Ace & Tate - Mark de Lange (founder)

Dutch glasses brand Ace & Tate is growing, with a slew of international store openings in the pipeline.

Here, CEO and founder Mark de Lange sheds light on the brand’s unique aspects and its future developments.

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Describe Ace & Tate in a nutshell. What sets it apart from the competition? 

Ace & Tate is essentially an online-first eyewear brand that offers stylish and high quality frames at an affordable price-point (from £98 including prescription). It was built on the belief that eyewear is more than a medical necessity. Ace & Tate is attempting to change the way people buy glasses by embracing them as a lifestyle accessory. Aside from that, it’s about exceeding expectations, offering a high-quality product with impeccable service, and giving customers more than what they pay for. We strive to be creative, innovative and authentic in everything we do, and we intend to continuously surprise, amaze and inspire our audience along the way.Our strong ties with the creative community are absolutely integral to our story – in fact, they lie at the heart of the brand. We set up the Ace & Tate Creative Fund to support emerging artists and bring their inspiring ideas to life, and we make it our priority to work with original creatives for collection campaigns, product collaborations and special projects. 

How do you strike a balance between optical glasses and sunglasses? Which camp dominates? 

We focus on both opticals and sunnies, but our optical range is the biggest. You can wear opticals everyday throughout the year, and of course the sun isn’t always shining so we want to make sure our customers have the opportunity to purchase both at any time given. Our offering has grown since we first launched, so now we offer sunglasses with prescription and opticals with a blue light filter (which gives extra protection when you’re working behind computer screens). When it comes to sunglasses, we’re experimenting and expressing ourselves creatively, resulting in statement frames such as the Frances style. 

What else defines the product –both in terms of aesthetics and quality?  

Our creative team in Amsterdam designs all our frames in-house. We strive to make ‘modern classics’ – i.e. classical styles with a modern twist, by adding new colours and materials each season. We make frames that survive the test of time. Our design process is considered, with the sharpest eye for detail. We source the strongest and most durable materials from the best suppliers. Our acetate frames are made using a 62-step process, including hand-polishing and 3-day tumbling to ensure the highest quality.  We’re always on the lookout for innovations and we constantly strive to improve and innovate our design and production process. For instance, we’ve just launched a Titanium collection, using high quality titanium from Japan; it’s a light, nickel-free and durable material.   

What’s the theme/inspiration behind your latest collections, AW17?  

For the AW17 capsule collection ‘Hold onto Summer’, our design team drew on the 1970s and the Palm Spring/California dream. The colours have a strong summer feel to them – think pop red and teal blue. Silhouette-wise, it centres on large and oval shapes, allowing you to stand out from the crowd. The main AW17 collection ‘Field Notes’ is a return to nature, a trip to the countryside with a palette of earthy colours such as brown and green tones and a transparent shade of lime. There are strong graphical lines (retro oval and square) in the frame shapes.   

Who’s the customer? And how do sales break down according to gender?  

We are a unisex brand and we reach out to a relatively large customer population aged between 18 and 40 years old. But we also offer multifocal lenses for our glasses and sunglasses, which are essential for the mature age group.  

You’re expanding in the UK at the moment – what makes this market a good match for Ace & Tate? Which other regions/countries are on your radar?  

As Ace & Tate has grown over the past four years from an Amsterdam start-up to the international eyewear brand we are today, we’ve always had our eye on the UK market. E-commerce is core to our business growth, and UK consumers are far ahead in online optical purchasing behaviour. In addition to this, Ace & Tate has deeply invested in supporting creativity and working closely with local creative communities. The UK is one of the most dynamic, diverse countries in the world, and an exciting place for young creative brands. 

Aside from the UK, we’re expanding and continuing to grow (both online, as well as in brick and mortar) in the Benelux, Scandinavia and Germany. We’re about to launch our French and Spanish website, and further markets are on the radar, too.  

Tell us about your stores and offline retail plans.  

We’re about to open our 20th retail space soon. 2017 was an exciting year for us – with ten new stores across The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Scandinavia. By the end of the year, we’ll open shops in Frankfurt, Stuttgart and we’ll also enter the Austrian shopping terrain for the first time with a store in Vienna. In addition, we’ve just added a second retail space in Stockholm. This time we’ll do thing a little differently, making the most of the space by inviting two local designers every three months to showcase and sell their pieces alongside our frames. Like they say, the more the merrier. In mid November we’ll open our very first offline space (pop-up store), on Earlham Street in Covent Garden London and at the beginning of 2018, a permanent London store will follow. We’re not planning on slowing down anytime soon, so watch this space.  

Every store has a unique look. What inspires each one?  

Each unique concept tie in with the respective city or local creative scene. We often try to establish ourselves in neighbourhoods we feel match the vibe of Ace & Tate, and where there are stores we can identify with. In order to tailor-make each experience according to its location and customer base, we collaborate with local artists, inspiring us to create special artworks for each store or a custom neon installation. For instance, our second store in Berlin was created in partnership with illustrator Guillaume Kashima, who drew a wonderful painting and designed an original neon installation for us.  

Are you launching any new initiatives, in-store or online? Tell us about the Home Try-On concept, for example.  

As part of our omni-channel approach, Home Try-On allows customers who don’t live near a store to try our frames in the comfort of their own home. This (free) service makes it easier for customers to pick and try up to four different frames at home for a duration of five days. All shipment costs are on Ace & Tate. If you’d like style advice from our in-house experts, you can contact us via one of our communication channels (Whatsapp, Skype, Facetime etc.).  

Any other news in the pipeline? 

Exciting projects are ahead of us. As we’ve discussed already, we’re super excited about the retail collaboration with the emerging Swedish brands in our second store in Stockholm. Besides that, we are launching the second project of the Ace & Tate Creative Fund with London based artist Hayley Louisa Brown mid November. We will continue to expand the online and offline business within our key markets with store openings and online launch in France and Spain. We are currently working on incredible collections and interesting collaborations with creative artists and brands – so keep your eyes peeled!

Our stores are an extension of our identity. Whether you’re buying frames in-store or online, we want our encounter to run as smoothly as possible, so we’re committed to combining and aligning both channels. By opening more physical stores we try to make this process as convenient as possible and reach more people. Currently we’re expanding the online and offline business (besides The Netherlands) to Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, and soon to be available offline (we are already available online) in The UK as well. 

FashionAlex Pescott