By Denis Langlois
Kathy Tran was frustrated by a lack of choice for stylish, comfortable eyewear that fit well with her higher cheekbones and smaller nose bridge.
It’s a challenge faced by many people of Asian descent when shopping for a new pair of glasses, the Toronto-based designer said.
“Those with petite nose bridges and other Asian facial features typically face common issues of having eyewear rub against their cheeks and slide down their nose,” she said.
So, while completing her Master’s degree in business administration, Tran decided to do something about the problem and design a line of eyewear with options outside of the
“traditional European fit.” That led to the launch in 2012 of KayTran Eyewear.
“Over the last decade, there’s been a proliferation of options for more customized fits in jeans, suiting, petite clothing et cetera, and I truly believed the same needed to happen in eyewear,” she said.
The company now features a collection of 20 sunglasses, which were each designed in Canada and handmade in Italy. The structure of the glasses has been modified, she said,
to address the common issues encountered by many Asian clients through what the company calls its L.B.T. (Lens, Bridge, Temple) Fit.
“The lens curvature is reduced so that the frames don’t hit the top of the cheeks. The bridge has been narrowed and the nose pads have been elevated to prevent the sunglasses
from sliding down the nose,” she said.
“Lastly, the temple angles have been widened to again prevent rubbing against cheekbones.”
Tran said the company’s eyewear,has proven popular and there are plans to build on the current portfolio of frames.
The current collection features oversized sunglasses, which the company described as reinvented classics that inspire a sense of nostalgia.
The iconic look frames come in a range of styles and colours from black to caramel, vanilla to rustic red and metal to dark olive. Lenses are tinted with a brown or grey hue.
Tran said there is potential for her company to expand into designing, manufacturing and selling optical frames for the Asian market as well.
Companies that sell Asian fit eyewear say demand for their products is strong and most report plans to grow the number of frames available for sale.
There are companies in North America that specialize in eyewear for Asian customers, along with global manufacturers that carry Asian fit options.
If Canadian demographic trends are any indication, it’s a market with tremendous potential for continued growth. Canada is one of the most ethnically diverse countries on
the globe. The East Asian population in Canada increased by about 60 per cent from the 1996 to the 2011 Canadian census.
About 1.6 million people of East Asian descent now reside in the Canada, according to Statistics Canada, along with 1.5 million south Asians and almost a million southeast Asians.
Visible minorities now make up about 20 per cent of the Canadian population. Stats Can says the diversity of Canada’s population is expected to continue to increase significantly over the next two decades.
Like KayTran, American-based TC Charton also exclusively designs and sells eyewear for the Asian market. The company was started in 2009 by Asian-American Alexandra Peng Charton, who, like Kathy Tran, knew first-hand of the struggles to find distinctive, attractive eyewear to fit her facial characteristics.
“She saw that many other Asians experienced the same issue and that many of her Asian clients felt that there was something wrong with their facial features instead of there being something wrong with the glasses they wore,” said company spokesman Aaron Manns.
“To remedy this, she created her own line of Asian fit eyewear to give those clients a place where they could finally find the right products for them.”
The company, which is based in Dallas, Texas, now has a vast array of sunglasses and opthamalic frames for men, women, teens and children.
TC-Charton — which has its eyewear for sale online as well as at select stores in Toronto, Hamilton, Saskatoon and Vancouver — has a “multitude of styles” to choose from, Manns said, “to cover a large breadth of different fits.”
“We have glasses that can accommodate higher minus prescriptions, and glasses that are designed to fit wider heads among many others,” he said. Charton, he added, is constantly designing new frames for TC-Charton.
The company also recently launched a new line of designer eyewear, called TC-Fit. The line is also made up of frames that were designed with Asian features in mind, but the glasses are less expensive than the premium TC-Charton products, Manns said.
“Our main goal is to help as many people find the perfect fit as we possibly can,” he said.
While KayTran and TC-Charton are both companies that solely design eyewear aimed at the Asian market, several other firms have added Asian fit models to their collections
over the years.
Oakley, for instance, offers a large assortment of sunglasses and goggles that have been specifically adjusted for the Asian population.
The global company expanded the number of models with an Asian fit in April to address the growing demand for the eyewear, which is specifically marketed for people with high cheek bones and refined nose bridges.
Audree Duclos Pare, Oakley’s public relations and women’s marketing manager, said there are plans to further expand the collection of frames with an Asian fit.
Tifosi Optics Inc. is another company that offers Asian fit sunglasses, with abbreviated lens curvature, narrowed nose pads and a decreased lens angle at the lower edge for a
Like Oakley, Tifosi plans to expand the number of models available, according to director of marketing Erin Dahlquist.
“We will continue to add Asian Fit models to a few of our best-selling collections, for bike/run as well as for golf,” she said.
This year, the company launched new Asian fit models with photochromic lenses, which adjust depending on the amount of light. The company’s Asian fit models are doing well,
“Sales are steady. The Asian fit models sell well in the USA also,” she said