Specs designer eyes China market
With her bright orange hair, Annette Esto cuts a striking figure in Beijing.
The Danish spectacles designer and CEO of Fleye, a designer eyewear brand that she launched in Europe a decade ago, is a woman of very individual style, from her hair down to her clothes. And now she is bringing some of her fashion sense to the streets of China.
“The period of people purchasing brands has started to fade away and what they need is to wear something that is a little special,” says Esto, who brought her brand to China last year.
As one would expect from such a colorful woman, Esto’s frame designs play with color, as well as materials and texture.
Some of her spectacles even offer the option of changing the color on parts of the frame so wearers can match them to their clothes or nail color.
Esto, who has not formally studied design, says she takes inspiration from many places. The shape of a car or pattern on a table can give her ideas.
“You’ve got to look at the detail,” she says. “And you’ve got to look at many different things.”
The 54-year-old designer likes to travel and enjoys mountain climbing.
“During the process of mountain climbing you are in a situation in which you will not be disturbed. And that helps you get more inspiration as you are well connected with nature and quite concentrated.”
Esto says that, as a child her parents, an office worker and a builder, encouraged her to do the things she liked but also pushed her to be the best at them.
After graduating, she became an optician, later opening her own shop. Then in 2002, with a wealth of industry experience and a desire to be creative, she launched Fleye.
From there the business grew rapidly, and more than 100 shops in 32 countries now sell her brand, she says.
Esto brought Fleye to China last year, opening an office in Shanghai. Now 33 shops in eight Chinese provinces sell her designs, and Esto has eyes on greater expansion. However, there are obstacles in her path.
“Most Chinese optical shop owners or customers are eager to see you are already quite a famous brand. Otherwise, the brand cannot attract their eyes,” she says.
She hopes to overcome this and popularize her brand in China through her Shanghai training team, whom she sends to train staff in optical shops that carry her designs.
Esto’s designs are European, but she says they have been adapted for the Chinese market.
“We make the frame wider as Asian people tend to have a wider face,” she says. “Also, because people in Europe have a high nose, we make the nose pad a little bit lower so as to fit an Asian face.”
Esto has been surprised by the attitudes to fashion she has found in China.
“There are a lot of girls who wear glasses without lenses, just for fashion.
Also, Chinese people are not afraid of colors... My products have entered the market. I’m so happy to see they like them.”
To produce yet more styles for China’s fashion-conscious crowd, Esto says she plans to work with the country’s fashion designers.
Annette Esto is surprised by many Chinese women who wear glasses without lenses, just for fashion.