Viewpoint: Diary of a spectacle designer
Tom Davies has been busy, but keep it to yourself
Author: Tom Davies
I emailed Simon Jones, Optician’s editor, on Saturday: ‘Simon, I’ve too many great things I want to write about at the moment, but nothing signed off. When is the absolute deadline?’ I like being up to date with this column. The Queen has just congratulated Emma Raducanu on her epic tennis victory in New York and Simon emailed to say: ‘Sunday night.’
I’m deep into negotiations with Warner Bros about what I can and can’t say regarding my involvement with The Matrix Resurrections. I can tell you I designed and made all the eyewear in the film. I’ve loads of brilliant stories to tell on this one but it will have to wait for another day as contracts will be signed later next week.
I could tell you all about The Great British Eyewear show, but it might not be going ahead by the time you are reading this and then I’ll look like a right mug.
Or, I could tell you how I managed to convince someone to lend me £500, 000 to buy new equipment to start a titanium line in my London factory. I don’t have cash in my hands just yet and I’ve learned the hard way that one shouldn’t count the chickens until they’ve hatched.
September 2021, it turns out, is a month on steroids. As a nation, this ‘back to school’ month is always the annual second wind. Optical professionals have a surge in customers and brands and suppliers to the trade enjoy a second wave of global trade shows, sparking a mini wholesale boom. I’m finding this September to have bounced into a frenetic explosion of activity and action across the board. It’s like everyone is trying to squeeze life into a brief few months in case there is a fourth wave.
I’ve seven new sales reps starting. My global exports have not been this big since February 2020. The bounce I was expecting six months ago seems to be happening now. Sales are back, baby! Bespoke is back, which was helped in no small part by my London Bespoke machine reaching record speeds, and in normal life, the restaurants are full, London is buzzing again and the traffic jams have returned.
Yet, booming sales worry me. I’ve only just caught up after I moved all my production to London and if I’m not careful, we will pop again. Hence the need to invest in the factory. I have almost run out of things to put up against loans to help with sales growth and if one more person says ‘that’s a nice problem to have’ I’ll turn pink and steam will escape from my ears.
Buying new equipment and tools is a dream for me. It helps that the machines I’m buying look cool. I imagine them with dry ice floating around and lasers waving in the air and the opening of a plating lab is also exciting but can I get the finance in place? I’ll know soon enough.
‘What’s this Great British Eyewear show?’ I hear you asking. We’ve not had a real trade show for 18 months. Around six months ago one of my reps in Chicago said: ‘A few brands are putting out some tables and inviting local opticians, shall I join?’ It was a little pop-up event in a funky warehouse. All the brands split the costs and we sold just shy of 300 frames. With just one rep, as a ratio, it was our most successful show ever and cost me just £800.
Last Thursday I was thinking that the UK opticians haven’t had a show to go to either. I’m not going to Silmo. I doubt anyone’s going to Silmo from the UK. Why don’t I put on a show? I have the greatest respect for people who put on big trade shows, but I just need to see a hundred or so opticians and have a little party and a little get together. How hard can that be?
I made a logo on Photoshop, googled ‘funky warehouse space’ and then emailed a few brands. I pitched it like this: ‘A Covid safe, low key event with 15 or so brands all chipping in. Great space, easy access, party, food and selling. What do you think?’ Two days later I’ve got 10 brands signed up. A co-operative show, not for profit, just the UK reps coming together to put on a great event.
I expect I’ll have more brands than we have space for and to be oversubscribed. If you fancy coming, my advice is register quickly when I release it. It’ll be on October 18 in Birmingham.
Finally, The Matrix Resurrections. I’m just going to have to keep you waiting for that one. There are too many stories to tell and I’ve a glass of red wine at my PC, there’s a beef stew in the oven and Simon Jones has got to whip this into something readable.
I hope you are having a bonkers September too.