6 March 2008
Scene Stealers(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 03,2008)
|Hop Fat Machinery & Equipment Co's optical frames come in a wide choice of colours and designs to complete a perfect fashion look|
The eye-catching range of optical products from Hong Kong presents a kaleidoscope of trendy styles that fuse functionality with chic
Keeping a close eye on demand trends, Hong Kong manufacturers combine the practical and the fashionable to create an innovative spectrum of optical products ranging from spectacles frames to sunglasses that are sure to elicit a satisfied look from the wearer.
One example is Eagle Int'l (Industrial) Ltd, whose range of optical frames and sunglasses is in demand in France, Germany, Italy and the US.
Among the firm's popular items is model 63876, an acetate frame for men. "Our designer has made extra efforts with this design to integrate craftsmanship and technological expertise," says General Manager Tony Wong.
The frame uses the Flex hinge, a type of spring hinge that has been invented and patented by the company. "Flex was nominated for the Silmo d'Or award in 2006, when it was the only product from an Asian manufacturer or eyewear design company to be nominated," Mr Wong says.
Flex employs production methods that do not involve soldering and do not, therefore, generate smoke. "Flex enables smooth movement of the temples, and it looks simple and modern with an industrial feel," he explains.
"In this model, the hinge is also decorated with a diamond-like metal piece," adds Mr Wong, noting that precision and accuracy are required in connecting the hinges to the stainless steel temples.
Other in-demand frames available at Eagle include metal and plastic combination models with engraved features, and innovative rimless versions.
Men's and unisex styles are the company's best selling products, which Mr Wong attributes to their classic yet trendy designs. "They look valuable and different," he declares. "For the unisex models, we use fancy features like laser-engraved, chemical-etched and milled patterns with different effects to make the style more unique and trendy."
Continuously introducing new ODM items, the enterprise plans to launch in May 2008 some 200 new models incorporating a modified version of Flex. "We launch 250-400 different original frames twice a year, which include titanium and stainless steel metal frames, acetate frames and combination frames," Mr Wong says.
With customers mainly brand-name retailers and chain stores, Eagle is able to cater to buyers' requests for "something new", he says, adding that Eagle's frames range in unit price from US$6-15 FOB Hong Kong depending on the material and design.
Focusing on similar markets is Ocean Eyewear (HK) Ltd, which exports its range of spectacles frames and sunglasses mainly to France, Germany, Italy and the US.
"Most of our frames come in stainless steel, while our sunglasses lenses are made from nylon," says Director Stephen Cheung, adding that unit prices range from US$7.50-12.00 FOB Hong Kong for sunglasses, and US$5.50-9.00 for optical frames.
Meanwhile, injection sunglasses are the biggest seller for Ascend Optical Ltd, which is popular with its customer base of designer labels, department stores, premiums companies and optical chains in the US, Australia and Europe.
Injection sunglasses model V1297, made from cellulose propionate (CP), incorporates the popular large-frame 1980s retro look. "We are strong in colouring for injection sunglasses, and we are fast in developing new styles," says Sales and Marketing Manager Darren Hau. "We introduce new products every month, all of which are designed in-house."
The company also makes metal and acetate sunglasses, as well as reading glasses and optical frames, and FOB Hong Kong unit prices for its optical products range from US$1-5.
Acetate sunglasses are also a main product line at Hou Gine Optical Mfy Co, a manufacturer and wholesaler specialising in handmade cellulose acetate frames in men's, women's, unisex and children's versions.
Overseas Manager Fiona Yuen advises that acetate sunglasses are comfortable and durable. One advantage of making handmade acetate products over injection offerings is the ability to produce multicoloured glasses and add design features such as laser-engraved patterns, she adds.
"We often use more than seven colours per frame, and some customers want very sharp, bright colours and others want more understated ones," Ms Yuen notes.
"Sometimes, we put metal parts onto the frames for decoration and we follow fashion trends when choosing colours," she says.
Most of Hou Gine's customers are based in Southeast Asia, but the company also exports to the US, Europe and South Africa. Its products sell at unit prices starting at US$5 FOB Hong Kong, and slightly more if rhinestones are added.
"We introduce lots of new designs every month," says Ms Yuen, adding that it is important to introduce new models frequently to be competitive and to offer a wide range of styles.
Whatever the buyer is looking for, Hong Kong's optical suppliers will always see to it that they deliver the goods.
TEXT BY VICKI WILLIAMS
|Ascend Optical Ltd
Fook Yip Bldg
53-57 Kwai Fung Crescent
Kwai Chung, New Territories
Year Established: 1998
Year Established: 1962
Year Established: 1996
Hop Fat Machinery & Equipment Co
Year Established: 1997
Year Established: 1983
Year Established: -
Year Established: 1993
Optical Industry Overview
The world's second-largest exporter of spectacles and frames, Hong Kong boasts a strong optical industry that looks set to remain robust in the coming years, thanks to its strong design capability and expected economic growth in Europe.
"I'm optimistic about the sector's outlook for 2008 and 2009," says Hong Kong Trade Development Council Economist Wenda Ma. She also notes that spectacles frames make up a very important part of the industry that tends to specialise in the middle- to high-end of the market and counts renowned international brands among its clients.
Local optical manufacturers are traditionally strong in making plastic frames, including handmade cellulose acetate frames, rimless nylon frames, and injection-moulded frames. They also produce metal frames in rolled gold, aluminium alloy, brass, stainless steel, silver, titanium and combinations of metals.
With the sector on a roll, Hong Kong's total exports of spectacles, frames and lenses soared almost 23% in 2007 to HK$13.48bn, after a surge of 20% in the preceding year. The EU, the biggest market by continent with a 46% share of total exports, leapt 24% in 2007, while the US, the biggest market by country, rose 27%.
"For the next two years, steady demand is anticipated from Europe where the projected economic growth will mean stronger consumption power," Ms Ma says.
Predicting that this positive development will more than offset the impact of an expected US economic slowdown on overall demand, she notes that local suppliers are well positioned to tap the opportunity.
"Design is important for spectacles and frames, which are considered lifestyle items, and Hong Kong manufacturers are able to produce good designs and introduce innovative design features," says Ms Ma, pointing out that frames featuring crystals, colour stones, diamonds and big logos at the temples provide added style.
Meanwhile, Darren Hau, Sales and Marketing Manager at Ascend Optical Ltd, relates how the production of eyewear has shifted from Italy and France to Hong Kong in past decades. "Hong Kong manufacturers are very experienced in original design creation, manufacturing techniques and sales services," he observes.
While most Hong Kong manufacturers still operate as OEMs, the past decade has seen a gradual shift toward ODM or even OBM. These modes help the industry rise to challenges such as competition from indigenous mainland factories, and escalating production costs resulting from higher raw material prices, wages and energy charges.
"The competitive advantage once afforded by mainland production is shrinking," says Tony Wong, General Manager at Eagle Int'l (Industrial) Ltd, an OEM, ODM and OBM of frames and sunglasses.
"Hong Kong eyewear companies have to be capable of ODM and OBM, otherwise we'll no longer survive and will lose business to the mainland," he adds.
Hong Kong manufacturers are also adopting advanced technology to improve quality and design. "For instance, technological advances have enabled the use of even lighter and more durable materials," the HKTDC's Ms Ma says.
Technological development also covers hinge enhancement, resulting in novelties such as the spring hinge that allows the temple to flex backward and forward.
An example is the Flex hinge invented and patented by Eagle, an innovation that has been nominated for the Silmo d'Or award. "Flex employs production methods that do not involve soldering and therefore do not generate smoke," the company's Mr Wong explains.
Meanwhile, many manufacturers adopt CAD/CAM technologies and CNC (computer numerically controlled) production lines to enhance their design and production processes.
The industry will also benefit from its other strengths, Ms Ma reckons. "Hong Kong companies are strong in sourcing the best materials at good prices. They also keep in close contact with overseas buyers to understand their needs."
The sector is also well supported by ancillary industries in Hong Kong and on the mainland, which supply materials such as cellulose acetate sheets and spectacles parts, including spring hinges, nose bridges and temples, as well as technology services such as electroplating and mould making.
"Many leading Hong Kong manufacturers attend international trade shows to keep up with global product and demand trends, and launch new collections," Ms Ma adds.
Clearly, given this ability in creative design and grasping market demands, anticipating trends and providing efficient services, a bright future is in store for Hong Kong's optical industry.
WRITTEN BY VICKI WILLIAMS