We talk to the co-founders of Banton Frameworks, an ethical eyewear manufacturer which produces quality handmade glasses frames from its purpose-built UK workshop...
‘Make, sell, reinvest, repeat,’ Lucy Ross says. It’s a philosophy that has brought Banton Frameworks
a long way in a short time.
It all began when Lucy and her coursemate Jamie Bartlett were studying Product Design in Glasgow. Lucy’s project was to find new materials to design and make prototype spectacle frames. She started using plywood and then joined forces with Jamie to create properly functional frames.
But the two had to sneak back into the university workshops to use their machinery until they could sell enough frames to buy their own equipment. ‘We’ve never looked back since.’
The only backward glance that Lucy and Jamie take is to see more clearly why things have changed in their industry, as well as pioneering for the future. ‘The heritage is very important to us,’ Lucy says. ‘But not because we’re a heritage brand.’
Refocusing on the UK
The UK used to be ‘a bit of a powerhouse’, she notes, in terms of optical frames. Millions of frames — and the parts that go with them — were made in this country during the mid-century boom. But, Lucy points out, ‘very few of those original factories remain. So, we’re building a new one.’
‘The optical industry has changed a lot over the past decade,’ Jamie observes. ‘If you’re lucky to have got a lot of start-up capital, it’s easier than ever to launch an eyewear brand by having frames made for you in Europe or China. Trouble is, the minimum order quantities are usually high volume, which puts up a big barrier for variability and style options.’ Banton Frameworks wants to be more nimble and versatile — they can make frames in any colour they like, when they like.
And, Jamie says, ‘To make great frames, we use great materials.’ Banton’s acetate supplier is, they say, the oldest and best in Europe. The acetate comes from cellulose sheets which are made from the pulp of trees. They’re also developing alternative materials, but Jamie wants to be sure that ‘nothing leaves our workshop doors until we know it’ll live up to our standards.’
Framing the future
Looking ahead, Banton Frameworks aim to have a larger factory space, but to be able to grow sustainably and work on new collaborations.
Being based in Scotland is important to them. As Lucy puts it, ‘As small as Scotland might be, there’s definitely a buzz surrounding young design and manufacture right now. It’s a pleasure to be a part of it alongside some similarly-minded businesses who are working towards similar goals.
Small and local, for Lucy and Jamie, is beautiful: ‘With the likes of Brexit and heightened environmental considerations such as air miles and ocean plastic, we strongly believe that local/UK manufacture is becoming a much stronger priority. The more innovation and investment here the better!’
But they’re taking it step by step, Lucy tells us. ‘One foot in front of the other to build a factory and a brand people can get behind when they’re choosing their next pair of glasses.
You can read more about Banton Frameworks and browse their range of glasses and sunglasses frames at www.bantonframeworks.co.uk.