In 2009 the economy was tanking and nobody was hiring for the work I was dying to do. I set out to build a brand that would allow me do the design and creative work I was searching for.
Below is the abridged story on how I built an online store, brand, and factory for handmade acetate sunglasses.
Sunglasses are a challenging product to buy online. Sample kits can help customers feel comfortable with their purchase but Capital's made in USA product was too expensive for sample kits to work at scale.
To solve this problem, the top priority of the website was to serve key information in a way that was easy to understand but never overwhelming. Detailed measurements with info on how to use them, photos on & off models, a clean UX/UI, free shipping, and a simple return policy all contributed to a successful online store.
A quality product is part of the equation, but the value of a consumer brand lies in the brand itself. Creating a strong brand with limited resources required building something clean and concise.
Detailed guidelines and user personas helped to keep the brand consistent across all channels. Clean and strong but welcoming imagery helped it standout from the noise.
Capital was built on the following statement: We make the highest quality glasses in the most responsible way possible.
That an easy thing to say, but a hard thing to do. Living up to it meant building a proprietary maufacturing process in-house. With little knowledge left in the USA on how to manufacture acetate eyeglasses, it took me years of work to develop this process into something that could scale.
Designing a physical product requires a deep understanding of how that thing is made and used. You can quickly get to market by outsourcing production, but outsourcing often means you lose out on production knowledge that can inform good design decisions.
Making something that stands out takes control and attention to detail. All of Capital's production was done under one roof. This allowed us to build, test, tweak, and improve our product and process on a level that would never have been possible with a 3rd party which ultimatly resulted in a product that people loved and were extreamly loyal to.
By 2015, Capital was carried in over 70 boutique stores worldwide. After 6 years of building the brand, production process, and sales channels, I was ready for something new. I was approached by a Canadian company who was interested in acquiring the brand and Capital was sold to it's new owners near the end of 2015.