Retail in Asia


Jo Black: In pursuit of sustainability and innovation in eyewear


Founded by Jo Black and Daniel Vaughan, Bbase has designed and manufactured bespoke eyewear for fashion brands and global retailers in more than 65 countries since 2000. Headquartered in Hong Kong, with offices in Mainland China, Barcelona, and New York, the company, which initiated the eyewear category for brands such as Cult Gaia, Kibo, Lele Sadoughi, and LoveShackFancy, began developing environmentally conscious materials into its supply chain in 2017, launching a comparative research tool, Bow Index, in 2021.

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Retail in Asia discusses eyewear industry trends, entering the metaverse, and sustainability with co-founder and chief executive officer Jo Black.

RiA: What are some trends in the eyewear industry that retailers should look out for?

Black: Advances in 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality, and blockchain technology will all play a key role in transforming the way eyewear is designed, produced, and purchased.

We also see more brands gravitating towards eyewear as a new category to diversify and grow revenue streams. Eyewear is an engineered product, it plays well with design on many levels and it speaks to the personality of a brand or as an individual.

RiA: How does Bbase plan to design more sustainable eyewear?

Black: We have rolled out a number of exciting initiatives that expedite, by design, fashion’s future in sustainable eyewear. [The programme] Incubbase provides young designers the opportunity to learn about sustainable eyewear design in an innovation space to a global audience.

Our Bow Index is an industry-first tool that provides comparative analysis into certified recycled and biodegradable materials for eyewear, a comparative tool that gives retailers and brands the confidence to empower their commitment to design and produce responsibly.

BbLAB and bbverse are our platforms for 3D print and virtual showrooms, optimising the design process within a curated product portal.

With the drop of our first NFT collection, bb20, we have also opened the doors to walk our clients into the Web3 ecosystem.

By providing this level of service through these multiple spheres of innovation, we are able to collaborate with exciting like-minded businesses, organisations and people. This gives us confidence that our roadmap to the future is focused on making better product for the market and the fashion and eyewear industry.

Source: Bbase Design Group

RiA: What made Bbase decide to enter the Web3 space? 

Black: bb20 was created with a desire to mark our 20th anniversary through innovation. We also wanted to visually track our progress in adopting recycled and biodegradable materials across our business.

Essentially, bb20 is a series of ‘data sculptures’ informed by bbase’s world of responsible design and material innovation in eyewear. Each bb20 edition reflects the production data of sustainable materials adopted by the bbase community.

Being curious, creative and taking risks really pushes boundaries. This is our approach to web3 (and at bbase in general), which I believe to brings deep opportunities to integrate the digital and physical, especially for the shopping and product experience.

This space is really going to change the way we communicate. I’m really excited that bbase is able to provide any brand the platform and creative tools they need to enter web3 with ease.

RiA: Tell us about some key milestones for bbase’s work in sustainability and innovation.

Black: Our production milestones include shifting 70 percent of our materials to recycled or bio alternatives and converting 100 percent of our sample polybags into biodegradable material in 2020. This has also been coupled with strategic moves to use more sea freight to reduce our carbon footprint.

Our first rapid sampling programme with a client was in 2022 and that was exciting for us, as it proved that we could support clients and any brand in this way.

When we launched the Bow Index publicly in 2021, we upped the ante on the visibility of the work we were doing in championing better materials for our clients and our partners. That really brought to our table great collaborators and interest to grow the index further.

Our Incubbase initiative has also proven to bring deep value for our R&D for design and material innovations for eyewear. It was a partnership that started with Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s MA Fashion Programme and we are excited to be soon taking this global.

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Before all of that, of course, was our very first eyewear order in 100 percent certified recycled polycarbonate material which was for Zalando in 2020. It was a fantastic success to do that at the height of the pandemic. Now, with things opening up, the future is limitless for us.