If you thought deep dish pizza was the best thing being made in Chicago, think again! As you can probably tell from the name, State Optical Co. is a Chicago-centric eyewear company that’s been proudly making high quality frames in the windy city since 2014. The idea behind State Optical began back in 2012, when Scott Shapiro and Jerry Wolowicz, both executives at the family-owned eyewear company, Europa, decided to go against the grain and manufacture high quality frames right here in the USA (‘Murica!)Despite 35 successful years in the industry, it wasn’t easy to find someone willing to partner with them in building a US-based manufacturing facility, but California-based “gear-heads” Marc Franchi and Jason Stanley were exactly the type of risk-takers they were looking for. Franchi and Stanley, first cousins and co-owners of a small eyewear company,shared Marc and Jason’s vision of an all American luxury eyewear brand and a partnership was born in 2014.
Besides being designed and manufactured in America, what makes the State Optical brand so special? First of all, every pair in the collection has been meticulously designed by Blake Kuwahara, a licensed optometrist and super fly eyewear designer to the STAHS (meaning every frame is gorgeous, unique and on-trend). Franchi and Stanley also went the extra mile by formulatinga “mix of tumbling elements and materials” to improve luster and depth of color in every pair.Additionally, each item in the STATE line (get it?) is named after a different street within the city of Chicago (check outtheir website for photos and a brief description of the inspiration behind each street name). State Optical also incorporates 21 dots into the temple of each pair of glasses, in the form of a triangle, to represent Illinois being the 21st state in the United States. For an added touch, each presentation box features a picture of the Chicago skyline.Fancy. For those of you who don’t need an eyeglass prescription, never fear! STATE Optical’s line also offers swanky sunglasses to protect your eyeballs from the sun.
Despite a couple of materials being sourced from Europe (hinges, for example), State Optical products are manufactured exclusively in the United States, with 50 craftsmen working in their Chicago facility. To give you an idea of how impressive and unusual that is, 95% of all eyewear is manufactured overseas, according to a report by the Alliance for American Manufacturing. State Optical’s production process includes over 75 different steps, a rigorous quality control process that can take up to three days, 60 fancy-shmancy machines and a slew of American artisans who pour their heart and soul into each pair of glasses they create. Yes, it is more complicated (and expensive) to manufacture acetate eyeglasses in the United States, but the result is top-notch quality control and a product that everyone in the company can be proud of. With State Optical, half of the manufacturing process involves skill (hands-on craftsmanship) and half of it involves the most advanced eyewear technology in America.
"We took components of Asian production and components of European production and created a unique process for the U.S. that would work with our skills and advantages and labor, our disadvantages and cost, as well as our environmentalimpact,” explained Scott Shapiro, one of the company’s founding fathers.
When we say that employees at State Optical are artisans/craftsmen, we aren’t exaggerating. Each piece of acetate is shaved down and carved, the hinges are carefully screwed into place, and every pair of glasses is hand polished, beveled and skyved (a process that takes several days). Although anyone can apply to be a craftsman at State Optical, not everyone will make the cut! Every potential employee must pass a working interview on the factory floor, and 40% of applicants don’t have what it takes.
Three months ago, State Optical acquired AO Eyewear, Inc., another (much older) American-made eyewear brand. With this acquisition, STATE transferred the frame-making equipment from AO and doubled the size of its manufacturing facility. So what does this mean for the future of State Optical? State will now be producing AO Eyewear and will bless us all with a new collection of sunwear styles and optical frames in 2020.
“For years, AO Eyewear has been a company with unlimited potential, but was held back in part by their inability to produce acetate frames. STATE Optical Co. has been similarly limited by our inability to produce metal frames. We’re confident that incorporating both materials into each collection, will exponentially benefit both of these American made brands,” said Alan McKinley, now general manager of AO Eyewear.
If this article has you chomping at the bit to rock some luxury eyeglasses made exclusively in the USA, head to the office and check out what this line has to offer! Need a new or updated prescription? Schedule an appointmenttoday!