Optex Australia, Greg French

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Many of us require glasses, but probably don’t consider how – or where – the frames are made.
Would it surprise you to learn  there’s an entrepreneur amongst us, who manufactures environmentally conscious, customisable spectacle frames, right here in Port Macquarie? Meet Greg French, from Optex Australia …

Hi Greg. How was Optex Australia was established in Port Macquarie …

Optex Australia was formed on the back of an idea. I didn’t seriously consider it a business possibility, until an opportunity arose in early January 2018 to secure assets from one of Australia’s last remaining eyewear manufacturers. I’d heard about an eyewear business that had fallen on hard times, and I remember thinking to myself, “If only I could get all of that machinery into premises in Port Macquarie, it would be possible to develop this idea into a great business”.

What does your business specialise in?

Australian manufactured, high quality frames that can be customised to fit the wearer. Successfully dispensing prescription eyewear can be challenging, mainly due to the many different lens technologies available. Frames should look amazing, fit comfortably all day, and functionally support the prescribed lens design.

The problem with manufacturing spectacle frames is it so much cheaper and easier to mass produce for 70% of the market across a few standard sizes. Over the past 12 months, we have developed an innovative and economic way to custom make a wide range of unusual frame sizes and styles. For now, we are focused on the Australian optical industry, but are very excited at the future export opportunities in a niche market. 

How do you currently distribute your products?

The business has been established as a wholesale manufacturer for the Australian optical market – an industry we are proud to support and partner with. We do not have any immediate plans to retail directly to the public from our factory, although we will closely watch the market to see how it develops. 

Our focus is on bespoke manufacturing and working with our reseller network to ensure that our frames always look great and are made to the highest standards.

From next month, we will have our first frames available and on display at most independent optical outlets.

What is involved in making a pair of glasses from scratch?

Wow! There is so much involved in making a pair of glasses from scratch. Most people don’t realise that there are over 50 steps, from cutting, milling, moulding, to bending, polishing and assembly. Most of the components we use come from all over the world. Our hinges and screws have been carefully chosen for their strength and quality. We source these from a manufacturer in Germany. Our organic high-density acetates are sourced from Italy and Japan, and our machinery incorporates cutting edge technology from France.

In what ways does your business ensure sustainable/environmentally sound practices are used?

Our frames are made from cellulose acetate that have environmentally sustainable qualities. The CAs we use are made up of 85% cotton fibres and 10% wooden fibres. The other 5% is made up of small components of polymers and resins that help bind these bio materials into a hard but malleable product. 

There are numerous benefits to using CA over the cheaper plastic imports. Plastic frames are terrible for our environment and once lost, almost always will end up back in the environment as either landfill, or in our oceans. 

There are many other problems with plastic frames in our environment. Plastic over time becomes brittle and uncomfortable to wear. CA has wonderful hyper-allergenic properties and offers unparalleled colour options. There is just so much more I could discuss about the benefits of CA over plastic. 

How does your business consider fashion trends when you create new products?

We tend to be guided by our resellers and our international supply chain as to what people want, rather than following set trends. The problem with following fashion trends is that they come and go quickly. That said, we have just returned from Fashion week in Milan. We attended the largest trade fair in the world, being immersed in the latest European styles and designs.

In eyewear, you need to be constantly innovating and trying new things – which is our objective. Identifying fashion trends in eyewear is easy to spot, and I’ve always been of the view that you don’t want to be just another company doing what everyone else is doing. 

What are your business plans/goals for the next year or so?

That’s a great question! Currently I’m working on an exciting project, incorporating new technologies that directly connects our manufacturing facility to resellers around the country. We are currently in discussions with several investors, but I would ideally prefer to work in close partnership with a talented software developer – ideally someone local, who shares the same entrepreneurial flair.

How do we contact you?

Phone: 6584 8907 or email: info@optexaust.com.au

Thanks Greg.

Interview: Jo Robinson.

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