Impressio, a Luxembourg-based start-up that uses 3-D printing to manufacture its frames, is one of the companies that won the Silmo d'Or award in September, with its 609 Vortex style of sunglasses.
The company is considering bringing in new investors to help bring the production in-house and further improve its technology, as it is beating its own projections. Since the beginning of 2018, the firm has sold over 2,400 frames and expects to finish the year with a turnover of 4,000 pairs, up from 800 in 2017 well above its initial production forecast of 2,500 units. Targeting a volume of 8,000-10,000 pairs in 2019, it plans to move into new premises to manage the ramp-up.
Convinced that 3-D printing had become a viable manufacturing alternative, two managers, Guillaume Boisson and Emmanuel Andrivet, created the company two years ago. They selected a 3-D printing firm in Belgium and imported titanium temples from Japan. They hired two workers to assemble the frames in Luxembourg.
Impressio, which produces sunglasses as well as prescription frames, aims to set up a production and finishing line in Luxembourg toward the end of 2019 or in early 2020. Currently, a 3-D printer would represent an investment of €300,000 for the firm. In the longer run, Impressio could set up a production site in the U.S.
Based on this year's performance, the founders will decide whether they will finance the company's development with their own resources or open up the capital. Impressio is already in talks with potential investors. It is seeking a long-term partner that would also provide skills for its development.
The company launched its first collection at Silmo 2017. Its glasses carry an average wholesale price of €150-180 a pair and are sold at €350-500 in the stores.
Impressio covers the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the U.S. and Canada through agents. It has a distributor in Italy and sells in Asia by exhibiting at trade shows. Although the founders are French, Impressio has only a marginal presence in France, where social security reimbursements are set at a maximum of €150 a pair, a threshold that is due to be lowered to €100 in 2020. Impressio estimates that its collection, which has about 45 prescription models and some 28 sunglasses, could interest only about 350 of France's approximately 13,000 opticians.
The company is studying the possibility of launching, under a different brand name, a lower-cost collection with a wholesale price of €40-50 a pair and a retail price tag of €120.
In the meantime, Impressio will reinforce its presence in the top end of the market by working for third parties. It is already in talks with established fashion brands, targeting a first collection for spring/summer 2020.