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The changing face of Modstyle and Australian eyewear design

A new purpose-built space has become the creative engine room for the two-man design team behind Modstyle, providing some of the best-selling affordable eyewear to Australian independent optical practices.

Family-owned Australian optical wholesale company Modstyle was established in 1981 and acquired in 2016 by the Wymond family, who also own Eyes Right Optical and Sunglass Collective.

Providing a wide range of quality eyewear aimed at the affordable price point, Modstyle is the Australian supplier for Avanti, Eclipse, Kaleyedoscope, Inface, My Style, and Nifties brands. Its collections are currently stocked in more than 900 independent optometrists across Australia, New Zealand and the US.

But many may not be aware that since the Wymonds acquired the company, they have added a new dimension to the business by taking control of the entire design and production process for certain brands within the portfolio, aimed at the broader, mainstream market.

To help with the creative process, Modstyle has just completed a fit-out of a new dedicated design room at its Scoresby premises on the fringe of Melbourne, affording managing director Mr Mark Wymond and Modstyle sales representative and procurement officer Mr Peter Bienvenu an opportunity to enhance the sacred creative process.

Wymond says it’s all part of taking the company to a new level and becoming unapologetic about its positioning as an Australian eyewear design firm.

“In the past, Modstyle was like other companies, sourcing frames down the aisles in Hong Kong, and bringing them back to Australia,” he explains. “Now, we’re designing and creating our own frames in Melbourne, from scratch. We’ve been doing this for a while but now we are really keen to market ourselves in this space.”

Wymond describes Modstyle’s newly built design room as the start of a campaign to stake its claim as a company with quality, design-driven product that’s suited to the Australian market.

To create the bespoke design room, the company built a mezzanine, which features a distressed timber wall merging into a vertical garden, and a four-metre table lit from beneath to illuminate see-through acetate placed on the table.

“On one wall, we have a whole peg board of acetates from the best acetate manufacturers in the world. On the other wall, we’re showcasing our range of frames, either from our current collection or our prototypes,” Wymond says.

The design room also includes space dedicated to the creative process where Wymond and Bienvenu can sketch and discuss their design ideas uninterrupted.

The design process involves sketches, CAD drawings and comparison of acetates and temples.

“Our day-to-day operations are getting busier. We desperately needed a space where we can dedicate ourselves to the design process,” Wymond says.

“Bringing this design room together has put everything in one place rather than being dispersed working in my office or in Peter’s office. Now we’ve got one space dedicated to creating frames.”

A high level of focus and creative flow is vital to the frames design process, which will ultimately lead to better outcomes for the brands Modstyle represents, as well as stockists.

“You’re visualising so much of how a frame is going to look and feel, how the acetates are going to work together, how the metals are going to complement the acetate. You really need to be in that creative head space. Even without interruption, it’s still a long process to conceptualise and create a frame from start to finish,” he says.

“We’re very proud of the space that we’ve created. We don’t get many opportunities to do a creative fit-out, but we had that opportunity here, and it’s a really nice space to work in. It allows for a more efficient design process, which results in better outcomes. We can lock ourselves away for a couple of hours, or a couple of days, without distractions, and with everything at our fingertips.”

Professional design firm

Wymond is seizing an opportunity to mould Modstyle into a process-driven, professional design firm.

“Our design mantra is to make frames anybody can wear. We use the best quality acetates and the best quality hinges from around the world,” he says.

“I’ve always been creative and enjoyed that space. When we acquired Modstyle, it was really thrust upon us to have to start this design process, but I want to professionalise the process, not do it the way it has always been done. I want to make it the most professional outfit we can.”

With a unique selling point of being Australian-designed, Wymond and Bienvenu are breathing new life into the main brands in Modstyle’s collections, including Avanti, Eclipse and Kaleyedoscope.

Their design process begins with a simple sketch.

“We basically start with a first initial sketch of our design. Then we select acetates and colour ways to suit that style of frame, and then develop a more technical drawing using CAD (computer aided design). We then send the design to our manufacturer for prototyping,” he explains.

When a prototype returns from the manufacturer, Wymond and Bienvenu review their design.

“A prototype is like a mock-up, with acetates we’ve requested; the basic shape, acetate, look and feel is all there. It’s enough to make the decision to go ahead or make further alterations to get it right,” Wymond says.

“We look at it all again. Is it the right shape? Can we alter it slightly? Is it the right acetate? Do we need to put a different temple tip on? All those questions are considered when we receive the prototype. Once we’re happy with the prototype, then we go into production.”

Modstyle manufactures its ranges using mainly three separate factories: a titanium, acetate, and a stainless-steel factory.

“We’ve made sure these are the best in the business of what they do. An affordable price point doesn’t mean lower quality, our warranty levels for Avanti are almost non-existent, and that’s because we are using world-leading hinges, and the most beautiful acetates from around the world,” Wymond says.

“Back in the 1990s, when Modstyle was quite a large company, it had some fantastic relationships with factories throughout Asia. Without those existing relationships, we would not be able to get a production run in these manufacturers today because they’re at full capacity, and not taking on new clients. But because we bought some of that goodwill through the acquisition of Modstyle – we were extremely fortunate to have this opportunity in that regard.”

With a large client base comprising hundreds of independent Australian practices, Modstyle can also easily meet the minimum requirements of its factory partners.

This affords Wymond and Bienvenu the freedom to experiment in areas where others may not venture. For example, although rose gold and transparent acetates are ‘on trend’ at the moment, they are experimenting with bold colours.

“We’ve found a bit of a push towards colours and bright, bold colours are some of our best sellers. Some of the boldest colours we’ve ever created are our best sellers,” Wymond says.

The Avanti Kingston has been a surprise top-seller and an example how Modstyle can push the boundaries of eyewear design.

While this is great for those end-consumers who want their eyewear to stand-out, some practices also use these styles as a feature piece in the store to help brighten their frames display.

“We’ve always got enough volume to cover the minimum order, so we’ve tried some really out-there colours which have sold better than more traditional colours, like black or tortoise shell,” Wymond continues.

“Our ‘lookover’ frames, like the Avanti Kingston which features bright green frames with pink temples, sold out the quickest. We really went to town on that design and had some fun with it. But by having some fun, we’ve found a market for these really colourful and unique frames. To sell as well as they have has been absolutely unexpected.”

Ultimately with Modstyle, Wymond wants to create frames that they enjoy and are proud of.

“And that seems to resonate with our customers. That’s where we can really push the envelope in a colour way that maybe other companies might be afraid to do,” Wymond says.

“As a family-owned business, strong family values underpin everything we do at Modstyle and plays a powerful role in the company’s culture and success. Our priority is to share our passion for fashionable, affordable eyewear with our audience regardless of age, gender and economic background.”

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