ECO // The 2020 Update

Sustainable is the new Normal

Hardly any other eyewear label pursues sustainability as a mission statement as much as ECO. True to its name, the New York-based brand has put ecological considerations front and center since day one. We speak to ECO’s Giovanni Lo Faro about the many levels on which ECO implements sustainability as a fundamental part of the company’s success.

Hi Giovanni, when did you launch the ECO brand?

We launched ECO in 2009 with the goal of bringing about a game change in our sector. A lot has happened since then and we are happy to look back at the impact we have made so far. 

The brand name directly states your commitment to sustainability. Why was that important to you from the start?

We chose the ECO name to convey what we are about and how we stand out from the other brands in the market. 

How exactly do you define ‘sustainability’ and in which areas are you applying it?

Sustainability to us means finding a way of making and marketing things that is conscious about their impact on the planet. We believe that growth and development are compatible with the increasing need to respect natural resources. Sustainability is becoming the new normal. More and more people understand that it is not a choice or style of doing things, but a necessary new way of taking into account the impact of our actions.  

Speaking of impact, you implement castor seed oil in your manufacturing process. What are the advantages?

Yes, the resin we use in our Biobased Collection is made mostly from castor oil. The castor plant is non-edible, this way we don’t impact the food chain. It can be grown and harvested without any significant impact. The material also has a great look and feel and is lighter and more flexible than regular acetate. The result is an innovative material with a drastically reduced plastic content, making our Biobased frames lightweight and comfortable, as well as sustainable.

Your collection also includes metal frames. How do you strive for sustainability in this category?

Our metal frames are made with 95% recycled stainless steel. This is a huge saving considering that we only use 5% of new resources! The metal is post-consumer. This means we give existing material a new life. 

Beyond the actual products, in in which areas are you minimizing your environmental impact?

We complete the 360-degree circle of sustainability across all the other touchpoints of the brand. Packaging is made from recycled plastic bottles. POP materials range from recycled paper to recycled plastic to bamboo, another low-to-no impact plant. Finally, and just as importantly, all frames are shipped in our biodegradable corn starch bag instead of the traditional plastic poli-bags. If we consider that these bags are mono-use and that we sold two million ECO frames and sunglasses so far, the reduced impact amounts to a few million bags in the next few years for one eyewear brand alone! 

That’s a powerful achievement. What mood do you want to convey to your customers with ECO?

Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good. ECO embodies a lifestyle that is positive, conscious and fun. We can all make a difference through small gestures, while looking good and enjoying life. This is what the brand and its communications stand for. Eco-chic is the way we see style and fashion evolving in the future. A sense of purpose and a story to tell more than a logo to exhibit.

What kind of consumer are you addressing with ECO?

We address the growing need for brands and products with identity and purpose. Millennials, the generation of 20-to-40-year-olds that embodies this evolution, from displaying a status symbol to telling a story about what they believe in, tend to be particularly receptive to this approach. 

But the need for sustainable products also exists in older target groups.

Absolutely. Sustainability is becoming mainstream because it is not a trend but a growing awareness. There is only one earth to inhabit, at least until Elon Musk takes us to Mars. This is even more true when there is no compromise involved, neither in terms of quality or price. This is what makes the brand appealing to a broader audience. 

Is there a basic design guideline for ECO?

Style that matters. Design-driven yet wearable. Fashion conscious more than fashion victim.

How about the color palette, is it rather loud or quiet?

While we have a passion for subtle nuances, we do include some warm and vibrant hues that convey the positive energy of this brand. 

Your optical glasses are always available with a sun clip-on. What creative freedom does this give you?

Yes, a magnetic sun clip-on. We love the idea of turning the optical frame into a sunglass with a simple click. It started as a functional statement, as the polarized clip-on transforms your frame into a protective sunglass in a snap. It then evolved into a design opportunity.

In what sense?

The clip-on allows us to play with shapes and volumes, details and colors. Making it at times different than the frame – funkier as a sunglass to wear when going out to play, more classic as an optical frame when going to work. As we evolved this concept, we engineered an application of the clip-on thin metal frames that made us win the iF Gold award, one of the most coveted prizes in the design world. 

That is a big milestone. Looking at the current line, how many styles does it include?

The FW20 collection includes ten new styles, five plastics and five metals. The carryover collection is over one hundred frames and sunglasses. We work with over eighty markets and this is the best way to curate the right collection for each region. 

Your initiatives also include the One Frame – One Tree campaign. What is behind it?

Actually, ECO’s One Frame – One Tree program has been running since our launch in 2009. It is about planting a tree for every frame purchased. So far, we have planted over two million trees. The idea is to give something back to the planet and provide our customers an opportunity to make a difference. Trees clean the air, provide food to humans and animals. They also help improve living standards for local communities. Our partner Trees For The Future is an NGO that plants trees in Africa and trains the local in agroforestry, so that they can make the best use of their land.

Thanks for the interview, Giovanni.

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