Philippe Donikian, Chief Sales Officer at Von Arkel talks in detail about the precision and care that goes into the making of a Von Arkel frame. We gain his thoughts on what trends have caught his attention in 2018, and how feedback gained from conversations at shows like 100% Optical is so vital in planning future business development.
Introduction to Von Arkel
Von Arkel is a Swiss eyewear brand proposing premium frames, both optical and solar, rooted in the watchmaking industry, its savoir-faire and traditions. We offer exclusive hinge designs which are called Calibers, that are developed with renowned craftsmen from the Jura region. Von Arkel’s passion is drawn from the world of micro mechanics and relies on constant innovation, be it design wise with the manufacturing of classical, timeless and future classic frame models or technology wise with the on-going development of our Calibers family.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the optical industry?
I have worked 6 years as Export Manager for the haute couture brand Solstiss, opening new opportunities in various countries around the world. I then contributed to the international growth of O.J. Perrin and Korloff as Export Commercial Director before diving in the eyewear industry with the Logo Group (Fred Lunettes and Tag Heuer), where I was assigned World Commercial Director thanks to my strategic input and relevant expertise. In 2010, I took the position of General Manager and Corporate Officer at Vuarnet, leading over 40 people into the renaissance of the brand. I then joined Von Arkel as Chief of Sales to further develop the brand’s international reach, particularly in East Asia.
What key trends in optical collections for 2018 have you noticed or particularly liked?
We’ve seen an increase in exclusively metal frames this year, which hints at the general market going towards something more luxurious. Reaching for elegance through simplicity has also made its comeback, especially in the optical sector. On the other hand, oversized frames and their counterparts have been widely marketed in the fashion industry. The fashion canal has always been the ideal media to promote brands and it’s working better than ever. I must say our attention was focused on details, such as clever assembly methods and the association between acetate and metal for instance. Our purpose is not only to come up with timeless frame designs; it needs to have this added value, which we promote through our innovative Calibers.
What’s the inspiration behind the latest collection?
This year, we have unveiled our new Caliber 4 Outline collection, among others. They are an ode to traditional craftsmanship where the details of the finishings are going hard on the competition. The meticulous polishing matches what is being done on high-end watch cases, while 1/10mm chamfers on the hinges capture the light in a precious way. We want the collection to be a technological statement. We have succeeded in making them affordable as well through a range of different models available, from the classic full black PVD optical frame to the golden solar aviator interpretation with translucent polyamide rims.
What does the future hold for Von Arkel? Any other projects on the horizon?
A lot of new concepts are actually in their development and prototyping phases! We won’t ruin the surprise just yet. All we can say is that we are expanding our catalogue with futur classics that are bound to be crowd-pleasers, both for the end user and for the opticians. We are striping down the frames to their bare essentiality to deliver products that overcome traditional complications for the sake of experience and aesthetics. We are also investigating potential collaborations with a few companies in other industries in hopes of reaching new and different targets.
What challenges do you see facing the optical industry in the coming years?
As a general way of speaking, we realise that optical frames are less and less expensive due to the relocation of production facilities, an increase in the use of affordable technologies such as 3D printing and so on. It’s a shame that people concentrate their efforts on reducing the costs with technology instead of maximising the experience with technology. We have a particular role when it comes to supporting traditional savoir-faire and showing the heritage of eyewear manufacturing. As an object of design, we need to emphasize the know-how that has been passed on through generations and make it live as long as we can. At the end of the day, a client pays to have a better vision, but also an object of value.
How has 100% Optical helped you to overcome these challenges?
100% Optical is a tremendous platform when it comes to delivering our message as a brand. We can share the experience of Von Arkel and have the opportunity to reach opticians and clients alike. The feedback is our most important ally in business as we rely on it for our day to day strategic development. We need to understand the market and the evolutions the industry are going through. Being represented at 100% Optical favours an exchange, not only from our side but also from experienced manufacturers, influencers and newcomers like, which is more than welcomed.
You are exhibiting at 100% Optical 2019. Who do you hope to meet at the show?
Having hopes is a delicate thing! We’d rather be surprised by who we are going to meet. The birth of new relationships is of radical importance, be it new suppliers, opticians or clients. We engage in different conversations with pleasure and learn from any aspects of new discoveries. We will of course be presenting our brand, our ideology and our collections to as many people as we can, with the intention of creating new synergies that will be beneficial for our development. You’re all welcome!
Book your appointment with Von Arkel at 100% Optical 2019 on stand E264 here