Philippe Beuscart, the former country manager of Aoyama Optical who took over the French operation from its former Japanese parent company four years ago, has started selling a relatively affordable line of prescription frames, called We ddd and has signed global licensing agreements with two French apparel brands, Olivier Lapidus and Antik Batik.

The 3D glasses are made with a lightweight polyamide compound by Materialise, the Belgian 3D manufacturer that works also for Seiko and other eyewear brands. Sacrificing profit margins, they are sold at a relatively low price of €200 a pair, in line with the low price positioning of Aoyama, which established itself in France some 15 years ago as a low-cost supplier of lightweight titanium frames.

Helped by Unistudio, a neighboring French company that has developed a dedicated 3D frame design and development process, Aoyama is able to add new styles in only one month. It has launched 15 models of prescription frames in nine colors since last January and is now launching six models of sunglasses. Furthermore, the absence of significant inventories reduces sourcing costs and allows Aoyama to give a better service to opticians, who can place small orders for delivery in two to three weeks.

So far about 60 opticians have agreed to carry Aoyama's We ddd line, partly to differentiate themselves from more traditional competitors. Beuscart is targeting annual sales of between 30,000 and 50,000 pairs to 400 to 500 opticians in France, representing about 15 percent of its total turnover.

The fashion house of Olivier Lapidus, a French designer who is known for innovative ideas, has agreed to design one style of 3D glasses for Aoyama as part of its new licensing deal. This and the other new license signed by the French Aoyama with Antik Batik, combined with the new 3D project, are expected to make up for the loss of two other licenses.

Shiseido has decided to terminate its global licensing agreement with Aoyama of Japan, and to bring its eyewear line in-house. The French Aoyama is also going to stop working with ST Dupont, the French luxury brand of accessories, which represented a higher percentage of its annual turnover of less than €6 million. It will continue with minor licenses such as Bensimon and with its large private label business, which will continue to constitute the bulk of its annual volume of 450,000 pairs.