Netoptic. A unique vision. Design - 09 November 2016
Eyewear is very much a world apart and one that is much more complex than it appears. When it comes to design, it requires a sharp eye, as everything is in the detail. That is why Netoptic has chosen to hire and train its own team of designers. With the 100,000 frames it sells every year, today the Walloon company is holding its own among much bigger competitors.
It was back in the mid-1990s that the Netoptic eyewear collections really took off. Until then, Celso Viejo, the founder of the family business, designed the frames himself. Since then, designers have joined the company, translating its DNA as subtly as possible into the two independent brands it manufactures: Kinto and Malt.
This DNA can be summarised in a few points: fashion, ergonomics, attention to detail, collaboration, expertise... “We want to be trendy without being avant-garde or extravagant,” says Céline Onssels. “The result must be harmonious and at the service of the wearer. This is why we also put a lot of effort into ergonomics.” When it comes to eyewear, this La Cambre-trained designer learned everything on the job. “I had to sharpen my eye because initially there were details that escaped me.”
In fact, 300 steps go into the manufacture of a frame, so those who consider that there is no real room for innovation in the sector can think again. From hinge systems to the fixing of the lenses, every year innovations are prompting the market to embrace excellence and technology.
For Netoptic, innovation begins in the field. “We have nurtured a relationship based on proximity and collaboration with our customers, the opticians,” says Johanna Viejo, director of the Kinto collection, a vintage range with a strong personality. “As opticians are our best ambassadors, we often ask them for their opinions, criticisms and suggestions on new proposals, new colours, and so on.”
The designers, “who still draw by hand before moving on to the PC” according to Céline Onssels, will also draw their inspiration from areas other than eyewear. This is vital, particularly to ensure the fluidity, consistency and saleability of a model’s eight colours, where most manufacturers offer no more than four.
The fact that Netoptic controls the entire chain, from design to production, allows greater capacity for reaction. “For example, if we sense that there is a change in trend in terms of colours, our factory can react very quickly.” In over 40 years, the company has accumulated expertise that has earned it pride of place on the optical market. “The market consists of one big monopoly and some semi-monopolies. But, alongside them, there is room for independent players like us, because it is a very dynamic market,” underlines Johanna Viejo.
After the 2008 crisis, Netoptic has thoroughly revised its future ambitions: upwards. Indeed, this SME employing twenty people, where everyone “wears 36 hats at once”, began to appoint business developers in 2014. And, from 2016 onwards, it is determined to write new chapters in its history by throwing itself into export, expanding to countries other than France. It is also stepping up its communication, an area it had somewhat neglected until now.