1 Sept 2004
Shades of Success
Wah Ming Optical Mfy Ltd places design focus on the temples of this sample of wide frame sunglasses
Hong Kong is a major producer of sunglasses, for work situations or for stylish fun, turning out millions each year. With countless design variations, buyers can find just about any type, shape or colour, in smart and economical plastic or upmarket titanium and memory plastic.
A typical producer is Wah Ming Optical Mfg Ltd, founded in 1968. This experienced manufacturer of optical frames and sunglasses operates a plant in the Chinese mainland's Shenzhen that boasts a capability of eight million frames per year. The plant gained ISO 9001 certification in 1998.
Having started out manufacturing acetate handmade products, Wah Ming gradually broadened its product range with the introduction of metal frames, followed by plastic injection moulded frames and, more recently, the pure titanium frames that the market currently demands.
"Our product range includes fashionable and sporting sunglasses for men and women," says sales and marketing coordinator Vivian Sin. "We also have a unisex line and recently added an upmarket line of titanium frame sunglasses."
She says that demand for sunglasses is universal, and that it is not necessary to create dedicated models for specific markets. "It is more important to concentrate on bringing out good designs."
A minimum order from Wah Ming is 600-1,000 pairs (depending on the style) for delivery 75-90 days after order confirmation. Sin says that liaison with clients is sometimes time-consuming and draws out the delivery time. "Before we go ahead and fulfill an order, for example, it is necessary to confirm all the details," she observes.
Another leading supplier, 22-year-veteran Swank Int'l Optical Co Ltd, offers frames in plastic, titanium and aluminium. Frames may also be fashioned from ZYL plastic, also known as "memory plastic", that has superior flexibility.
"We also manufacture the lenses," says sales executive Sonia Leung. "We import the raw materials for the glass and grind and polish to requirements." Apart from glass, Swank also offers plastic, polycarbonate and LYX lenses. "There is also some demand for sunglasses with polarised lenses and we have a range to meet that."
Leung says business is reasonably good: "Our prices vary a lot as we supply the low-end and the mid- to high-end markets."
Designs are done in-house, while Swank also accepts OEM and ODM orders. "If an order is for a new style, then we have to develop a mould, and that takes about 45 days. That means it will be 2-3 months before you see the product."
A minimum order from Swank is 1,000 pieces per style. "If we use an existing mould, we can deliver 30 days after order confirmation," says Leung.
Wing Keung Optical Mfg Ltd, established in 1996, prefers to specialise, and the company's entire production comprises metal-framed sunglasses, utilising Monel, titanium, beta-titanium, aluminium, stainless steel and nickel silver.
"Monel is harder than nickel silver, with a finish that does not wear off," says business development manager Rebecca Kong. "Additionally, we use stainless steel for its characteristic strength and elasticity and beta-titanium - despite being quite expensive - for its lightness and overall quality."
Kong says the company targets the high-end of the market. "Our sunglasses cost about US$5.50 FOB Hong Kong a pair, with the titanium-framed models being the most expensive line."
She says the business is highly competitive, with many new factories opening up on the Chinese mainland. "Some customers send drawings for us to work with, and we also have our own designs for them to choose from. Most of our business is with long-term customers, which enhances the economic stability for our company," says Kong.
The major market for Wing Keung is Europe. The minimum order requirement is 300 pieces per style, and delivery takes 45-60 days from order confirmation.
A company very active in sunglasses is Diamond Optical Int'l Ltd, established in 1963. "Our marketing team is always on the lookout for new business," says company director and designer Clarence Kwok. "They do the round of trade fairs to keep in touch, travelling to Europe and the US, besides attending local events." Kwok says sunglasses frames are made from plastic (acetate) and metal (mostly Monel). "We also produce metal-plastic combinations."
The sunglasses business is tough but satisfying, he says, and it is important to offer good designs, good quality and good prices. "The price of our sunglasses, in general, is about US$5 per pair FOB Hong Kong," he adds.
With most goods shipped to Europe, delivery takes place 60 days after confirmation of an order. Goods are produced at a mainland factory employing 300 workers.
So drop the shades and cool the eyes with practical and economical sunglasses from Hong Kong that fit the bill every time.
WRITTEN BY TONY HENDERSON
Alliance Group (Holdings) Ltd
Millennium Trade Centre
56 Kwai Cheong Rd
Kwai Chung, New Territories
DJ Frameworks Ltd
Units B & C, 23/F
Cheung Hing Shing Centre
23 Sha Tsui Rd
Tsuen Wan, New Territories
Swank Int'l Optical Co Ltd
Level 33, Tower 1
223 Hing Fong Rd
Kwai Fong, New Territories
Wing Keung Optical Mfg Ltd
Flats I-L, 11/F
Wai Cheung Ind Centre
5 Shek Pai Tau Rd
Tuen Mun, New Territories
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