Back in June of 2009, when I first started TC CHARTON and founded Prologue Vision, I had a vision for the future.
I’d work really hard for three years, introduce the line to the industry and to my fellow Asian Americans and show them the amazing benefit of wearing eyewear that really fits. Eventually, people will start to demand better fitting products and other companies will start paying more attention to the needs of consumers with Asian features. Once the bigger companies start to have their own versions of Asian fit eyewear, it will be time for me to squeeze out of the game.
Back then, I truly believed TC CHARTON would not be able to withstand the fierce competition of the power houses that own all the big international licensed brands. Time and time again people insisted that Asian people ONLY want to wear Big Brands and Big Logos.
It was discouraging at times, but I remember telling them and myself:
“I am Asian, and I never care about the big logos. I cannot be the only one. There’s gotta be other like-minded Asians out there. I care about good fitting, great quality products above all things, whether they are shoes, or clothes or glasses.”
Just as I predicted, other eyewear companies, big or small, started to follow suit. Many of them have introduced styles with higher nose pads, and they all claimed to have Asian fit.
When I first heard about this, I panicked. But only briefly. I quickly learned that, NO other collection offers what we offer: a complete collection with over 150 styles—-for women, men, teens, kids, and babies. Time and time again I hear opticians and optometrists telling me that no other products fit their Asian patients as well as ours.
Show after show, meeting after meeting, we are greeted with encouragement and positive feedback.
And now, 10 shows and 6 years later, we are still around.
So, as we wrapped up the presentation of our new Fall/Winter 2015 collection at Vision Expo West, we were elated with the turnout. Our model, Tim, who flew in from Los Angeles, was a huge hit at both the booth and our cocktail party in our suite at the Venetian Hotel. We got to hang out with some of our existing accounts, and meet new ones that want our products in their stores. And most importantly, people LOVED the new styles.
People often ask me: “Why do your products fit so much better? What’s your secret?”
There’s no secret. I am Asian, and I study Asian faces. This is all I do, and I intend to do it the best of my ability. This is not an afterthought. This collection represents everything I believe in – to be the change I want to see. I am always listening to what consumers and opticians have to say. That’s why I love meeting consumers at the trunk shows, and I love talking to the opticians and asking for their feedback.
I attend the Vision Expos each year, not merely to use it as a platform to showcase our newest styles, but to get the opportunity to make a personal connection with eye care professionals. I take their opinions to heart and then I turn around and work harder to meet their needs.
Until next show.
“You’re high-end! You don’t need this!”
That is usually what people say to me when I tell them about TC Fit, especially those who love our TC CHARTON collection. It’s true; I didn’t need to create another sub-collection. We are quickly earning the loyalty of our fans, and the practices that carry our products are doing well. Nobody complains about our prices because we have proven the value of our products.
Besides, I never had any experience creating products at “lower” price points. My past professional experiences and my upbringing has shaped me into a designer/consumer of quality goods with medium to medium-high price points. I will be the first to admit that I am one of those with “expensive tastes”.
However, moving my family and the company out of Silicon Valley has been a real eye-opener. We relocated to the North Texas’ DFW area, and I am delighted to find the diversity that I craved while living in the most expensive area in the country.
I actually have neighbors of ALL ethnicities, and gone are the days that everyone we interact with is in the tech industry with a household income in the top 1%. I actually get to know people from all walks of life. My children no longer bring home friends that roll their eyes because they HAVE TO go to Europe AGAIN for their summer vacation.
Once I got out of the unrealistic bubble of Silicon Valley, I came to realize that maybe not all people can afford our products, but still need them. People who work hard trying to raise a family, or have to work while paying for college tuition; people who are doing their part to contribute to the society but still live paycheck to paycheck; people who have decent jobs but still cannot afford to pay extra on top of their insurance coverage.
Hence TC Fit.
I like to think of TC Fit as a simplified collection. Gone are the intricate decals, metal inserted logos inside the temples, and richly patterned Italian acetates. I still want great eye shapes. I still want the hand-laminated nose pads and tips. It’s still being produced by the same manufacturer that produces TC CHARTON, which is renowned for their craftsmanship and beautiful finishing. I still want quality and I still want to offer a great fit to those who need it.
A customer just told me that TC Fit is a great addition to our existing CHARTON collection, as now he can offer great quality products to a wider range of people. “It’s not cheap. They are plenty of cheap products out there with cheap quality to match. It’s just very reasonably priced. It will never replace TC CHARTON, but it’s a great extension of your collection”.
Recently, my daughter came to the office to pick a frame for her upcoming eye exam. Out of over 150 styles, she ended up picking a TC Fit frame. When I asked her why she likes that particular frame, she said: “It has a great shape, and it’s very clean and fresh looking”.
That put a smile on my face.
I used to think something was wrong with my face.
When I was a child, my glasses would always slide down my nose. No matter what I did I could not find frames that fit me properly, and it made me think that the problem was with my face. It was an awful feeling. When I first started TC CHARTON, I was determined to do whatever I could to prevent other children from having those same feelings.
I recently had a very long conversation with Mark Shupnick, an optician with over 40 years of experience in his field. He is going to be giving a lecture about the importance of children’s eye care at the upcoming Vision Expo West in Las Vegas, and had a lot of interesting things to say on the topic. As a mother of three, this is something that I have always been concerned about.
We are noticing that more and more children, especially among the Asian population, become far-sighted. Most eye care professionals blame prolonged use of electronic devices and the lack of outdoor activities.
When children can’t see well, they simply cannot read and learn accordingly. Moreover, a child that wears a pair of frames that keeps sliding down means their vision is not being properly corrected.
Making sure that children take annual eye exams, wear glasses that stay put, and protect their eyes from harmful UV rays while outdoors are simple ways to correct their vision.
A lot of parents are only vaguely aware of this issue, which is why it is so important for people like Mark to spread awareness. Hopefully the opticians, once informed, will pass on the message, and I want to do my part as well.
As far as I know, TC CHARTON is the only collection that offers an entire line of kids and teen Asian-fit frames. I feel that it is very important to not only give them glasses that fit properly early on, but to also provide them with many styles to express themselves with.
That being said, I am often asked why I don’t offer sunglasses for children. There are a few reasons for this.
Our frames and sunglasses are made with the highest-quality materials we can find, but a lot of parents are worried that their children will break or lose them. I already lowered our kids and teens prices substantially in an effort to encourage parents to give their children the right fit, but while most parents recognize the benefits of our frames, they would still be reluctant to give them sunglasses at a higher price point. To those parents, I often suggest an alternative solution: fitting their TC frames with transition lenses.
Transition lenses change from light to dark in the sunlight, so the child can wear their frames both indoors and outdoors without any problems. This saves the parents from buying two different frames, and means the child doesn’t have to keep track of multiple pairs of glasses. Just doing something this simple can make a big difference.
I grew up dealing with frames that never fit my Asian bridge. It was frustrating and made me feel inadequate. As a mother, I do not wish any child to EVER have to feel this way. As members of the eye care community, people like Mark and I must do everything we can to raise awareness on this topic. Please, if you are a parent, make sure to give your children regular eye exams. Don’t be afraid to spend a little bit more for frames that can actually stay on their bridge, and please fit them with transition lenses. The eyes of your children will thank you for it.
A few weeks ago I traveled to Hawaii on a business trip. My original intention was just to visit our retail locations in the area, but a nice little coincidence led me to meet with actress and musician Arden Cho. We had agreed to cosponsor her Aloha Summer Concert series and a music video during the same week, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to meet her.
I’ve been watching Arden closely for almost a year now. Aside from her role on Teen Wolf, she also appeared as a guest star on Hawaii Five-0 and has a number of other roles in both live action productions and voice over. She caught my attention because she has a very positive public image and a strong presence on social media, so I always thought she would be the right type of Asian celebrity to represent our frames.
We had brunch at the Kahala Mandarin Hotel, and when we met I was immediately enchanted. She is a sweet, charming young woman with a strong, but quiet confidence. We had a wonderfully pleasant conversation while I fit her in some of our frames, and I’m pleased to say that she looks fabulous in them.
Unfortunately, there was a bit of a hiccup with the music video. The location, a beautiful run down building, was no longer available. So instead, we agreed to create a video for her Youtube channel to promote the concert. The video featured a number of scenes with her wearing our frames while her songs played in the background. I was quite impressed with the professionalism of the crew she assembled locally, and the video, needless to say, came out beautifully.
The VIP ticket holders of the concert got to attend a BBQ house party with Arden at an ocean front property just outside of Honolulu. During the party, I was able to witness firsthand how sweet and warm she is to her fans who were clearly ecstatic to be able to meet her.
That same night, I attended her concert, and it was an absolute blast. She sang a lot of covers but also has an impressive repertoire of original songs that she has written over the years. As a music lover, I love the idea of being a part of her entrance into the music industry, and I believe that she will eventually make a big impact using this medium for her artistic expression.
I may not be in the target demographic of Teen Wolf, but I am a huge fan of her talents. It’s clear that she has earned her place as one of the few Asian actors playing an important role in the mainstream American entertainment industry. I truly feel that there needs to be more Asian celebrities like her in the public eye, especially those that can inspire the younger generation of Asian Americans to do the same.
My experience with Arden Cho has been something I will cherish for many years to come. I’m looking forward to the next time we can collaborate on a project together.
Has it already been almost six years?
Back when I first started in the fall of 2009, I remember how anxious I felt going from practice to practice with my meager tray of 5 styles. I wasn’t sure how my Asian Fit glasses would be received, but I soon found that I wasn’t the only one who saw the value of an eyewear collection designed to fit Asian faces.
So, encouraged by eye care professionals and consumers alike, I pressed on and came out with several new designs, each one inspired by a different Asian face. Every frame is named after the muse that sparked its creation, and I hold each and every one of them close to my heart.
As time went by, the designs of the new styles became gradually simpler. While this was not a conscious effort on my part, I eventually came to embrace it. The very nature of the product requires it to act as both a fashion accessory and a medical device, so why not design them to be as elegant and efficient as possible? I refer to this design philosophy as “Utility Luxe,” and it is the core concept for all of our newest styles; as Arrigo Cipriani once said: “luxury is the expression of a complex simplicity.”
To me, the purpose of TC CHARTON Asian Fit Eyewear is to act as an extension of the person wearing it. It must fit perfectly and effortlessly, like a well-tailored suit or a little black dress. It must act as a second skin, flawlessly functional and cleverly chic. And it must become an integral part of their fashion by blending seamlessly into their wardrobe, personality and sense of style.
This is what I strive for: complete and utter perfection.
In this way, crafting a simpler design does not mean I have to make do with less, but rather, allows the craftsmanship to become more polished. I continue to introduce beautiful eye shapes to match Asian features and pair them with exquisite acetates and the highest quality components the industry has to offer.
My production team often tells me how difficult it is to make my products, but I intend to stick by my principles. I believe that a great fit is worth the effort.
We are always excited to be part of Vision Expo East (VEE) the largest optical show here in the Big Apple every March, drawing over 30,000 eye care professionals, the movers and shakers of the optical industry. This year VEE was not different but yet, it was, since Asian in New York hosted a media reception so I could meet the Chinese news media.
I still cannot believe we were able to pull this off—as Diana had just a few days to put together a press release, contact journalists from different news organizations, and prepare the media reception. Little did I know that the turnout would be many of the invited press—-including ALL of the biggest names in Chinese news media? I thought we might end up having 3 or 4 journalists, at most, so we had set aside one hour for me to give a brief product presentation and Q&A. But after the introduction, each media outlet wanted a separate interview and the reception lasted almost 4 hours!
I did not take this opportunity to tell them how great our products are. What I did, however, was to really emphasize my journey—how I came to the realization that wearing an ill-fitted pair of glasses could actually impact how one sees her self-image, from a beauty standpoint; it is not our facial features that are at fault, and no, we do not need plastic surgery to reshape ourselves. Also, there are functional reasons why glasses need to fit, such as the importance of fitting children with glasses that won’t slide down, in order to truly correct their vision, and also wearing a pair of sunglasses that won’t slide down from your bridge since there is less protection from the UV rays around the delicate eye area.
I spoke to them about my passion, and I hope they heard and felt what I was trying to convey. This is not about creating just another brand of eyewear. It is NOT about ME, as a designer. This is bigger than me. It is about how we see ourselves in a world where the beauty standard is still largely Eurocentric. This is about being able to see better, and feel better.
The very next day, each one of those interviews turned into a feature story: MSN.com, Yahoo news, Sing Tao Daily, ETTV, The Epoch Times, WZRC Station, The Central News Agency of China, World Journal and more. The TV footage also aired in Taiwan and China the day after the media reception. I was thrilled to have the chance to be able to speak directly to the Chinese speaking consumers in my mother tongue, their own language. I hope some of them heard me, and will remember to demand their opticians for a pair of glasses that truly fit.
By Alexandra Peng
Founder of Prolouge Vision / Designer of TC CHARTON & Alexandra Peng Collections
When I first envisioned the TC CHARTON collection, I had only one simple mission in mind — I wanted to offer beautiful and chic eyewear products to Asian Americans. More precisely, all Asian people who reside in this great country. As one of them, I want to do something for my fellow Asian Americans who work so hard to be an integral part of this nation, and call this land our own, even if we are only 12 % of its entire population. Sometimes, we must work harder to prove ourselves. Sometimes, we must face conflicting sets of values that are different than our ancestors’ cultural heritages. As much as we feel just as American as everyone else, we look different than a Caucasian person. Being a “minority” is challenging at times, but feeling bad about how we look shouldn’t be one of them. We are simply built differently.
TC CHARTON is here to offer you glasses that are designed with your specific facial structure in mind. So when you wear them, you don’t have to wish you had Caucasian features just so the glasses won’t slide down or sit on your cheeks. You no longer need to secretly wish for plastic surgery every time you feel frustrated while shopping for glasses!
Of course, diversity is a beautiful thing. It is what makes this nation so great, and it is the inevitable future. As the world gets smaller, people from different parts of the world mingle, interracial marriages are becoming more and more common, and we are witnessing a shift from what used to be “normal” and the so called “standard”. We are creating the new norms, and the world is a better place because of it. Esthetically TC CHARTON is true to the American sense of style, but technically they are shaped and built to NOT fit the same as conventional eyewear.
I am not here to exclude, I am here to include ALL of us who used to feel excluded and forgotten by the eyewear industry.
The old “standard fit” is still good for the majority, but it is not for me, nor you. Every season, I try to offer different designs that can serve a specific need: faces with extremely low bridges, faces that are very wide, faces with very high arches, faces with very small PDs…For 2014, we are including some sophisticated styles for petite men and women, and more styles for people with low but wider bridges.
Only recently I started to notice that we have a following of Black Americans and Blasians (Black American and Asian mix) and also Latinos. We even have some Caucasian fans! While I am extremely happy about the fact that my products are serving a much wider demography that I hadn’t thought of before, it also makes me wonder whether I was wrong all along to call this collection “Asian Fit”.
I didn’t mean to exclude. I want my products to be worn by anybody who needs them. Everybody deserves glasses that fit and are beautiful at the same time.
After months of pondering over this and even taking online polls through our Facebook page, I am finally at peace with myself. I know my collection is the antithesis of exclusion, and my fans know it too. While I must not forget that most of my inspiration comes from Asian faces, and therefore TC CHARTON is foremost an Asian Fit collection, I am thrilled and happy to know that our products are also serving some of my fellow Americans of other ethnicities.
This photo shoot is my response to all of our fans that are NOT Asians — I present to you, Eldridge Henderson, my incredibly handsome Black model, who flew in from San Francisco to be part of our shoot.
Among hundreds of models’ portfolios, Eldridge caught my eye because I saw a picture of him wearing a pair of Ray Ban frames and while his wardrobe and pose were impeccable, I noticed that the frames were not sitting properly on his nose bridge. That’s when I knew he would be perfect in this photoshoot. This is not the first time that I have designed styles to fit nose bridges that are wide and low, but it is the first time that we found the right model to showcase this style.
This is my way of saying Thank You to ALL of You.