By Linda Conlin, ABOC, NCLEC

When you know about frame materials and how frames are made, you can tell the brand story that relates to the consumer’s individuality, social status, fashion statement and desire for quality. Understanding frames and their manufacture can significantly improve your average sell price, improve the number of quality frames sold, better satisfy the customer and better answer the question, “why so expensive?”

To make a quality product, one must start with quality materials. Then, the craftsmanship of the actual pieces is the result of a design team whose inspiration comes from contemporary trends, a color palette married to material and brand identity, for new or vintage styles and new manufacturing technologies. Then, one must tell the story, so marketing develops the right positioning and words to best describe the frames and the plans to share the story. Your sales rep helps make product visible and a company’s service ensures they are there when expected.

Tip: By knowing why companies make design or material or value choices, sound bites can be learned that resonate with customers.

Creating a frame starts with sketches that are turned into CAD drawings. The precision of a CAD drawing provides the detail that drives the multi-axis milling machines that can make each frame’s cuts and sculpting unique, yet from frame to frame, virtually identical. Every aspect of the frame is dimensioned to tenths of millimeters, angles and radii are defined. For frames made from acetate or metal sheet, these CAD files will direct the dimensions cut for the eye size and shape, as well as temple shape and length.

Acetate is made of cellulose powder combined with pigmentation made of colored powder, plus solvents like acetone and plasticizers. It typically takes 45 days to make the acetate due to the need for extended time for material to dry after being colored. Folks who make acetate sheets are artists, knowing how to blend the colors or the acetate pebbles to produce beautiful random patterns or a color mixture of layers that gets noticed.

Metal such as stainless steel is made into spools of eye wire or flat sheets of steel at steel mills. The spools of wire are then reduced in diameter to match the dimensions specified in the CAD drawing. The bezel is also shaped as part of the eyewire. Metal sheet is rolled to the correct thinness, and the final shape is stamp cut or milled to the necessary size and shape. Metal frames are plated only after they are produced.

For acetate frames, the frame parts must be smoothed and polished through a tumbling process that rounds the corners and edges of the cut fronts and temples. The next step is to add a final luster by hand polishing. After every step, the operator inspects the results of their work. That human touch ensures the quality demanded by the designer and the promise made by the brand.

Next, the frame is assembled. Temples attach to fronts with the specified screw, tightened with just the right amount of torque and checked for the way that the temples open and close—not too tight, nor too loose. If there are adjustable nosepads, they are added as well as any decorations not yet already added in the manufacturing process. Before packaging, the frame is verified for shape using that original blueprint. In quality eyewear, you can expect that the variety of frames that you unpack in preparation for display, will be straight, clean and ready for your customers to try.

Tip: Some consumers think that frames are easy to make and that machines just “spit them out.” Explain the steps in frame production that are performed by hand, as well as the multiple inspections that ensure quality.

Now it’s up to you to describe why this frame is a good choice for your customer. Tell the story of its manufacture, the time taken, contemporary or vintage inspiration and the feel when on. Also, read what the manufacturer prints about the frame on paper, on their website and on social media. Those comments and those of others about the frame’s thinness, lightness or how it rocks the color/shape are words to put in your mouth.

Marketing provides a 360-degree approach to the brand. Your vendor can provide a campaign for the frame collections chosen that gives you a story, based on the brand’s identity, from start to finish.

Tip: Be sure the messages are available as multi-channel and in-store materials that attract customers and remind you of what you might say.

Understanding frames and their manufacture can significantly improve your average sell price, improve the number of quality frames sold, better satisfy the customer and better answer the question, “why so expensive?” The art and technology of frame making is a fascinating process to impart the emotion and appreciation for the way that final product is achieved. Who benefits? The customer does!