The optic world is evolving and eyewear brand polette is at the forefront of this shift, delivering unique glasses where quality and style meet affordability.
When Schön! last caught up with polette, we spoke with Creative Director Fanny Maillet and Product and Showroom Design Director Elodie Stéphant, who revealed the label’s mission to make eyewear accessible and a factory-to-consumer model that keeps the industry on its toes. This time, Schön! chats with co-founder Pauline Cousseau to discover more about the story behind the brand, her journey as an entrepreneur and sustainability.
Growing up, Cousseau always wanted to create an environment of her own. “I had a lot of issues with rules and regulations, so I thought ‘If I build my own company, I make my own rules.’ But then you grow up and realise this is not completely true!” she laughs. Her story starts in France, where she lived until the age of 19, before deciding to head to Shanghai amid the 2008 financial crisis: “I studied International Business and Languages and I had the opportunity to go to China. I was kind of frustrated in France. It was in 2008 and, as a student, I felt the negativity everywhere and the lack of opportunities.”
The doom and gloom at the time pushed the then-student to look for brighter horizons. “I am a positive person. I want to win. I want to, you know, fight. So, I arrived in China and I stayed for seven years because I just love the energy there and the dynamic,” Cousseau explains. It was there that she met her soon-to-be business partner Pierre Wizman and, together, they spotted a peculiar niche which would set her trajectory for the next ten years.
“When we were in China, all of our friends were wearing eyeglasses with fashionable frames that cost them €20, but in France, my parents were paying €500,” Cousseau recalls. The pair decided to investigate. They visited factories, checked out price lists and discovered big brands were using the same services, so the hefty price tag associated with eyewear simply didn’t make sense. They had uncovered the optical world’s biggest open secret: it doesn’t have to be that expensive. Cousseau continues, “We were just stunned and decided ‘Okay, there is something to do here.’ It’s not fair that people are paying stupid, expensive amounts for glasses. It’s their eyesight!”
Enter: polette.com. The brand asks the question, ‘If manufacturing glasses cost less than €10, why would you pay €400?’ Their answer was to come up with a new business model. By cutting out the intermediaries between the manufacturer and the customer, the company is able to reduce costs while still delivering on design and quality. Plus, polette boasts a zero-stock system: “We produce on demand, and then we deliver to you,” Cousseau explains — but you can still head into one of their brick-and-mortar showrooms to try on a sample pair.
Attention to detail is evident in everything, from the bold frames to the use of everyday people in their lookbooks, and it doesn’t stop there. Like every company, the brand has had to adapt due to COVID-19, but is still planning expansion, with various impending showroom openings. In 2020, polette also managed to launch its sustainable collection – eco-acetate glasses made 61 percent from plant seeds and containing less than 1 percent of Phthalate/DEP. At the end of their life, these frames are 60 percent biodegradable after just 150 days. It’s a range that Cousseau is extremely proud of: “When you run a company, there are some milestones that remind you that you’re doing something good, and that was one of those milestones for me last year.”
Looking forward, Cousseau is focused on launching polette’s new Spring/Summer collection. Summed up as representing ‘equality, justice, respect’, each frame is ‘inspired by the striking spirit’ of the 60s with its bright colours and experimental aesthetics. With oversized shapes and carefully crafted details, every design is a statement, as well as being made from eco and recycled acetate. While she can’t say much pre-launch, Cousseau confirms, “It’s going to be a beautiful collection.”
For more information, visit polette.com.
This Schön! 40 editorial has been produced by
photography. Stephanie Pistel
fashion. Astrid Schilders
talent. Nick, Nicky, Abdul, Sophie, Lou, Nash + Souda @ The Movement Models
hair. Ilham Mestour using Keune Haircosmetics
make up. Katerina Brans using Pat McGrath Labs + Ole Henriksen @ Nice Work
nails. Manouk van Santen
gaffer. Hyung Balkema
retouch. Edwin Veer + Stephan Lesger
movement director. Juanjo Arqués
special thanks. UMSJATKA studios
words. Jade Thompson