20/20: How did the collaboration between Zyloware, Jaylon Smith and Jamal A. Robinson come to be?
Jamal A. Robinson: A cold call changed everything. Jaylon Smith and I founded CEV Collection in 2018, and 2019 marked our first year in business. Jaylon is a Pro Bowl Linebacker in the NFL, and I read an article about Shaq’s business ventures, among them was his eyewear line, and this caught my attention to find out who his partner was in the industry. Those cold calls led me to a conversation with Jamie Shyer co-CEO/COO at Zyloware. After our first conversation, Jamie invited me to Vision Expo West, where we met for the first time.
The conversation centered around the optical industry, the vision for CEV and the fact that his door was always open for us. Over the next couple of years, Jamie became a close friend and mentor—someone I called on and kept in the loop about our business. During that time, I also began connecting with and meeting the Zyloware team. Our synergies were organic, from a values perspective we aligned, and then the opportunity presented itself to explore what it would look like to work together to fulfill a consumer need.
There is an opportunity in the market for what we call “culturally inspired design,” great-fitting and affordably priced eyewear. That is where the stars aligned for Zyloware and CEV to collaborate on entering the market together.
What do you hope consumers understand about the CEV collection?
Firstly, I hope consumers become customers and love the product. Most consumers wear frames for six plus hours a day, and we want them to feel the intention in the design of our product that solves their need for an amazing fit, with frames that are beautifully designed. Secondly, I hope consumers understand the purpose behind CEV, which stands for Clear Eye View. Our vision is to empower everyone to see their true selves, and that’s what our brand represents in the world. When you wear a pair of CEV frames, we hope that message resonates with you always.
Lastly, I hope consumers understand that we are a small Black-owned business created by a couple of friends who had a vision. Since 2020, there has been an increase in consumer interest in learning more about and supporting Black-owned businesses, especially in the U.S. We want consumers to feel that they are a part of our story, and no matter how many years pass or the scale of our business, we hope that it never changes.
What is in store for this collection? Are there plans to expand it in the future?
This collection features great designs with acetate color combinations including matte and polished finishes, along with detailed temple designs on our metal frames with oversized fronts. We work closely with Chris Shyer, Zyloware’s co-CEO/president who has an exceptional eye and a wealth of knowledge around optical manufacturing and design. Having this level of expertise makes it possible to create whatever we imagine and provides a seamless process. We will continue to offer great products to our customers, take care of our retail partners with excellent service whilst listening to customer feedback to help us continually progress and improve.
One of the many reasons we partnered with Zyloware is that they have 100 years of success and learning in the optical industry—we are not “starting from scratch,” and we take a long view approach to building our brand and business. We are excited to be in the market while continuing to expand our retail distribution and product assortment in the years to come.