Arnold Schmied, CEO, Silhouette, shares his excitement on the Titan Minimal Art completing 20 years and how it revolutized the world of eyewear designs…
VisionPlus (VP): The South East Asian market for eyewear is very different from what we see in India, UAE and other countries. Given your presence in this region, what are the insights that you would want to share with our readers?
Arnold Schmied(AS): From our perspective, we don’t see one uniform South East Asian market. In fact, for us these are many markets put together in one region because of the various countries in the region. After all, every country has its needs and expectations, when it comes to Eye Care Professionals. Diversity is what we see out there and it is what we try to cater for. High end stores, optical chains, eye clinics, trendy optical stores, established neighborhood opticians, there are so many different optical stores. As a professional optical eyewear designer and manufacturer, we believe in responding to all our partners’ needs. We do it our own way with ultra-light, comfortable, innovative and timeless frames. We have some really established local partners in the region who share our vision for high quality eyewear and superior customer service. Thanks to their support, we are confident of catering to the demanding and savvy consumers who can afford the best products and expect the best service.
VP: What is the Titan Minimal Art (TMA) all about?
AS: The TMA is simply the best rimless eyewear on the market. Silhouette revolutionized the world of eyewear with the introduction of the Titan Minimal Art weighing just 1.8 grams. This was only possible due to a super-light and super-flexible titanium material that was completely new at the time. The Titan Minimal Art stands for design without limits – without frame, hinges and screws. It gives the wearer complete freedom. With more than 400 lens shapes, a variety of lens tints and your chosen earpiece design, you can express what defines you: your personality. And the numbers underline this success: Until today we have sold 11.5 million TMA frames.
VP: 20 years of Titan Minimal Art (TMA) is a big milestone. Tell us something about the journey and the progress so far.
AS: During the 90s, one of our designers at that time, Gerhard Fuchs, designed a very futuristic collection under the title “Minimal Art.” Those models were very similar to today’s Titan Minimal Art, except instead of being made of titanium, they were made of steel. However, the high-quality steel was limited in terms of flexibility and there was a lot of breakage, so we eventually had to take the first batch of “Minimal Art” models off the market. A few years later, our technicians came upon something that was completely new at the time: highly flexible beta titanium alloy. This paved the way, from a technological standpoint anyway, for the triumph of the new Titan Minimal Art eyewear.
When we started to introduce the TMA collections, customers from all over the world started buying them and soon (fortunately!) it become unstoppable. Suddenly, we were receiving letters and e-mails from all over the world, thanking us. That was extraordinary and very moving. What fascinated me most of all was the level of freedom in terms of wearability and the “vision without limitations” that everyone was talking about. With this innovation, we opened up a new era in the world of eyewear and it changed completely everything the brand and also what the company stands for.
VP: What do you wish for the Titan Minimal Art on its twentieth anniversary?
AS: I wish for our Titan Minimal Art project to grow in the coming years from being a “new icon” to being an “established icon” that continues to be successful and in demand. It will be up to me and all our employees to spread our excitement for the clarity, beauty and timelessness of the design and share the unique possibilities for individualizing this model with our customers every day, and to give our customers the chance to experience the unprecedented comfort of our Titan Minimal Art for themselves.
VP: Your association with Silhouette…
AS: Silhouette is the market leader in premium eyewear, creating high-quality products for perfect sight correction and sight protection. Since our company’s founding, Silhouette’s aim has been to work on the future. Innovation is our focus. I’ve always been extremely happy and proud to be able to work for this company. What continues to excite me is our extraordinary combination of top-quality design with all kinds of technologies. Because of the mentality of the company and our employees, I am confident that we will succeed in the next twenty years in significantly expanding our claim, our vision, of setting the benchmark for premium eyewear.
VP: Looking back, what were the three milestones that have most greatly shaped the history of Silhouette?
AS: The first truly great milestone was the step to becoming an all-around manufacturer of eyewear made from all types of materials. Switching to manufacturing all the eyewear ourselves was a big challenge, but it was also the start and the foundation of our technological progress which is still ongoing today, whether you talk about cutting-edge technologies for the most intricate metal eyewear, or the high-tech know-how that goes into manufacturing our most complex, sleekest eyewear using injection molding. Shifting our focus to this form of plastic production, which was completely new at the time, and phasing out acetate production, which, in our view, did not meet the requirements for producing the highest-quality frames, was another courageous move, but it was the right thing to do.
The second milestone, and so far the most successful one of all, was the introduction of our rimless eyewear made from a super-light, super-flexible titanium alloy that was completely new at the time. No one could have dreamed that it would be possible for this type of eyewear, which was so unpopular in the optics world at that time, to become such a major breakthrough.
The latest big milestone up to now came two years ago when we started Vision Sensation, Silhouette’s original glazing concept, which uses lens geometry that was specially developed for our rimless eyewear. By perfectly matching our customers’ individual optical specifications with the precise technical data for our frames, we have achieved unprecedented optical perfection, “tailor-made” for each individual customer. This fusion of frames and lenses is produced in Linz according to the highest technical standards.
VP: What do you identify as the key market trends in the south east Asian region?
AS: We can see that discerning consumers are looking for better designed products and higher quality manufacturing. Premium eyewear industry is evolving in a similar way as the watch industry. Precision, innovation, quality of manufacturing will be as important as look, style and brand. To simply put a “logo on a temple” and hope to lure the consumer away with an inferior quality product, is a fad that won’t last long. Successful eyewear companies will propose original designs, technical innovations that make frames more comfortable or easier to wear and maintain. At Silhouette, we are also offering unparalleled customization with our rimless collections: by combining lens shapes, lens tints or functions with unique earpiece, every consumer has the freedom to make his/her own Silhouette and to create a pair of glasses that perfectly complement his/her own style and personality.
VP:What do you see as challenges in this region and what would be your strategy to tackle the same?
AS: Being a premium brand, we sometimes face comments from end-users about price. And there is no denying that we are more expensive than other brands. First, we do not manufacture in regions which offer cheap labor in countries like China or the Philippines. Our products are manufactured in Austria in our own factory under our own control. We believe we are asking for a fair price as Silhouette quality, comfort, fit and designs are “better than most”. Then, we invite end-consumers to feel the difference for themselves. “Try it, wear it and you’ll love it”. Millions of consumers worldwide are choosing Silhouette every year, it speaks volumes about the quality and comfort of our products.
VP: From among the existing portfolio which would be your favorites and why?
AS: I wear either a TMA Must or a TMA Icon, in various colors and lens shapes. I put my TMA on early in the morning and all day long it feels like I’m not even wearing glasses. Of course, I’m always trying out our new models too. But there’s really nothing like the feeling of wearing a TMA model.