13 Dec 2018
Eyewear Maker Comes Straight to Customer
Designer eyewear from high-end European and American brands is de rigueur in Hong Kong – but now shoppers have a local option, Khromis, which has a flagship store in Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan. Established in February 2018, the start-up works on a business-to-consumer (B2C) basis, meaning it can pass on savings to its customers by cutting out the middleman, Director Leona Leung said. Designed in Italy, the glasses are crafted in Japan. Details like adjustable silicon nose pads and German flexible hinges deliver long-wear comfort in addition to stylish design. Customers are encouraged to linger in the boutique, which is designed to resemble a gallery, over a complimentary coffee from Hazel & Hershey Coffee Roasters as they try out different styles.
Khromis was established to address a gap in the market for bespoke eyewear in Asia. “We wanted to offer a personalised service, so we do things like measure your facial features, the nose angle, and ask customers for their preferred colours and materials … there’s a lot of selection points available,” she said. The brand’s diverse range of eyewear, and its bespoke service – which enables customers to select materials, colours, shape, finish and temple design – have helped generate a lot of publicity for the brand, Ms Leung added.
A Lifestyle Retail Experience
Given the level of personalisation available to customers, having a boutique where they could try the glasses on, or be measured up for their new bespoke specs, was crucial for Khromis. It chose to locate its store on Tai Ping Shan Street as several other independent retailers are based there, and it hopes to capture the attention of its target audience as they stroll around the neighbourhood.
Khromis encourages customers to interact with its products and see which shapes suit them depending on their face shape and other facial features, Ms Leung said. “In some stores, eyewear is kept in glass cases, and because they’re expensive, they’re treated like jewellery. We encourage customers to try them on and have some fun.” With a coffee shop by Hazel & Hershey Roasters inside the Tai Ping Shan flagship, stepping into Khromis is very much a lifestyle retail experience. “People can buy so many things online, but the actual sitting down and getting to know the story [of the brand and the product] isn’t there … shoppers are detached from the purchase that they’re making. That’s why we have such a large shop floor for such a small item.”
While having a store is essential to supporting the brand’s lifestyle concept, Ms Leung said the website often drives traffic to the store. “Customers have checked us out online, then come in and say: ‘Can you show me Lucca, one of the optical design?’ We are very encouraged that they have checked out the online catalogue. The online-offline [O2O] synergy goes hand in hand – they check it out online, then buy them in the shop or vice versa.”
Ms Leung believes many people in Asia who need to wear glasses treat them as a utility, particularly if they have been wearing them for a long time. This new brand is keen to challenge that notion and adopt a more American or European approach to eyewear in which it is considered more of a fashion accessory, and not just something people reach for when they need to read, or drive.
The Khromis director regards Khromis as representing affordable, accessible luxury within the eyewear market, with upfront prices and no hidden add-ons. Customers ordering bespoke eyewear, which costs about HK$5,000 to HK$6,000 and takes about eight to 10 weeks to arrive, can engrave a message or name on the temple arm free of charge. Classic round, unisex optical frames such as the Rivoli cost HK$1,900 including Essilor prescription lenses.
Hong Kong Focus
Ms Leung admitted marketing is challenging for an eyewear company selling directly to customers. To build brand awareness, Khromis relies on social media to target the 21 countries where its eyewear is currently distributed, which helps the firm reach its target audience. “The big eyewear brands are moving away from traditional media like print; they’re doing smaller campaigns and more collaborations and that’s one of the things we continue to explore, as well as pop-up opportunities in and out of Hong Kong,” she said.
The aim for Khromis over the next 12 months is to grow its customer base in Hong Kong, although in the long-term the focus will be more international. For the moment, however, Ms Leung is keen to showcase the diversity of designs it has on offer and introduce more innovative concepts to the eyewear market in Hong Kong.