Ace & Tate.
It’s June 2013 and Mark de Lange, along with two partners, has just founded Ace & Tate, the eyewear company that will go on to change the way we buy glasses today. Probably forever.
Fast forward to 2016 and a friend of mine, having just received his first optical prescription, has posted a status on Facebook asking for recommendations on where he should obtain his first pair of frames. No one suggests Specsavers, or Vision Express, or any of those high street staples. Back around the time that Ace & Tate came to be, two other brands also appeared and challenged the spectacle industry in the same way that Ace & Tate did – Bailey Nelson and Cubitts – and it is these three, as well as a few independent opticians, that make the shortlist. It says a lot about how the dedication of Ace & Tate has impacted the market. Now a whole demographic is shunning the sometimes shockingly expensive chains who carry designer and “value” frames for ones who, for want of a better phrase, cut out the middle man. Design to manufacture to customer. Getting rid of the cost hikes involved in licensing and wholesaling means that Ace & Tate can offer its high-quality frames, complete with high-quality lenses, to its customers for £89.
With a career in investment firms behind him, de Lange was not the most obvious choice to be starting a brand with an entirely new take on an age-old industry. It was after a trip to New York, buying a pair of frames on sale and then the nightmarish experience and of finding someone to re-glaze them when he returned home to Amsterdam, paying over the odds for them to do so, that he decided there must be a better way. He then became frustrated that these were the only glasses he had to wear, with every outfit, morning and night. He set out to find a concept that formed a solution to these two problems: a brand of high quality, stylish eyewear at an affordable price.
The success story continues with Ace & Tate, having expanded to seven countries in Europe and their range now forming an impressive, well-stocked catalogue. Everything is made with premium materials and finishes, all at £89, with prescription sunglasses costing a little more. Collaborations with creatives – like their current one with London-based It’s Nice That – are now a regular part of their product lines and de Lange’s love of arts has pushed Ace & Tate into a new, philanthropic direction with the Ace & Tate Creative Fund.
Recognising the ties with the creative community that helped the brand flourish as a start-up themselves, the Creative Fund provides grants to emerging artists to help them bring their ideas to life, giving back and helping others flourish. It invites risk-taking individuals and collectives, anywhere, working in any medium, to apply. They are looking for “original, focused proposals for tangible projects which turn obsession into objects, imagination into imagery.”
After winning over a judging panel of some big players in the creative fields – including de Lange and It’s Nice That founder, Will Hudson – the winners will be offered advice and mentoring, as well as the funding their project needs to be realised. Of the initiative and the eventual winners, de Lange told Berlin-based magazine Freunde von Freunden, “I hope it can be a passion project, fulfilled. Just like Ace & Tate is for me.”
Photography credit: Occult Studio