Headed by Alan Tern, formerly an actor and his partner Edwine Teo, Acespex Eyewear has grown fast and amplified its reach across regions
Acespex Group is just eleven years old and is amongst the only company of South East Asian origin that holds the global licenses for a western brand. VisionPlus talks to Alan Tern, the Director of Acespex Eyewear to get an insight into the company, its journey so far and the future plans.
VisionPlus (VP): Why did you choose the eyewear segment instead of say garments or lifestyle?
Alan Tern (AT): Even though I was pursuing graduation in accountancy, it was never my calling. Later when I won a regional talent contest and became the Singapore champion, I got a chance to work for a TV station, as part of the winner’s contract and from there I started my acting career. My foray into eyewear happened during the tenure of my acting career itself when my friend Edwine Teo, who was already a local distributor, approached me to be the brand ambassador for his products. Gradually, we developed a fabulous rapport and ended up venturing into a business partnership when we laid the foundation stone for Acespex Group in 2004. We started our in-house brand-INC Vision and have now expanded out.
As for my interest in eyewear, it started early when I was a kid. I always had a special interest in eyewear and started wearing spectacle frames since Grade 3. In fact, I used to sketch eyewear designs very often. At that point of time, it seemed funny but today when I look back, it all makes sense.
VP: Do you find that your experiences in the acting career help to influence your understanding of eyewear design in general?
AT: Of course it does but only to a certain extent. For instance, the celeb lifestyle includes keeping yourself updated with the latest fashion trends because appearance matters and this helps us develop a better understanding about what’s trending and what’s not. However, in case of eyewear, we have to put in a lot of details into a small product. Additionally, unlike other fashion accessories, you can boast about limited features when it comes to eyewear.
My influence from the acting experience comes in the form of ensuring designs are fashionable yet comfortable. While me and Edwine work out the theme of the collection and the basic details, it is Edwine who focuses on accomplishing the final design. Additionally, we strive to provide innovative options to our customers. For instance, in case of INC Vision we use fabrics like Thai silk, Japanese Kimono fabric and the exquisite Jill Sander silk to design the frame. This integration with acetate is carefully researched. The designs are not only unique but also extremely durable, making them an ideal choice for daily use.
VP: How did you manage to get the global license for Crocs Eyewear since there are not many companies in the region that can boast of being global licensees for Western brands here?
AT: In 2009 when we took the license for the brand, Crocs Eyewear was a global phenomenon. At that time, Acespex Group was barely five years old. Even though we were distributing to countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, we wanted to grow bigger and licensing seemed an excellent opportunity to do so. Crocs Eyewear seemed a perfect option because the brand has a loyal fan base across age groups and they love to experiment with colours, a common trait that you will also notice in our in-house brands.
With faith in our capability, we approached the Crocs Eyewear team and showed them our work. Needless to say, they loved it! We started with Asia Pacific region and African markets and soon got the global license.
VP: Do you have your own manufacturing facilities?
AT: We prefer to work with a network of manufacturing partners. This gives us access to a wider pool of skills. Basically, we source partners depending on their specialisation and allot them work accordingly.
VP: How has Crocs Eyewear found acceptance globally and in the South East Asian markets particularly?
AT: Crocs Eyewear continues to be a global phenomenon and has a certain coolness quotient associated to its products. Currently, we are present in Europe, Middle East and United States apart from the South East Asia markets. For Europe and America, even though the launch is relatively recent, we have received an overwhelming response from the customers in the region.
In case of the South East Asian markets, the population is a melting pot of culture and this makes them more open to accepting the vibrant colours that Crocs offers.
VP: Are there any specific business strategies that you have implemented till date in order to fuel the growth of the brand and its offerings?
AT: I am a believer in the Richard Branson philosophy and consider it extremely important to try really hard. To put it simply, I think that the biggest failure is the failure to try. With time, our business strategies have also evolved but there is one principle that we continue to adhere to in all our business practices and that is not following the herd mentality. We endeavour to be different and have always ended up successful in doing so.
VP: How do you see the way forward globally for the eyewear industry as well as for the South East Asian market?
AT: With technology gaining more prominence in the eyewear segment and options like online shopping becoming popular, I believe that in the future, we will have to work more closely with the distributors and opticians to address their concerns and optimise their profits. I also think that the way in which we are able to harness the potential of technology today will play a pivotal role in deciding the course of future.
VP: Tell us something about the upcoming collection of Crocs and when is it expected to arrive in markets here? And do you expect any newer licensed brands in your portfolio?
AT: Currently, our focus is on SILMO collection which will feature three tone colours. This will also be the first time that we will introduce sunglasses for kids. As for the new licensed brands coming in our portfolio, it is too early to talk about it. All I can say is that we are looking at fashion brands as we think it will add a new dimension to our product portfolio.
VP: You have recently gone botak for a cancer awareness programme, we hear. How has the response been to the campaign?
AT: Going botak, is part of the ‘Hair For Hope’ campaign which has been operational since the last ten years. Through this, we try to empathise with children who are cancer victims and often lose their hair to chemotherapy sessions. Our idea is to let them know that they should not be uncomfortable with the way they look. So far six thousand people have associated themselves to the cause and we are happy with the way this campaign is progressing. In fact, we look at this as a start and hope to do something bigger for the people. I am also working with opticians to give away free eyewear to the victims from poor families.
VP: Thank you Alan for the interview. We wish you all the very best for your endeavours.