Brightening the day with sunglasses
A road trip through Scotland might not be the most obvious inspiration to start a sunglasses business, but that’s exactly where the idea for innovative sunglasses brand Tens came from.
The Branson family has invested in the innovative company, which aims to make life look better. We caught up with founder and global brand director Kris Reid to learn more about their journey.
Why did you start Tens? Why sunglasses?
The concept of Tens sparked during a grey-skied road trip through the Scottish Highlands with my friends Tom Welsh and Marty Bell, both of whom come from a photography and filmmaking background. We jested about the possibility of developing a sunglass lens that could help brighten our view that day with rich, warm colours; similar to the way we edited our work.
We began to obsess over this idea that sunglasses shouldn’t always be focused on how you look, but more so how everything looks through them and the way different colours make you feel. We were bored of the cold and desaturated lens experiences that were offered by other brands in the market and felt inspired to make a change.
Fast forward through countless rounds of prototypes and a crazy crowdfunding campaign later, Tens came to life!
How did the Branson family investment come about?
Richard intercepted a pair of Tens through a guest staying on Necker Island and was persuaded to give our lenses a try for an afternoon. He was immediately hooked, so he reached out to us to see how he could help!
Fresh from our latest video production at that time, we sent along Marty to have a chat with Richard on a Virgin train heading for York to share our vision for the company. Tom and I were delighted to later receive a call shortly after with the news the Branson family were keen to join our mission. It took some time for Marty to call us however, as he found himself stuck at the train station barriers with no ticket... I’m not sure if he ever did convince the guard that he had just been having a cup of tea with Richard Branson!
How has the company grown over the last few years?
Despite the perilous business landscape over the last 12 months; Tens has actually never been in a stronger position. In Spring 2019 we had two new recruits join the team who played a key role in our development; our new design director, Danielle Rattray and our CEO and commercial director, Scott Lewis.
Over the past year we re-launched as “The Lens Experience Company”. We now offer five unique and sense heightening lens filters, in a collection of over 20 frame styles. We overhauled our manufacturing, supply chain and our global logistics. We revealed a fresh brand ID and initiatives such as ‘The Viewfinder’ series; which supports and shares the stories of photographers and filmmakers within our community. We’ve established a subsidiary office in Sydney and launched wholesale distribution in Canada, Latin America, Hong Kong and Ireland.
Sales are growing at a rapid rate now and while it has not been without its challenges, we feel we have elevated to being a truly global eyewear brand, and being able to challenge larger more established companies, while maintaining our core spirit and creative DNA.
What benefits have you seen from growing your team?
The knowledge and expertise of Danielle and Scott and their broader network has been an invaluable contribution in Tens development over the past year; it has allowed us as founding creatives to bring a number of burning ideas to life that previously could not be realised; in the form of new lens experiences, innovative products and much more.
Danielle’s design and product development experience has been fantastic – helping us create a clear and definitive design language for Tens. It has been important to us as we develop that we have strong, female voices at the forefront of the company, influencing key decisions and the overall direction of the brand. Danielle’s creative and strategic influence is all over the brand now, and we are a much better company for it.
As the brand has grown and become more global, we have been able to connect and engage with more experienced players in the industry, and build partnerships across marketing, manufacturing, and design that we couldn’t reach previously. Scott and Danielle have brought confidence and experience to the group, and that has attracted support and enabled us to elevate the brand across the board. We feel we have a great balance now of creative energy and systems and process focus that is sustainable and a strong platform for growth that we did not have before.
What does the future hold for Tens?
We are overflowing with ideas and always developing behind the scenes in the world of product and storytelling – most recently we’ve just launched a new lens filter titled “Evergreen”, a forest green and cerulean toned lens that produces a beautifully calming and uplifting viewing experience. We have begun some development of products outside eyewear that we feel are consistent with our brand and ethos, so that is exciting.
We’re also very excited by the progress we’re making in collaboration with our international distributors, as Tens become available in stores around the globe and people engage with our story and lens experiences. There are two main areas that we’re passionate about developing:
First it’s our efforts to align with and support mental health networks and initiatives that grow our understanding and awareness of mental health, particulaly around the prevention of youth suicide. This is an incredibly challenging issue at the heart of our generation and the Tens team. Creating positive experiences has been central to Tens’ ethos from day one, and we are actively engaging initiatives to help drive support and positive change in this space.
Secondly is to continue to build our company based on a contemporary sustainability and environmental mindset. The eyewear industry in particular suffers from mass greenwashing techniques, and we strive to be at the forefront of legitimate operational change that not only delivers real and tangible reductions in carbon emissions, but that sets the bar for what real and tangible environmental sustainability actually is. We work at this every day and want to be one of the leaders in this space. Getting our B-Corp certification over the next three years is our goal.