothing I have seen on the shelves in Australia. With Megans silversmith designing background, she approaches these with a unique perspective of designing for a unique style, rather than what is likely to ‘sell’ to the masses. Pure genius. This is where we need growth in Australian Eyewear- right where people least expect it.

img_0385I was lucky enough to be able to ask Megan a few questions about herself and SMEC eyewear.

TEG: Why did you get into designing eyewear specifically? Was this always your dream?

MEGAN: I got into designing eye wear completely by accident! I was studying jewellery design at Central TAFE in Perth, once completed I decided to go to the ANU School of Art and Design and majoring in Gold and Silversmithing for 3 years.

In the 3rd year, you have an independent project for your major and you get to choose what you want to make/research/develop. One of my minor classes taught me about a ‘world already full of stuff’ and I thought (and still think now) why add to the world with something doesn’t have a use or purpose? From then, I knew that whatever I designed or made had to have a use and not just be an ‘art piece’.

Someone suggested to me ‘Why don’t you design glasses?’. I’d worn them since I was 14 and thought ‘Pfffft, it’ll be a breeze, they’ll be so easy!’. Oh how wrong was I, continuing the project into my honours year, it was the hardest and most testing 2 years of study I’ve ever had!

My dream was always to pursue a creative career, but I never knew it what field to focus on. Since I started making and designing frames, I couldn’t image not continuing with them. They’ve become part of my identity and I want to share my love and passion for well-designed and made frames with designers, makers and retailers the world over.

 

TEG: What inspires you?

Megan: What inspires me most is life, as cliché as it sounds haha! One of my first frames was designed based on the mountains that surround Canberra, whereas the ‘Home’ collection from 2016, is based upon the streets I grew up on and what that time reminds me of. To me, my frames must have a purpose and meaning. I think people are drawn to things they can relate to or intrigued by and I try to design and make frames that embodies this.

TEG: How would you describe your own personal style?

Megan: Ooof that’s a tough one! I would describe my style as someone who likes to co-ordinate (scrap-booking classes taught 10 year old me more than I thought they would!), but in a lets-just-throw-it-together-and-see-what-happens. Eclectic, but cute with a love of oversized, mental looking earrings.img_9881

TEG: What has your experience been within the eyewear industry?

Megan: My experience so far with the eyewear industry has been mostly brilliant! Since starting in 2016, I’ve met the most encouraging and kind people. Eye Candy eyewear in Canberra, was the first connection I had with the industry and gave me so much help and advice. I’m also in contact with Peter Coombs who offers valuable advice.

I was a bit nervous moving back to Perth, however opticians Blink 182 (Leederville) and August eyewear (Perth CBD) have been really helpful. I recently received a message from another optician in Coogee about my frames so it’s been really encouraging.

TEG: What are your favourite materials to work with?

Megan: My favourite materials to work with are leather and titanium. Leather is a beautiful, natural material that lasts for years, and comes in different colours, textures and variations. It’s also something that ages beautifully and can be passed down to future generations. I have my Grandad’s Spectacle case (that inspired the Smec case!) and wallet that he bought from Turkey in the 1980’s and they look exactly the same all these years later.

Titanium is an incredible material as it’s lightweight, hypo-allergenic, strong and can be coloured. With titanium I feel like any design and colour combination is possible – the possibilities are literally endless.

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TEG: What are the biggest challenges for you with designing eyewear?

Megan: The biggest challenges for me whilst designing eyewear have been the technical elements, including the position of the nose bridge, the inside shape of the lens (the simpler it is, the easier it is to cut and fit) and the specific dimensions of a frame. But the hinge has been the hardest part of the frame to refine and develop. I see myself as a design/aesthetics-based thinker so producing a product that must be technically accurate has been tricky.

TEG: Tell me about your two favourite pieces you’ve designed so far?

The First of my favourite piece’s would be the ‘Kenley’ frame from the 2016 ‘Home’ collection. This frame was pretty much a first frame for everything! It was the first round frame I’d designed, first time I’d anodised my frames and first frame to have sunglass lenses fitted. It features a lavender-coloured top and graduates into the grey, sandblasted finish of the titanium. The Rodenstock lenses complement the finish beautifully as it’s a blue/purple lens that graduates to black. I love them so much; they’ve become my personal pair of sunglasses!

The second piece was a pair of frames I designed for my Mum’s 50th birthday, they’ve been heat treated with all different shades of blue. Weirdly enough, the hinge I designed for it, was the first hinge that functions beautifully with the frame and works exactly as intended. They’re a rectangular frame with rounded corners and feature detailing in the top corners. They’re special pair I designed just for her – I recently sent them off to get sunglass lenses fitted so I’m excited to see what they look like!

TEG: What does the future hold for Smec Eyewear?

The future for Smec eyewear would be refined hinges (new prototypes are getting manufactured as I type!), a new range of frames that are currently in the works featuring bold shapes and incredible colours. I would love to collaborate with other designers and makers, and really push the boundaries of eyewear. I want to encourage those who are studying in creative fields, that even though they don’t know where it’ll lead, just go with it. What I hope for Smec Eyewear is that it’s recognised nationally and internationally for its design and innovation in eyewear. To be able to attend Silmo would be an incredible experience, even just seeing my range in a local, independent optician would be indescribably amazing.

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Megan from SMEC Eyewear

Keep an eye out for Smec’s new collection launching:

To keep an eye on what Megan is up to, head to her Instagram feed : @smec_eyewear

And for the entire collection, info and details for Smec, head to the Website: http://www.smeceyewear.com.au

Em xox

The Eyewear Girl: Australian Eyewear Advocate

Say the word ‘Influencer’ and you get a very mixed reaction from almost every audience. The most well known type of influencer is a fashion or travel influencer, who you see sharing stunning pictures every day in the world’s most exotic places, and wearing the latest fashion trends and making their pages look like a dream. Generally, Influencers are given products or services to promote on their social media pages. The more followers, comments and likes they get on each post raises their profile to online marketers, making them more attractive to companies wanting to promote their products. It’s kind of like a popularity contest; those with the most unique profiles or have something unique to offer do really well. Influencers make their money by the amount of business they create around the products or services they are promoting. For example, clicking a link from a bloggers page to a product website, using a discount code form an influencers page when you purchase something, following a brand on the recommendation of an influencer etc. These are all traceable KPI’s for an influencer paid by the companies that own the product or service and some have made a fantastic living out of it over time.

This is very much not me.

 

The Eyewear Girl only started in Jan 2019, so I’m still in the building stage – however things are going so much better than I expected it won’t be long before I’m aiming for even bigger platforms. But ‘influencer’? Not sure it sits that well with me, I feel like more of an ‘Advocate’, but the term influencer is hot right now and internationally, people know what you mean. So, let’s get real. A lot of people over the last month have asked me what I actually do. I am just a normal person working a full time job to pay the bills. That being said, I  LOVE the industry and am obsessed with eyewear so my passion runs a lot deeper than a ‘job’; It’s part of who I am.

So, why become an  ‘Influencer’?

Anyone in the Optical Industry knows the last 5-10 years have been incredibly tough for the Independent practice. Many have closed, many fight to stay open, others have been forced to hone in on their niche and refused to be pushed around. Not only have optical chains have taken over our shopping strips, our shopping centres, and a percentage of our independent stores, but also the advertising marketplace Australia wide. Possibly the hardest thing over this time period for Independent practice owners is that the end consumer generally has no idea what has been happening to our industry and what effect it has on them.

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Our Independent practices have had their values questioned, quality products branded as ‘over priced’, and professional identity stolen. Any one of these things could be a tough blow on any business, but all three together is an absolute nightmare.

With the mass media introduction of ‘packages’, ‘designer brands’ and ‘premium lenses’ being advertised EVERYWHERE for AUD$199 or similar, it’s ridiculous to think that the end consumer wouldn’t take notice. And so they should: that is a massive price difference from the premium lens and frame package you would get at an independent practice. WE know why – the customer doesn’t.

Those of us in stores have been forced to explain to our customers the difference in quality, that the words ‘designer brands’ have a lot of different meanings and that premium lenses at each business can mean something completely different. Some customers are happy to ask, listen and take on board the discussion seriously. A large amount of them nod their heads, but are thinking to themselves ‘ this is just an overpriced business trying to rip me off’. The newer generations go online and don’t even hesitate; they are more likely to go with what they like the look and price of without being too concerned about where the product comes from. This is what shopping in 2019 is. (PS sorry for the generalisations, but, you see my point.)

So, what does the Independent practice need to do to stay afloat? They need to know their identity and stick to it unapologetically. They need to sell value rather than brands, service over gimmicks and create relationships rather than the sale of one pair of glasses.

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I realised just how bad the situation was when my own friends and family were spending large amounts of money on eyewear but had absolutely no idea what they had just paid for. I found quotes for lenses with all kinds of extras including Multicoats, Photochromic material, High index materials and the like NOT split out on the quote – customers are being told that this one price (including everything- whether they want it or not) is what is ‘recommended’ for them. Over a 6 month period of investigating this, I found that a lot of these quotes were not from Independents, but unfortunately, SOME were.

Have we as an overall industry given up caring? Are we under-trained? Have we lost the ability to put customer care first? Whatever it is, our customers deserve better. They deserve to know what their options are. To be given thorough and correct information about their vision needs. They deserve to know exactly what they are paying for and why.

THIS is why I started The Eyewear Girl.

I wanted to build a platform for shoppers to see what options they actually have when it comes to eyewear. I wanted to elevate the independent practice again by highlighting the quality and value in good quality products and services. I wanted to build a space where consumers can be inspired to ask whatever questions they have about eyewear, or anything in optics where they know they will get a completely honest and unbiased answer.

And I am so happy to say it has worked. In The Eyewear Girls short lifetime I have created a platform where consumers and dispensers alike are learning about each other. People are wanting to learn more and are reaching out to understand our industry. Consumers are gaining confidence in loving eyewear and appreciating value in quality products over budget ‘fast-fashion’ chain stores. Don’t get me wrong, I actually believe there is a need for both at some level, but the public has a right to make an educated decision on what THEY value in their eyecare.

Across all of my platforms which include Instagram, Facebook and my website, my main goals are these:

–          To show off the beautiful products we have available in our country.

–          Explain and educate value in quality products, service and pricing.

–          To be an independent advocate for the Independent Eyewear Industry.

I value quality eyecare and eyewear because I have seen the differences from both sides of the coin. From the front of stores, to marketing and wholesale, I can explain the whole story. I educate by using my own images, tips, trends tech info, blogs, stories and full articles covering everything a consumer could want to know. And it’s fun! I love creating excitement and energy around anything that promotes good health.

I’m working with wholesalers to showcase their products to a wider audience. This gives their brand more recognition and exposure. I’m also working with practices to upskill their staff on high-end sales, dispensing lenses, relationships with customers and negotiating negative feedback. But, possibly the most important thing I’m doing is being a neutral face for the end consumer to be inspired, learn, ask questions and re-gain confidence in the independent practice.

The more exposure I get to brands and products, events, stores and the world of optics in general, the more detailed my information and platform can be and the more we all learn how best to move this industry forward. I am constantly looking for brands and wholesalers to work with. In the very near future I will be available for store VIP events as a ‘style consultant’ which will add another level to these promotions. I’m always interested in public speaking and corporate events and will be moving into training opportunities moving forward.

How can you help?

–          If you’re a wholesaler reach out – let’s talk.

–          If you’re a store, send me a message about your particular issues and eyewear needs, whatever they are.

–          If you’re a customer, be open and willing to learn and give honest feedback.

Because this is essentially an online business, engagement really matters. Every single like, comment, follow and share makes a huge difference to the exposure I get worldwide at the end of the day. So please share and tag as much as you like! If you’re ever not sure how, just shoot me a message.

So what does being an ‘influencer’ actually mean? It’s different for every person. I just want to share my love and passion for beautiful eyewear, and hopefully inspire consumers and dispensers alike to get excited about the options and opportunities out there in the Optical world.

The Eyewear Girl x

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Does wearing glasses make my vision worse?

Time for the truth – Even though I have been in this industry for 17 years now, even my mum still argues this point with me:

“Wearing glasses will make your vision worse

It’s a very common thought amongst people that need or get glasses for the first time, and I actually completely understand where this thought comes from, but it’s time for me to explain it properly.

 

Lets use first time glasses wearers as an example, as this is when this thought most commonly pops up.

 

BEFORE you get glasses, and mostly before you even know you need glasses, your eyes are straining to get the clear vision you know you should be getting. Visual deterioration is gradual which is why most of us don’t notice until someone points out that we are holding the menu across the other side of the table to see it clearly, or you find yourself squinting to see details on the TV at night.

 

It’s usually when you start to notice this on a daily basis, or you start to get headaches for trying to focus that you will see your Optometrist for an eye examination.

Long story short, you are told you need your first pair of glasses!

 

This rule, actually applies to all types of prescriptions, but is more noticeable for people who need glasses for long distance.

 

Cut through the fun part of selecting your frames and eagerly awaiting their arrival, and the day comes when you get to pick them up!

You put them on, and while everything feels a little strange at first, there is definitely a difference in the clarity of your vision. 

The headaches aren’t there.

Things are clearer.

Until you take your glasses off again.

 

Things feel more blurry than they did without glasses before, and it takes a while for your eyes to re-focus.

 

WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!?

 

In short: your new glasses are doing the straining for you.

 

Remember how I pointed out earlier that before you get your glasses your eyes strain to get the clarity you know you should have?

When you put your glasses on, your prescribed lenses are actually doing the ‘straining’ for you, so when you’re wearing them, your eyes relax.

Relaxed eyes = healthy eyes.

 

So, it does make sense that you might think wearing glasses would make your vision ‘worse’ , because when you take them off you are instantly not seeing as clearly as you know you should.

 

Which is correct.

And why the Optometrist prescribed glasses for you.

 

So what happens if you are prescribed glasses, but don’t wear them? Your eyes will not ‘get used to straining’. They will, in most cases, deteriorate quicker due to them straining for longer without help, and cause a lot more unnecessary tension and headaches.

 

In summary, wearing your correct prescription DOES NOT and WILL NOT make your vision worse. What it will do is all the work to get the best clarity possible for you, so that your eyes can relax and be healthier.

 

M.

 

Trending: Crystal pastels

Pastel coloured frames are very on trend right now and I’m all for it!! 💕 .

Pastels are a great way to branch out into colour without being as bold as a red or orange.

Crystal pastel frames ( not a solid acetate, like the one pictured) also let more light in than a more solid frame, so you get a smoother look and less shadows around your eye area. 👌

Perfect with all colours, a soft grey with a colour highlight in pink, purple, peach or blue will give you just enough difference without feeling that your glasses are taking over your face.

This trend is worth investigating; play with shapes and colours to truly make this look your own.

Eyewear: Vanni V1480-A75

The ‘Right’ One

Your glasses should feel like they represent your personality.

It’s honestly as easy as that!

If you have to talk yourself into the look of a particular frame, it’s simply not the right frame for you. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to try on styles that you wouldn’t normally be attracted to, you’d be amazed at how different they can look once they’re on your face.

This frame by Coco Song CCS (which I have dubbed ‘The Frida Kahlo’ haha) was initially one I picked up thinking the brow line was definitely going to make anyone who tried it on look ANGRY. But, I was wrong, and I ‘m happy to admit it! I tried it on once as the rep was showing me the collection for a store. Then I kept it out of his tray and tried it again. The third time I didn’t want to take it off, and that’s how it became to be mine – It chose me!

The bottom line is take your time and try on anything that appeals to you as ‘different’. If you end up with a similar style to what you previously wore, at least you know you looked at other options.

When you find the right frame, you will know.

M.