After nearly 40 years making sunglasses, independently owned sunglass brand Maui Jim is finally getting into the optical eyeglass market. It’s a bold move given that the industry continues to be dominated by Luxottica, an enormous Italian conglomerate that owns retailers like LensCrafters and Target Optical, as well as the license to make eyewear for brands like Chanel and Burberry. (Direct-to-consumer innovator Warby Parker is still tiny by comparison.)
Maui Jim was founded in Hawaii, where it found a niche serving sailors, surfers, and other water-sports fans. They flocked to the brand’s high-tech polarized sunglasses, which protect the eyes from harsh sun rays and powerful reflections from the water. “Our customers had been asking us to go into the optical market for years,” says Jay Black, VP of global marketing. “We wanted to make sure that when we did it, our optical lenses were just as high-tech and high quality as our sunglasses.”
Unlike eyewear brands that outsource their lenses to a third-party manufacturer, Maui Jim creates its own. With its new optical collection, the company will use a digital manufacturing technique that adapts the lens based on where the eye is located, reducing distortion and ensuring crisper optics. Retailers that carry Maui Jim eyewear will send the frames to Maui Jim’s headquarters in Peoria, Illinois, to be fitted with digital lenses and returned within a week.
Maui Jim’s eyewear line will be priced similarly to its prescription sunglasses and will be available through the brand’s network of opticians around the world starting today.