Designer eyewear brand Skye + Lach Co survived the pandemic through a strong marketing and educational campaign. On the other side, it is projecting $5 million in revenue next year. The business, which specialises in oversized sunglasses, was founded by sisters Tammy Schmidt and Kylie Thomasz in 2016. With an offering of glasses and accessories priced below $100, the brand’s emerald colour, ‘jewel’ style sunglasses launched in winter this year, and sold out within four days. Wh
While the siblings work together, they have specialised roles. Thomasz focuses on the financial, wholesale and customer service side of the business, while Schmidt looks after marketing and creative. Together, they both collaborate on product design. According to Schmidt and Thomasz, the brand has developed a dedicated following, with Australian singer, actor and personality, Sophie Monk, counted among them. Thomasz told Inside Retail that she started commenting on the brand’s Instagram posts, which the pair jumped on right away. “We sent her glasses and built a great relationship with her,” she said. Monk tagged the brand on her Instagram account around 2019, and there was a huge spike in traffic to the website and sales. “We had about 100-120 orders in the first 12-24 hours, and a number of new followers, who [are now] customers,” Thomasz said. “That sort of impact was gold.” The sisters worked in the same airline company, before starting a boutique store in 2015. However, they quickly realised their heart wasn’t in it, and decided to create their own design label the following year. The interest in oversized glasses came from their mum – who wore big glasses – and popular culture. And, at the time of opening, everyone wore big glasses, as reflected by shows like The Kardashians. But when the pair went shopping for oversized glasses, they couldn’t find anything affordable, or sufficiently oversized. It led to a lightbulb moment, where they could create their own glasses. They travelled to an optical fair in Hong Kong, developed relationships with manufacturers, learned everything they could about the industry, and launched with one style. Schmidt said that their backgrounds were more in corporate and travel, and they didn’t have knowledge or experience in commerce, IT, manufacturing, social media, fashion, design, social media or importing. But they were willing to learn it all from scratch. “Being keen consumers, we knew what we wanted,” she said. “We just needed to learn how to do it, and bring the products to market at an affordable price,” Schmidt said. From 10 to 100 stockists. The business has subsequently grown from one style in 2016 to almost 20 SKUs today. According to Schmidt and Thomasz, the brand has also seen consistent growth across its traffic and sales. The time between developing a concept and bringing it to market typically takes between 6-12 months, but the product can sell out quickly. So, they have been encouraging customers to buy quickly, if interested. “We’re constantly bringing new styles and colours to the market. We find that they’re selling out [and] a month later, customers might say, ‘when are you bringing that back,’” Schmidt said. “We’re [probably] not going to bring it back.” The brand currently has 10 stockists that have come on board from July this year, and it is launching a partnership program with the intention of developing relationships, and expanding that number. Thomasz added that the brand recognised the importance of stockists in scaling the business, and building brand awareness. “The goal is to have 100 stockists by this time next year,” she said. Consider ourselves lucky The business was steadily growing before the borders shut amid Covid-19 border restrictions. Based in Melbourne, the brand pivoted from an emphasis on travel, to a more hyperlocal focus, targeting customers who were able to go outside and exercise during lockdowns. They also focused on educating their audience, highlighting the importance of eyewear in protecting against UV rays and certain weather conditions. They said this campaign, along with an appetite for online shopping, resonated with customers. The brand’s sales doubled in the first year of the pandemic, before doubling again in 2021. “We consider ourselves to be very lucky that the business thrived during Covid-19,” Thomasz said. Schmidt added that developing strong relationships with customers was particularly important during this period. “We’re all about travel [so the pandemic] did hit us hard. But, once we got going, it became easier for us to get that messaging across. It did resonate, and helped us to build connections,” she said. Thomasz added that showing up on social media every day wearing the products did help to ensure that the brand wasn’t seen as faceless. “Through social media and marketing, we want people to relate to us. They want a relationship with you,” Thomasz said. “It’s a key aspect to what we do.” The world is opening up again Although La Niña has led to a colder summer in Melbourne, Skye + Lach Co is promoting its product across different markets. This includes travellers going to warmer climates, customers looking to accessorise and people seeking protection from the wind, UV and glare. Schmidt adds that it’s a misconception that sunglasses are a seasonal product. Rather, it’s a year long product. “Maybe that’s because we passionately wear them in rain, hail or shine. But we have people messaging us saying “I’m on my 10th or 20th pair, it’s becoming an obsession,” she said. The brand’s biggest goal is to get into Sunglass Hut, as there is a gap in their offering for oversized glasses. It is also looking at department and retail stores overseas – including in New Zealand and the US – as well as in Australia, such as Myer and David Jones. “We want to make our brand as accessible as possible, and be in big, Australian retail outlets,” Schmidt said.