Frame by frame: the art of making ideas come to life

Some products just seem like they are about as good as they get, barring a few minor tweaks. Then, in the right place at the right time, along comes someone with brand-new ideas. Tom Davies is such a man.

Creative thinkers always seem to be several steps ahead of the game. For Tom Davies of Tom Davies Bespoke Opticians the advantage of having a seemingly limitless creative flow started early.

Tom Davies makes a habit of keeping ahead of the pack, being one of few eyewear brands in the world producing its own product. It's the only way, explains Davies, for the company to keep producing bespoke products.

Strong motivation

As a one-man-band when he first started, Davies needed to find a way of bringing his product to market whilst managing the day-to-day business operations. No workable solution was available off-the-shelf so with a friend, he created a browser-based application to do just this. Tom Davies's remarkable efficiency, he says, led people to believe he was running a commercial empire.

Now that he is running a sizeable organisation, Davies employs a hyperactive in-house development team to help him. If an existing solution is not up to scratch, a remedy will be found. When one of the leading CRM software packages failed to offer what Tom Davies needed, he created his own cloud-based version.

A digital connection

Software is a big part of the company. Davies has responded variously to process deficiencies, creating his own solutions for opticians, logistics, warehousing and invoicing teams, as part of the firm's `Supertool' platform.

Supertool is currently being developed to integrate the frame manufacturing process. Store-based opticians can design frames online before sending precise customer metrics to the production facility where a computerised cutting machine creates the frame.

This removes eight hours of programming time and six hours of manual labour. Lenses are bought in from optical specialists, Zeiss, but all finishing is by skilled hand. Lowering production costs this way has been instrumental in Davies' decision to bring manufacturing back to the UK from China.

Davies has also been working for the past year with a Danish company on a new composite 3D printing material for use in the manufacture of his sportswear range. Last year Tom Davies launched another composite, carbon horn, based on sustainable buffalo horn and carbon fibre, giving a super-strong yet lightweight frame.

Constantly challenging

“I've always been an ideas man,” says Davies. “I'm always thinking of new ways of doing things and solving problems.” Because ideas come thick and fast, his success, he says, is based on “eliminating ideas that aren't as good as the others”. Indeed, his notion of “fail fast” means always trying but never being afraid of letting an idea go.

Some just fly, literally. In Davies's new (and fifth) store in Covent Garden, a three-metre union flag flutters. Actually, it's a hologram, the method of projection being another Davies collaboration. “Shop windows everywhere will have these next year,” he predicts.

Curiously, protecting his designs is not a concern. “I'd be spending all my time and money looking behind me rather than investing in new things,” he states. “It used to upset me. But I'm already onto the next thing by the time they've copied me.” The secret of successful innovation, it seems, is to start early and never stop.

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