Australian optical’s well-known Wymond family and Morel have forged a close eyewear distributor-manufacturer relationship spanning more than two decades, which will go to new heights in July 2023 when they establish a new subsidiary, Morel Australasia.
Twenty-two years ago, when Mr Francis Morel – one of the fourth-generation owners of renowned eyewear maker Morel – flew out from France to visit Eyes Right Optical in Melbourne, it became abundantly clear who he needed to do business with in order to reach Australia’s thriving optical scene.
Both entities share similar traits: family-owned since the start (in fact, both are now operated by siblings), and both are fixated on helping independent practices gain access to unique eyewear that embodies quality design and craftmanship, while appealing to the budget conscious all the way to boutique offerings.
In 2001, Eyes Right Optical made room for Morel on its ODMA Fair display and its eyewear resonated with the local optical industry. They formalised a relationship that started with Morel’s Koali and Öga collections before later expanding into other ranges such as Nomad, Lightec, Marius, and the 1880 collection. Each have delivered success in their own way, hallmarked with Morel’s attention to quality, design, innovation and colour.
Fast-forward to 2023, and Eyes Right Optical and Morel are deepening their relationship, which will reap benefits for independent practices who stock the Morel brands.
From July, a subsidiary, Morel Australasia, will be established and operated locally by Mr Mark Wymond, who is also managing director of Eyes Right Optical. The partnership is set to provide a more streamlined supply of Morel eyewear into Australia, while gaining access to its sophisticated IT systems.
“We’ve had a very harmonious relationship with Morel over the years. They know we are experts in the field down here in Australia and have great relationships with our customers, so the partnership is a much better fit for our shared objectives,” Wymond says.
“It’ll mean we have higher priority of product coming to Australia. Morel have some great IT systems, including their sales app and great reporting capabilities that we will be able to leverage off. It’ll also open doors for us to talk to other subsidiaries around the world and share ideas.”
Morel Australasia will join 15 other subsidiaries established in countries like the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Austria, Finland, Switzerland, Scandinavia, plus more.
“They’ve also said that we can tap into the design process, to try and make product that’s going to suit our market even more,” Wymond says. “For example, combining colour with more commercial shapes that’ll resonate with the Australian market. The partnership is about becoming closer as an entity – we’re no longer only procuring product and selling it, we’re becoming part of their business.”
Wymond was keen to stress that Eyes Right Optical will remain as an entity, continuing to wholesale its usual brands. Morel eyewear will be available through Morel Australasia in Australia and New Zealand.
The founder, industrialist and commercialist
Service and quality have become the non-negotiable cornerstones for Eyes Right’s success, something that wouldn’t be possible without relationships with a manufacturer like Morel.
For Wymond, several things set Morel apart. First and foremost, it remains a family-owned company after originating in 1880 in the mountainous Haut-Jura Natural Park, in eastern France. It was founded by Mr Jules Morel who divided his time between agricultural work in the summer and assembling more intricate components for watches and optical frames in the snowy winter months.
Later, in the 1930s, Mr Marius Morel, a descendent with an industrialist streak, took the company to a new level with the purchase of factories and machines to produce frames at scale. Then it was Mr Jacques Morel’s turn in the 1960s who was assisted by his brothers and sisters to commercialise the Morel name globally.
More than 140 years later, today the company is still family-run by fourth generation brothers Mr Jérôme (CEO) and Mr Francis (head of export) Morel with their sister Ms Amélie Morel (head of communications), the latter who is also president of the major optical event brand SILMO.
Meanwhile, in Australia, the Wymond name has been synonymous with eyewear wholesale for more than three decades. Since 1992, Eyes Right Optical has set the pace by distributing outstanding quality and award winning, design focused fashionable eyewear to the Australian and New Zealand independent optical markets.
It was founded by Ms Gaye and Mr David Wymond, before it was acquired by their children Mark and Lisa Wymond in 2019, with Lisa serving as national brands manager today. Their other wholesale eyewear businesses are Modstyle and Sunglass Collective.
A feature of the Wymond businesses is a willingness to embrace modern information technology and service systems, and a growth mindset, expanding their service from Australia and into New Zealand and the Pacific.
Many of these attributes are present in Morel’s business too. Wymond knows first-hand, heading to France almost every year for the past 10 years where he and Lisa visit the company’s main factory/headquarters, distribution centre and other factories it uses in the region – sometimes when temperatures plummet to -8C.
“The product more than speaks for itself, but it’s also about the back-of-house systems they have built. They’ve always invested in their business, a lot like us,” he adds.
For example, Morel has created what it describes as the largest eyewear design centre in France, where designers, colourists and graphic designers work hand-in-hand to create more than 700 models a year.
It also has its own approved quality assessment laboratory, managed by a trained team dedicated to research and development. Each piece is scrutinised, testing for things like the reliability of the hinges, the resistance of the mechanical parts and the durability of the acetate.
Testament to its ability to innovative, Morel has developed a patented hinge, without screws or welding, which is part of the Lightec collection.
Wymond is excited to see what can be achieved by deepening Morel’s presence in the Australasian market.
“What this means for the Australia and New Zealand market, it will help strengthen our speed to market of product releases, worldwide exposure to ideas and best practice from around the world, there are so many benefits about working closer together,” he says.
‘A natural next step’
Morel CEO Mr Jérôme Morel said the company’s ambition is to become the world’s leading brand in French independent eyewear. With the Wymond family relationship spanning 22 years, he says creating Morel Australasia is the natural next step to strengthen its brand and presence in the region.
Both parties share a passion for eyewear and a level of service that can only be provided by independent, family-run businesses. Morel has been particularly impressed with Eyes Right Optical’s expertise in the local eyewear industry, its customer service, and ability to promote and distribute its products.
“We believe that Eyes Right Optical’s strong reputation and loyal customer base will be a significant asset now to establish Morel Australasia,” Jérôme says.
“Mark Wymond has extensive experience in the eyewear industry and a deep understanding of the Australian market, making him an ideal partner for us for the creation of our 16th subsidiary in the world (75% of Morel’s turnover is outside France). By combining our resources and expertise, we believe that we can create a powerful force in the Australian eyewear industry.”
By strengthening Morel’s presence in the Australasian market with dedicated customer service and local stock, Jérôme says it will benefit independents on several fronts.
“As an independent practice owner, you can expect to see a wider range of Morel eyewear products available for your customers,” he says.
“Our partnership and the creation of Morel Australasia will enable us to distribute our products effectively throughout Australia, which should make them more readily available. Additionally, we will be able to offer more support and resources to help grow optical businesses and meet their needs. Obviously, as independent business owners ourselves, we understand and will continue to be here for independent practices as we have done for more than 140 years.”