Interview with Valentina Hernandez
The global eyewear industry is worth more than $90b and is dominated by two groups - Italy's Luxottica and french lenses producer Essilor, which are currently merging.
However recently we have seen a raise of new competitors. Innovative start-ups are making their mark in the nexus of fashion, internet sales and eyecare, disrupting established industry players in the process. One of them is PORTRAIT eyewear.
Founded by Valentina Hernandez, PORTRAIT produces optical glasses and sunglasses that are entirely handmade. PORTRAIT combines traditional craftsmanship with high-technology manufacture, pursuing the highest quality standards. Their design is a result of a deep research and experimentation, strongly influenced by art-history movements and dedicated to its most iconic figures.
Here below our exclusive Q&A session with Valentina:
Your sunglasses are often inspired by art, music and cinema. Which are your favouriite artists, bands and movies?
Our love for art is very wide and open. We dedicate each collection to an art movement, for example the second collection was dedicated to Futurism and some of the shapes were specifically dedicated to the name of a person that was part of the movement. The best-seller of that collection takes the name from a song by a German band which was probably the first electronic sound in the history. So it is also about content marketing but with an honest purpose that is using the product as a mean to transfer the culture and let people know which things become a base for many of the art movements that we know and take for granted. It is about recognizing who was experimental at the time and being able to transfer that to our product.
What is your opinion on the Italian startup scene? What can be improved and what's working pretty well?
The Italian system is a bit contradictory. I don't want to be pessimistic about it because it would mean not to recognize the good things that I have been able to do here without being Italian. I feel that the difficulties are mainly related to the founding. There is probably a cultural background that doesn't make easy to access to funds. It is a very conservative market, but the good side of it is that most of the companies born are also "not born to die": there is a lower rate of mortality of startups in Italy compared to other countries.
What is your opinion on the huge amount of fake news on Facebook?
Fake news like negative information or trolls are common problems for all social media, because everything that is open and democratic has that risk. I am not particularly concerned about this kind of problems, it is a marginality that we have to go with and I feel that the power of a organized crowd is huge. It has to be the crowd itself to moderate the content and make sure that communities keep a good level of quality. (...) I hope that the same community could regulate this kind of misusage by claiming the problems when they have to or automatically and organically eliminating this kind of marginality, in the same democratic way they were allowed to participate.
How Portrait Eyewear is different from other handmade glasses brands? What's your competitive advantage?
Portrait Eyewear belongs to the independent independent eyewear market. There are of course other competitors in this field but our main advantage regards first of all the product: we have a strong identity that is related to art and our shapes are all original. So first of all brand identity. Second, there is a really strong relation with the art field. We are a channel of endorsements for emerging artists, which is something really unique. There is an extreme care of the detail and manufacture.
And what about Sunscious? Can you tell us something about this project? How did you came up with the idea and how you manage to close a partnership with ONU?
WeAppHeroes is a mobile application that uses the power of the crowd, the collaborative economy and the geolocalization to connect people trough help exchange. So, basically, I can make a help request and in real time and in the geolicalized area be helped by someone that I don't know and can become my HERO. So this project was embraced by the United Nations because.
Hi Valentina can you tell us what’s Portrait Eyewear? Why you've decided to start a brand of handmade glasses?
I created the company with my brother Gabriel. We are both coming from backgrounds related to design, photography, marketing and we were at the point that we wanted to do something for ourselves. I was also living in Northern Italy so let's say that putting together some of pieces and given the current moment at the time we realized that Eyewear was a possibility plus my brother by passion was an eyewear collector.