Interview: Bailey Nelson Sunglasses and Specs

Sunglasses are an absolute necessity and everyone has varying views on how much is too much to spend on a pair. Bailey Nelson, a Sydney-based brand who are tackling the big names by producing extremely high quality, low price point sunglasses and spectacles. The Versatile Gent shot across some questions to company founders Nick Perry & Peter Winkle to get an insight into the brand, their company philosophy and why you should buy a pair.

TVG:  What are your backgrounds?
BN: We’re a mixture of online retail, venture capital and not-for-profit. Nick was a member of the founding team at the Iconic and worked there with Scott. Together they bring a wealth of online retail expertise. Pete was in management consulting and private equity just waiting for the chance to jump out on his own. Scott has previously founded his own not-for-profit business and loves everything eyewear.

What was the catalyst behind starting Bailey Nelson?
The basic concept that great glasses shouldn’t cost more than an iPad. We are passionate about design, materials and quality, but the prices charged for quality in the market generally are just not viable. We looked around the world at the best models and saw that people in Europe and the US had great options for high quality glasses at fair prices, but in Australia you had the choice between perceived quality for high prices, or poor quality for low prices. We knew there was a mismatch that we could address. 

3. Who designs the range? Where do you draw inspiration from?
We look for classic shapes that have stood the test of time and continue to suit a range of face shapes. Before the 60s and 70s, eyewear was seen as a functional accessory rather than a fashion accessory and over the last 30 years we’ve seen a range of different fashion-forward eyewear styles. What we’re focussing on is a return to great functional shapes and materials, typified by the classic ‘geek’ from earlier generations.  Our designer, Brittany, is inspired by the best shapes from this period and adapts and updates them to provide a modern take.

4. What makes a good pair of sunglasses or specs?
There are two elements that each need attention. Firstly the frames. The best material in the world for frames is Mazzucchelli acetate, made in Italy in the picturesque town of Varese. Acetate is an organic compound that doesn’t react with the skin, can be formed in a multitude of colours and patterns, and is malleable with heat yet holds it’s shape when at normal temperatures. Mazzucchelli started producing acetate in 1849 and moved into the eyewear business over the last century, and they now continue to manufacture the finest raw acetates in the world.

Lenses are equally important. For sunglasses, polarised lenses are always better as they filter glare therefore protecting your eyes from the sun’s harmful effects in bright conditions. The best sunglass lenses will also feature a rear-surface anti-reflective coating to prevent ghosting on the back pane of the lens. Japanse sun lenses tend to be the most well regarded. For optical lenses a multicoat is important for the best eye protection and comfort. Always look for a lens with anti-reflective, anti-scratch and UV protective coating, usually referred to as a multicoat.

5. The sunglasses industry seems to be fixated on price as a representation of quality, how does Bailey Nelson tackle this perception?
 We simply make better sunglasses than other options on the market and charge a fair price for them. Once our customers touch, feel and try on a pair of our sunnies they understand what we’re on about. To date, customer referrals have been enough to start changing this perception, and we simply encourage everyone to try a pair on and see for themselves.

Put simply, our products speak for themselves, and if people want to pay an extra $400 for a corporate brand name they’re probably not our target customers anyway.

Our next range of sunnies will feature gradient-tint polarised lenses made by the finest manufacturer in Japan. We’ve spent months sourcing the best lenses and we’re very excited to release them soon.

6. Since launching the brand you’ve opened physical stores in both Melbourne and Sydney. Why has opening boutique stores been a priority for you?
 It really ties back to the previous point. Glasses are something you wear more visibly than any other item, they cover your most important feature, your eyes. To ensure people are confident of the quality and craftsmanship of our glasses, we think they need to experience them first hand and try them on in person.

We’re also trying to create an experience in purchasing glasses that highlights the fashion aspect of wearing glasses. While your vision is the most important aspect, a person shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that they’re a style accessory and they say a lot about your sense of style.

7. What’s in store for Bailey Nelson in 2013?
Keep your eyes out for an invite to our launch parties in both Melbourne and Sydney, we’ve got a few big events planned. We’ll continue to expand and improve our range, and work on some trend-setting designs. We’re also pushing into the online space to build brand awareness, and we have a few exciting glasses-related technologies to unveil in the next few months.

8. Could you explain your ‘buy one give one’ initiative?
 When we set up, we took the lead from a bunch of really successful business overseas, most notably Tom’s Shoes, that set up as socially responsible businesses. We don’t make a big deal of our program, but we do have a commitment to fund eye testing and glasses to those in need in South East Asia through the Brien Holden Vision Institute. For every pair a customer buys, we donate funding to assist with their fantastic programs in Australia and overseas to train eyecare specialists and provide glasses.

9. What advice would you have for young people looking to start their own business?
Go for it! Plan carefully but not at the expense of action, always double your estimates for how long things take, and work with people you want to spend your time with.

10. What makes a Versatile Gentleman?
Maintaining an invidivual sense of style, and not being overwhelmed by mainstream conglomerates telling you what to wear or do. Appreciating quality, allocating time for the finer things in life and enriching your own experience through thoughtful choices.

SYDNEY
57 William Street
Paddington NSW 2021
Phone: 02 8011 3827
Hours: Mon – Fri 9am – 6pm Saturday 10am – 5pm Sunday Closed

MELBOURNE
161 Greville St
Prahran VIC 3181
Phone: 03 9044 2838
Hours: Tues – Fri 10am – 6pm Saturday 10am – 5pm Sunday 10:30am – 4:30pm Monday Closed

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