Specs de­signer eyes China mar­ket

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By LI AOXUE liaoxue@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

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