Heywear seeks to democratize the prescription eyewear experience – WWD

It’s an on-demand world: food, movies, fashion – almost every consumer product – is hours, if not minutes away. So why not glasses? That’s the thought of Heywear, the eyewear brand that puts corrective lenses in the hands of customers within an hour of walking in the door.

Since the first store launched in midtown Manhattan in 2021, Heywear combines its proprietary technology with experiential retail to expedite what has traditionally been a tedious process involving booking and eye exams, choosing lenses , then waiting for days, and sometimes weeks, for it to be filled.

Warby Parker was an early disruptor, bringing the process online and streamlining it to some extent. Then came the hip eyewear retailers, offering flat fees for exams and frames, but prescriptions still took a long time to fill.

Heywear seeks to speed up and democratize the whole process. With its fast software, on-site labs, and $99 all-inclusive price for an exam, a set of frames, and lenses, it wants to get people into the habit of having their eyes checked regularly and treating glasses as a fashion accessory.

Courtesy of Heywear

“We strive to make the process of buying eyeglasses the same as buying jeans. We want to make it more accessible and make it an impulse buy for the very first time,” CEO Jaclyn Pascocello said in an interview.

Pascocello said the cost of new lenses often deters people from getting their eyes checked and updating their prescriptions.

“Americans often get a pair of prescription glasses once every 24 months because it’s often complicated and time-consuming. So for us, it was important to focus on accessibility, ease and simplicity.

“Also, a lot of people don’t have insurance and they walk around not being able to see the world as clearly as they should. We should take care of our eyes like we take care of our teeth, so our whole model is focused on one visit, one price, no surprises,” she said.

Heywear relies on proprietary software that has been built in-house and brings together eye testing, lens manufacturing, fitting and delivery under one roof. Appointments are made and glasses are dispatched between 30 and 60 minutes from the time a customer walks through the store door.

Heywear seeks to democratize the

Courtesy of Heywear

Heywear has two locations in New York – a flagship store located at Lafayette Street and Bond Street and a store in downtown Brooklyn.

A third unit is scheduled to open near the Flatiron building at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue in early April.

By June, Heywear will have five stores in New York, including stores soon to open in Williamsburg and the Upper East Side.

The flagship store spans 2,500 square feet over two floors. Customers can make an appointment in advance or drop by, try on and choose a pair of in-house designed lenses. They can either refill an existing prescription or have a comprehensive eye exam.

Pascocello said customers can pick up their glasses almost immediately after the exam.

Heywear’s “hyper-local” model means it can house each flagship store’s lab and inventory. These flagship products are then used as manufacturing and distribution centers for smaller stores.

“The most exclusive thing about us is the lab model and the ability to scale it,” she said, adding that the labs are small, around 250 square feet.

One of Heywear’s co-founders is a French software engineer called Alexandre Jais, who has had poor eyesight since he was a child, Pascocello said. “So this project is something close to his heart. All the building of the software came from him and his team.

In addition to being a co-founder, Jais is the Chief Technology Officer of Heywear.

Traditionally, retail opticians have relied on a few labs scattered across the country, which means there can be long wait times between eye exam and delivery due to the volume of orders placed and the time spent waiting. shipment.

Pascocello said Heywear’s demographics are broad, although Heywear does not make children’s eyewear or cater to those under 18. “The majority of our customers are in that 18 to 40 age bracket, but we see people of all ages, of all ages, coming in and getting excited about the frames we have at the end, the ease, the accessibility and affordability.And with e-comm, we see people of all ages across the country buying glasses.

Heywear offers around 50 styles and a variety of colors, totaling around 175 options. Heywear also releases limited editions alongside its seasonal collections. The spring 2022 collection will arrive at the end of April. Customers can also purchase frames online, although Pascocello said Heywear is now focusing on physical retail.

“We see our customers coming back within the first six months of their first purchase and buying multiple pairs at once,” Pascocello said.

The company launched a beta store in 2019 and opened its first retail operation, the Lafayette and Bond store, in 2021. It is backed by venture capital and the team is preparing to raise Series A funds In the coming months. Investments will be made in further retail expansion, and the next big city is Miami, where Heywear plans to open in the second half of this year.

Pascocello said the company has big ambitions in the United States

“Ideally, we would like to be within an hour of most Americans within the next five to ten years. It’s an ambitious goal, but we’re very excited,” she said. “I will always believe in retail. It’s extremely important for cities, to bring people what they need, close to where they are. And we really want to be inclusive, making sure everyone has access to eyewear and an experiential retail experience. »