One thing I don't see a lot of in the eyewear and glasses industry is new and interesting products. Theses swappable lens frames, which OpticalOwl has written about, from Fetch Eyewear are exactly that. Interesting and innovative.
These changeable lens frames are from a company called Klix Frames which aims to truly revolutionize the glasses industry. Enabling users to switch out your frames with different colors while keeping the same lenses. For those with bifocals, multi-focal lenses, or very strong prescriptions you know how expensive buying lenses for glasses is.
To get the full story of Klix Frames here is an interview with Sean McGinley, the inventor of the technology and one of the co-founders of Klix Frames.
OpticalOwl – How did you come up with the Kilx Frames?
Sean McGinley – My wife went shopping for our daughter’s new prescription frames. They were gone for hours and when they returned home I asked them what had taken them so long.
My daughter chose the frame style she liked, but could not decide on a single color to wear everyday. She wanted to go with something that would be flexible to match most outfits. So she chose a neutral frame (tortoise shell) after trying on many colors and abandoning her favorite color selections.
The idea of fashion flexibility with interchangeable lenses came to me immediately. I thought, why are there not more options with eyewear? With the high cost of lenses and frames, it is typically not possible to own multiple frames and lenses for most people.
My daughter [was] doing somersaults when she saw the frames. She can have 5 different colors, that tickles her to death.
In addition, insurance is typically available for one set of frames and a partial allowance on lenses. So, we asked ourselves a couple of questions. One: Why haven’t frames changed in the way they are leveraged since Ben Franklin put on a pair? Two: How can we correct this limitation to provide more value and choice? Interchangeable lenses was the answer…
OO – So your daughter wanted more color choices to make her wardrobe more fashionable? Kids usually give you the best ideas.
SM -Yes she did, as did Matt's daughter. They didn't like the idea of having a single pair of frames for a year (or when insurance would be willing to pay for another pair) that wouldn’t be able to be changed. I would think many people come up against this obstacle.
OO – Are your professional backgrounds in the optical industry?
SM – None of us have experience in the optical industry but, we are seasoned veterans in our respective fields. I am a systems engineer and Joe Flinn is an account manager at the same technology company, Matt Proffitt is a special education teacher, and Mike Broz is in management/engineering at a Fortune 100 company.
This is where forming a relationship with someone in the industry was key. We pitched the idea to a few American based companies and we couldn’t manage to get to the right person. This is when we realized a person like Joe Flinn was needed. I presented the invention to him and he was sold. Joe is great at building relationships and reached out to Ann [Sacks] after finding her during his research.
She responded to Joe’s intro email by phone and asked Joe, why should I be interested? Joe stated, “Blockbuster passed on Netflix and it was a niche business. You need to be open to change or you will get left behind. Blockbuster is out of business and Netflix is worth $126 billion.” We explained the concept to her, agreed to help her with a project she had and started working together. She gave us access to her manufacturing and in return, we assisted her in the design of a tracking capability for eyewear that is due out in March. The relationship has proven beneficial to both Fetch and Klix.
OO – What was the hardest part of brining the swappable lens frames to consumers? Building the prototypes? The patent process? Working out the business deals?
SM – You obviously know the business. Everything you mentioned were the biggest obstacles. It has taken us three years to get from concept to functioning prototype. Many eyewear manufacturers were not willing to assist us in the design and I don’t know why but, they all acted as if the design was ludicrous. Ann has a fabulous relationship with her contact at Concept Eyewear, Cherry Chan, and she understood what we were trying to do and helped make it happen.
OO – Were you aware of the some of the online glasses companies OpticalOwl covers before starting Kilx Frames?
SM – I am sorry to say, no we didn't. We didn't dive into the eyewear industry until a couple of months ago. We all find ourselves checking out people’s frames that we walk by but, we only know a handful of companies.
OO – For most of these online retailers it seems the lenses are relatively inexpensive compared to the frames. Do you believe there is still a good market for the Kilx Frames?
SM – Single vision, lined multi-focal, and progressive lenses all have their own price point with progressives being the most expensive. During the construction phase of the Klix Frames prototypes, we used [asked] people what they typically spend on glasses and we found the average was right around $200-300 for single vision, and that’s with insurance! Many of the people surveyed want lens types that are multi-focal and progressive and they have higher price points; $200 to $400 to $600.
OO – What are your thoughts about the behemoth in the eyewear and optical industry, EssilorLuxottica? Is the company good or bad for the market,consumers, inventors like yourselves?
SM – The only thing I know about Luxottica is what you wrote. They are considered the behemoth in the optical industry. I need to do a bit more homework on them as we have been very focused on the prototype and implementing our solution onto select Fetch Eyewear frames.
OO – Are you planning on working with other eyeglasses companies besides Fetch Eyewear?
SM – Yes we are. We plan on licensing the solution to interested parties as well as assisting Fetch in distribution and enlarging Anne [Sacks – Founder of Fetch Eyewear] U.S. footprint. We may start manufacturing a high end version ourselves; incorporating both cotton based acetate and metal.
SM – Where do you see Kilx Frame and your swappable lens frames in 5 years?
SM – Realistically, I would like to see Klix Frames enabled glasses on 10-15% of the American eyewear wearing population.
OO – Do you guys have more optical inventions you are working on?
KF – Absolutely. We have already finished version 2 of Klix Frames and wrapping up version 3. We will be announcing another new patent pending solution at [the] Vision East Expo (VEE).
— End of Interview —
What do you think of Klix Frames? Will these glasses revolutionize the eyewear industry?