Masako Kumakura is innovating eyewear with mEeyye
Introducing the member-run business being touted as fashion’s first progressive lens eyewear line
By Mathilde Bulteau Above image courtesy of Masako Kumakura Wednesday 9 September, 2020 Short read
It was in this previous role, working in fashion comms, that Kumakura noticed she was having trouble reading her business documents. She sought help but was, by her own admission, unconvinced by the existing reading glasses available and she wasted no time trying to rectify what she saw as a gap in the market. Only a few months later, mEeyye was launched and touted as the first fashion-forward eyewear line offering progressive lenses.
Here, Kumakura explains how the simplest idea can often be the most innovative, and discusses her new role at the forefront of fashion eyewear.
‘I remember it perfectly. One morning, a few years ago, at the Gucci Group headquarters, I was working on the beginning-of-year budgets and I suddenly noticed that I had to hold the pages closer and closer to be able to read them. As I was born in 1959, I have to say this was no great surprise to me, so I immediately started to look for reading glasses. What I saw really didn’t convince me, though. I badly needed reading glasses, but I just couldn’t find any that were stylish or elegant. I went to an optician with my favourite designer sunglasses and asked to have progressive lenses adapted to the frame. I was sure I had found the solution to my problem. But I was told that completing this request would be complicated, time-consuming and very expensive. It was precisely this unsuccessful visit to the optician that gave me the idea to launch my own eyewear line.’
What is the concept of mEeyye? What makes it different from all other eyewear brands?
‘Well, after all those fruitless searches, what I wanted was pretty clear in my mind: fashion-forward, good quality frames with progressive lenses at a fair price. I did not waste time with any complicated concepts or market research. I felt it was time to forget about the old rules of the optical industry and take a new, fresh approach; an approach adapted to my needs and those of my friends. To tell you the truth, I was 100% convinced that my idea would work. After all, most women love style and fashion, and most of them will have reading problems at one time or another.
‘I just made sure to work with the best factory in the world, based in China. Being great professionals, they quickly grasped my idea. It was quite an easy process. I made a few adjustments on the way, but less than a year later mEeyye was on the market, with Matchesfashion.com as global launch partner. Today, when you buy mEeyye glasses you buy exactly what I had in mind: a fashion-forward design with efficient, progressive lenses at a fair price.’
‘I love clothes, I love fashion and I wear different styles depending on my mood, the season, or the people I’m seeing that day. So, I wanted my glasses to be versatile and match all the different looks a stylish woman can choose to wear. There are four different shapes in the collection that are available as optical or sunglasses. These include women’s classic aviators, a retro-inspired, Audrey Hepburn-style shape, a 1970s angular frame and a unisex wayfarer. The collection has a touch of Californian glamour to it, which is particularly evident in our bestseller, ‘Liya'. I have been living in California for the past few years and the lifestyle here is a constant inspiration to me.’
The retail conversation this year has been driven by sustainability and social responsibility, and your collection features eco packaging. Have these issues always been important to you and the brand, though?
‘Yes. But also the value of mEeyye glasses lies in their form, not their packaging. I really think there is way too much unnecessary packaging used for most of the products sold today. My glasses are not only beautiful, they are also a necessity, made to improve our vision and to be worn daily, so the packaging isn’t relevant. Let us focus on the necessary and forget about the useless. A good motto nowadays, no?’
Your CV is an unparalleled fashion story. Will you always work in the industry?
‘Fashion is a business and an industry, and one must be performative. For me, glamour and parties are, before anything else, work, and a way of obtaining success. I could compare it to a sport session: it can be painful when you are there, but when you are done you feel great. So, in the end, all memories are good.’