VisionPlus Magazine in conversation with Talal El-Chichakli, Regional Sales Director, Silhouette, Middle East who talks of his journey with Silhouette and how the brand is growing
VisionPlus (VP): Give us a little insight about your professional background particularly your foray into the optical trade?
Talal El-Chichakli (TEC): I have been born and brought up in Austria. My connection with the optical trade is particularly strong since my father is an ophthalmologist and since my childhood I have been exposed to the eyewear industry with a lot of time spent visiting optical stores and interacting with the opticians. And it was during this time where I understood the trade and developed an interest towards it.
My association to Silhouette went on seamlessly because of its Austrian origin plus their focus on fine detailing which I personally love. The Middle Eastern connection, interestingly, is also tempting because my parents are from Syria.
TEC: Before Silhouette I was in the medical industry relating to optics for many years, first in endoscopy and then moved to microscopy all back in Austria. I was always into sales. The jump from the Austrian market to the Middle Eastern region was when I started working with Omega. Ever since, I have been working here in Dubai, taking care of the region for Silhouette eyewear.
VP: How did Silhouette come your way?
TEC: I had initially sent my CV to the company, and later when the vacancy opened to take over the Middle East region of the brand, they showed interest towards my profile and that lead a conversation. Later when I went to Austria, I was taken for a factory tour where I saw the brand’s love for details, product quality, etc. That is what completely sold me!
VP: How do you think Silhouette is able to withstand the competition for so long?
TEC: Silhouette that is known to be one of the oldest and most popular eyewear brand has been in the market for 52 years. We are not a fashion brand, we are exclusively dedicated to eyewear which makes us iconic. Despite the invasion of new trends, brands and technologies, Silhouette continues to be the leader.
We are a family owned business and its founders have always had a clear vision to create quality eyewear that is beautiful. That is the DNA of the company and we have never compromised it. This vision is our secret to success.
VP: What were the challenges faced at Silhouette? How did you overcome them?
TEC: Silhouette is known for delicate eyewear that accentuates the wearers’ personality. We brought this approach to perfection by focusing on rimless eyewear some years ago. The key challenge is to continue to innovate the rimless category and our TMA ICON – a product that is already close to perfection.
Our in-depth consumer insights and technical expertise has allowed us to transfer our know how to the full-rim category and launch a sensational product- Urban Lite. The Urban Lite glasses are the thinnest (0,6 mm profile) and lightest (4,1 g) full-rims available out in the market.
Silhouette as a company has a track record to continuously deliver its best in class innovations to the market.
VP: Has there ever been a temptation to sway and follow the trend?
TEC: At some point, we all tend to do it. But what’s important is to adapt and evolve with the needs of the market and not blindly follow the trend. A good way to follow this is by seeking inspiration from our history.
You will be amazed to find so many iconic moments in our decades old history. And one such moment was when we rediscovered the rimless eyewear and found out how it clicks so well with the consumers even today.
VP: Tell us a little about the 3-piece rimless eyewear- the trademark of Silhouette.
TEC: Our 3 piece rimless eyewear, the TMA (Titan Minimal Art) is one of our iconic product since it first came in the market in 1999.
It instantly got attention because it captures minimalism with beauty, comfort and utmost functionality, all in one. The TMA does not include any hinges and can fit any face type, as well as be customised according to an individual’s needs.
I believe, your face is a business card and so the eyewear you wear is important. And rimless eyewear is what meets the demands of professionals.
TEC: Middle East is a bit more conservative when you look at global trends. Evolution and development in this region always happen a little later than how they happen in the global market, for eg. Europe. Middle East is a market where rimless eyewear is very strong. We used to have a trend in the past where full rimmed eyewear was growing but now rimless is coming back into picture and it’s coming in big time.
You can see it on fashion catwalks, Chanel for example is bringing back rimless eyewear. When you look at Brad Pitt, you can see him wear Silhouette’s rimless eyewear. Despite the trend of rimless eyewear going up and down, the Middle East market has always been strong in this category. And though this is a conservative market, people here are open to ideas and concepts.
VP: Adidas is an acquired brand.. How did that come about? Do you have plans to add on more to this list? What are the prerequisites here?
TEC: The collaboration with Adidas and Silhouette started in 1991. Since then we have continuously developed and launched top notch eyewear for the sports segment. This is possible as we have in-depth understanding of the consumers functional and emotional needs and our ability to translate this in superior world-class eyewear product. We have a great team with a spirit to continuously innovate and to explore the latest consumer relevant technologies.
We believe in the great growth potential of our three brands – Silhouette, Adidas and our latest just launched brand Neubau. These three brands cater to different consumers and consumers needs.
In January this year we launched our new brand Neubau eyewear. The brand is a homage to creativity, innovation and the zeitgeist of the Millennial Generation.
In March this year we launched Atelier a luxury segment under the brand Silhouette catering for the exclusive consumer who aspires for a distinguished look. At this stage we have no intention to add additional brands
VP: Tell us something about Neubau eyewear? What are its signature traits?
TEC: Neubau is a new brand that we created and is inspired by the vibrant trendy ‘Neubau’ district of the Austrian capital Vienna.We have been working for a long time to expand our business and Neubau is exactly that. It caters to the urban consumers with a young and cool vibe attached to each product.
At Silhouette, our aim is very simple- to do only the best! And with a strong team working on the project, we have high hopes on its outcome. We are also in plans to introduce Neubau in the Middle East market, hopefully by next year.
VP: Silhouette has collaborated with designers Felder&Felder and Wes Gordon. How does it help? Any more collaborations coming up in the future?
TEC: Design collaborations are an interesting way to bring out special collections in the market and in a way helps in promoting young talent. With designers like Felder&Felder or Wes Gordon, we liked their designs and so decided to sign on a special edition with Silhouette. It was quite successful and loved too by the consumers! Association with designers like Felder&Felder and Wes Gordon will continue as we believe that it represents the brand value well. Also this year, the industry can expect one more collaboration.
VP: What can the opticians in Middle East / India look forward to from Silhouette in the coming months?
TEC: Despite our new innovation in the normal collections, opticians in Middle East can look forward to our luxury collection. We launched this collection during MIDO this year and for the first time we have presented our real gold frames in 18 karats with precious stones and precious materials. The first reactions for the collection was amazing. This is something that is specially designed for this region where gold and precious materials are always welcomed and people find it very appealing. We are confident the opticians will love it.
VP: Last year Sihouette’s Titan One was awarded The Best New Spectacle Frame Vision-X VP Awards. What are your expectations from this year’s Vision-X VP award? Your best bet this year would be?
TEC: We have great variety of products in different categories this year. Our expectation will be to win again not only for one product but for several products because we have an excellent lineup. This time around I think our athlete collection, luxury collection, full rimmed collection, sunglasses and rimless collection are all amazing. I’d probably bet on all of them.