Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 40 years, you should be comfortably certain that American manufacturing is on its way out. Seemingly every industry — from automakers to denim mills — has experienced a decline in the past couple decades. An outlier is the eyewear industry, which, until very recently, was almost nonexistent in the States. A few holdouts like Randolph Engineering and Shuron eyewear guaranteed the industry didn’t vanish in the latter half of the 20th century, and in the past few years, a new crop of brands — State Optical Co., Dom Vetro and Lowercase NYC — have begun offering American-made acetate frames. If you’re looking to buy local, read up on these brands before investing in a new pair of shades.
State Optical Co.
In the summer of 2014, Chicago-based State Optical Co. built a new factory outfitted with 40 Italian machines. The company now employs 50 workers, all of whom were initally new to eyewear manufacturing. For its eyewear, State Optical Co. utilizes acetate from Mazzucchelli in Italy and hinges from OBE in Germany. Nuances like beveled edges and custom temple tips showcase the trained skills of the hand-finishing process.
Dom Vetro is the first company to design and manufacture its entire range of eyewear in Los Angeles. Founded in 2012, the company first produced it’s luxury eyewear in the Alpine town of Cador, Italy. In 2017, it relocated manufacturing to Southern California, but still uses top-quality materials from Italy, as well as crystal lenses. One of the upsides to moving production stateside is now customers can order customized glasses from the brand.
Lowercase NYC began offering eyewear from its 2,100 square-foot factory in the Brooklyn Army Terminal in 2017. The company utilizes machines sourced from Italy to produce eyewear from Japanese and Italian acetate. All of the brand’s sunglass lenses are sourced from Carl Zeiss, and customers can choose from over a dozen frame shapes in a variety of acetate colors.