Looking back at 2015, there were a lot of breakthroughs for Asian-Americans in the media.
Original series like Fresh off the Boat and Dr. Ken feature Asian Americans in leading roles, and Lisa Ling’s This is Life forces our society to rethink many issues facing the world today.
Among these noteworthy Asian Americans, the one that has had the most impact on us is George Takei.
With 411 thousand Instagram followers, 1.78 million Twitter followers and 9.3 million likes on Facebook at the writing of this blog, George Takei has impressed a lot of people.
Initially known for his role as Lieutenant Sulu on Star Trek, Takei has blown up in popularity over the past few years. His quips and witty observations never fail to entertain, and he uses his charisma to his advantage as an influential political activist.
After coming out as a homosexual in 2005, Takei has been involved with several LGBT groups across the nation. Notably, he was featured in the online docuseries It Got Better, which features famous members of the LGBT community sharing their struggles and success. While he admitted to feeling some trepidation when he first revealed his sexual orientation to the world, he has since never been afraid to fight for what he feels is right.
So, with his track record for affecting social change, it’s no wonder that he is the perfect figurehead for the Broadway Musical: Allegiance.
The story of Allegiance takes place during the internment of Japanese-American citizens in WWII. The plot revolves around young Sam Kimura (played by Telly Leung) and the struggles his family must face during one of the most tumultuous times in US history. Takei plays two characters; an older version of Sam, and Sam’s wise grandfather Ojii-san.
What makes Allegiance so relevant is the fact that it broaches a topic that is rarely discussed on stage. The forced relocation of Japanese-Americans is something that many of us would like to forget, but works of art like this exist to remind us of our mistakes.
Identity is a major theme throughout the play. While Sam identifies more with being an American, his sister sees herself as more Japanese. This causes a rift between the two siblings that leads to several years of bad blood.
The lesson Allegiance teaches us, is that the more we focus on our differences, the more it drives us apart. The best thing you can do is to be true to yourself and to accept others for who they are.
George Takei has taken this lesson to heart, and it is why he has become one of the greatest icons for equality in our time.
He has used his social media savvy, his celebrity status and his sense of humor to fight against the forces of oppression. George has always taught his fans that no matter what path you take in life, the most wonderful thing you can be is yourself.
And we feel the same way.
It is incredibly important to feel comfortable in your own skin, and that is why we created TC CHARTON and TC FIT to begin with. When you wear frames that fit you correctly, it reaffirms that you are perfectly fine the way you are. While we may not fight the same battles as George Takei, we feel that we are working towards the same goal: to help people feel good about being themselves.
So, from the bottom of our hearts, we would like to thank George Takei for all he has done to make the world a better place. Going forward in 2016, we’ll try to do the same.
“Why do your products cost as much as brands like Versace?” People have asked.
My short and sweet answer: “Because we have higher quality products.”
Upon seeing the puzzled look on their face, I’d explain further.
Most consumers don’t realize the difference between “licensed brands” and “independent brands”.
In terms of eyewear, a pair of “licensed brand” frames will bear the logo of a big and recognizable brand, such as Versace, Gucci, Christian Dior, Michael Kors, Giorgio Armani, Prada, Ferragamo, Valentino…etc.
These fashion power houses give optical companies the rights to develop, manufacture, distribute and sell products bearing their logos. This kind of agreement, depending on how powerful/recognizable the brand is, could potentially cost the eyewear company millions of dollars on the rights alone. They receive permission to use the name for a number of years (typically, five) plus, an additional amount of time per each unit sold.
Meanwhile, the luxury house (such as LVMH) that owns these big fashion brands will sit back and collect the license fee and royalties without ever needing to know anything about the ins and outs of optical design or manufacturing.
Eyewear companies such as Luxottica (which owns Lenscrafters/Sunglass Hut/Sears Optical/Peale Vision and holds the licenses to Chanel, Tiffani, Bvlgari, Oakley, Coach, Prada, Armani, Prada, Ray Ban, etc.), and Safilo Group, (which holds the licenses to Fendi, Boss, Marc Jacobs, Dior and owns nine thousand retail stores worldwide) handle the process of creating and producing the branded eyewear lines.
Taking the licensing fees and the cost of the royalties into consideration, the in-house eyewear designers have a very rigid budget when creating the style. Often times, this means the quality has to be sacrificed. In order to turn a profit, the styles must be easily mass produced. Their business strategy hinges on the idea that people will buy the products for the recognized logos regardless of quality.
However, an independent eyewear brand, such as TC CHARTON, has none of those embedded costs.
In my case, because there is no one above me to dictate the budgets and no board members to answer to, I have total freedom in the creative process. I get to pick the best quality components and materials and can just focus on creating the most beautiful products possible. Instead of spending the money on paying royalties and licensing fees, I get to spend it on quality and craftsmanship.
I am not alone. Behind every independent eyewear company, there is someone who is passionate about the art of designing and producing a distinctive collection that reflects their artistic sensibilities. Unfortunately, when dealing with licensed brands, they will have to compromise creativity for the sake of profit.
I am fortunate because I have no such constraints. This is all I know, and I cannot imagine doing it differently.
So before you shop for your next pair of frames, please remember: if the brand sounds familiar and bears a big logo that appears on clothing or other consumer goods, it is a licensed brand. A discerning consumer will always seek out lesser known and beautifully crafted pieces, as these are the styles that truly embody the artistry and vision of a true designer.
For more information, I suggest reading Deluxe – How Luxury Lost its Luster, by Dana Thomas. It is a wonderful book that goes into intricate detail surrounding the issues plaguing licensed brands.