[The Melon Optics Parker in its element. Photo: Janez Kocbek]
Melon Optics is a new player in the snowboarding eyewear market. With a focus on customisation and affordable quality, they've started building a solid team, both behind the scenes and on the hill – Norwegian up-and-comer Thomas Iversen (check the kid's part - boss!), Slovenian heavy hitter Nejc Pucko, and longtime Swedish destroyer Hans Ahlund.
The ability to build up your own goggle from their components sounds an interesting one, so we hit up co-founder James Pointer to get the lowdown...
What's your background in snowboarding?
I started doing seasons in France straight out of school and that was it. Everything became about snowboarding and ways to fit in the next trip. Having done three full winters in the mountains and countless trips in between studies, it was becoming more and more apparent that the standard 9-5 wasn't going to work out. Melon became a vehicle for continuing to live on our own terms, whilst creating something that we were truly interested in and passionate about.
What's your role at Melon? Both powerful-sounding job title and day-to-day duties?
Co-founder and CEO. As with any growing brand, everyone wears a lot of hats and over the course of the brand's growth I have pretty much done every role possible as some point or another. That's the nature of starting a brand and often what needs to be done. However, as we've brought more people on to the team, I've been able to concentrate on the production side and overall brand strategy.
Who else is involved in Melon?
The team is now made up of six members, with three of them being management. Over the course of the last couple of months we have doubled the size of the team and brought on some heavy hitters from the industry that have a wealth of experience. Neil Slinger has joined us from CLWR to cover our international brand management and sales, whilst David Cowan will be joining us to tackle the marketing side of things.
Melon started with an MO to produce affordable, customisable sunnies. What made you branch out to start making goggles, and why was it important to you to carry over the same ethos of affordability and ability to customise?
On a personal level, the end goal was always to go into goggles, but given the time of year that the idea to start the brand came about, sunglasses made sense first. Goggles offered so much more product to play with on a creative level and from day one we knew we wanted to create an industry first and make a fully customisable and interchangeable goggle.
We saw an opportunity for our customers to really integrate with the brand and have a part in creating the final product that they received. We provide the components (frame, lens and strap), but our customers get to create a goggle - from the 1,500+ combinations possible - that is truly unique to their style.
From a price point, we didn't want to pay €180+ for a goggle and we didn't believe that it was necessary to charge that much. We were broke seasonaires, most of our friends were broke seasonaires, and that market was our starting point, so we worked on the best ways to get our price to match that market.
You crowdfunded the development of the goggles. Why was this necessary and how affirming is it for a young brand to see that people are into a product before you've produced it?
There was a lot of deliberation about whether we were going to crowdfund, but in hindsight it was the best thing we could have done both from a financial and a brand growth perspective. It validated that we were on the right track with what we were offering and put momentum behind the brand that helped us to go from an idea, to something that a lot of people were talking about in a matter of days. I think most importantly it showed the personal side of the brand. People could see that we were in it for the right reasons and wanted to support that and become part of a core community around the brand.
Practically, what does the goggle customisation process entail?
We keep stock of components (frames, straps and lenses) rather than complete goggles and hand assemble them when someone makes and order. Keeping all of our dispatch operations within Europe means that we are able to send a custom pair of goggles out on the same day that they are ordered and have them with the customer as early as the next day.
What kind of tech is involved in the goggles, and how do you manage to hit such a decent pricepoint?
From a product standpoint, we've always taken the view that our goggles have to be up there with the best on the market. Our manufacturer produces goggles for some of the biggest brands in the world and we are taking steps to integrate lenses by Zeiss, one of the most renowned lens manufacturers in the world, into our goggles next season.
The classic retail model has a tendency to make people think that the more expensive things are, the better they must be. We realised early on that if we were going to be able to provide such high quality products at a reasonable price point, that the classic model of distributor - shop - customer could not be the only part of our retail strategy.
By creating a great website and selling direct, we are able to pass on the savings to our customers and we also support this with a small select number of core shops. Focusing on a few shops allows us create strong relationships, provide great support and maximise shops sales by offering an in-store custom goggles solution that no one on the market is doing.
You have three models. How do they differ in terms of design, performance, price and intended user?
We have three models, the Chief, Jackson and Parker. In terms of performance and price we have kept everything level across the board, with the design being the only thing that changes. That way our customers our always assured of a great quality product regardless of the style they go for.
Do you hook up any snowboarders, or is this something you're looking to do in the future?
We have a growing team of snowboarders from around Europe including Slovenian powerhouse, Nejc Pucko, Thomas Iversen (Norway) and old time legend Hans Åhlund (Sweden). All of those guys are coming out with some great stuff and both Nejc and Thomas are working on new projects at the moment, so keep your eyes peeled for what's to come!
If people are down and want to buy a pair, where can they get their hands on Melon goggles?
Head over to www.melonoptics.com or you can also purchase through some of our select retailers throughout Europe.