Award-winning eyewear designer Blake Kuwahara launches Focus Group West, a collaborative design collective based in West Hollywood. The new group plans to specialize in both product development and branding for eyewear markets and beyond.

“We believe there is a void in the marketplace for a creative resource that can provide product design and branding services not only for wholesalers and fashion houses, but for independent optometrists and retailers as well,” says Kuwahara. “Focus Group West will serve as a hub for interaction between product, graphic and interior designers, architects and public relations specialists to design, develop and promote product, interior spaces and brand identity for eyewear and fashion companies.”

Kuwahara is an optometrist and member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), and has been recognized internationally for his creation of the Kata Eyewear brand. He has most recently worked as vice president and creative director for Rem Eyewear and Base Curve, where he designed and launched eyewear collections for John Varvatos and Carolina Herrera.

Other Focus Group members include Thomas Ferguson, John Lum, Niki Ostin, Becky Chan and Heather Chan. Ferguson, who is serving as key eyewear designer, is a former ABO-certified optician and dispensary manager and former colleague of Kuwahara at Rem, where he was lead designer for Lucky Brand Spectacles and various house brand and private labels. Lum is a San Franciscobased architect who founded his firm in 1994, won awards for his groundbreaking work at Urban Eyes Optometry in San Francisco and has designed more than 18 optometric practices to date. He is also known for his award-winning, high-end retail, restaurant, club interiors and innovative residential projects. He will offer architectural services to Focus Group clients. Heather Chan and Becky Chan, whose expertise is in branding and corporate identity development, are heading the graphic design division. Ostin of PR Lab, who handled the launch of Carolina Herrera Eyewear and John Varvatos Eyewear, is overseeing public relations campaigns.

Among the services available from Focus Group West are the following: Designing and developing eyewear and sunglasses from drawings through to prototypes for existing collections; concepts and design platforms for new collections and relaunches; assisting buyers/retailers in spotting and buying trends; working with buyers/ opticians to determine appropriate product mix; training and educating staff on product, quality and style trends; full scope architectural and interior design and space planning services for new and existing optometric practices and optical retail boutiques; comprehensive graphic design and creative services; and providing comprehensive public relations and media activities.

“The launch of Focus Group West comes at a time when retailers and wholesalers need to sharpen their game to bring to the market product that will resonate with consumers and speak to the essence of the brand. A product line has to be at its strongest to survive and thrive in today’s market,” says Ferguson.

“It’s our job and responsibility to take ownership of a brand and work hand-inhand with our clients and their licensors to make certain the identity and continuity of a collection remains strong and effective,” Kuwahara adds.
—Gloria Nicola