Anchor image: Silas Hwang, 31, co-founder of O+
You might have seen O+ some years ago in a suburban mall in northern Singapore, but walk into their slick flagship in OUE Downtown and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was an entirely new brand.
Brass fixtures suspended from the ceiling, sleek cabinets floating off the ground and strategically placed lights to flatter every reflection: it’s a millennial’s dream come to life. “We made the store to be Instagram-worthy,” says co-founder Silas Hwang. It was his idea, after all, to adopt the store’s current modern aesthetic.
But his plan for the decades-old eyewear business — started as an optical shop known as Eden Eyeland in 1985 by his father David, who diversified into eyewear design and manufacturing — extends far beyond its spacious, Scandi-inspired storefront.
Together with younger brother Shamus, they also introduced new tech and fresh perspectives with the vision of carving out a fitting niche for O+ in the saturated market of fast eyewear.
With the influx of spectacle shops offering low prices and wide design choices, how does O+ keep up?
Silas The spectacles market in Singapore is relatively polarised; you either have super-cheap or very high-end stores. We thought there could be a niche for good design and good quality, but at affordable prices. So in 2017, we closed our store in AMK Hub and opened a new one in OUE. As part of the rebranding, we redesigned the storefront to look more clean and modern to attract a younger clientele.
How do you keep the business current?
Silas Something interesting that we recently brought in is 3D printing, to prototype new glasses. It’s faster as we can just pull on the glasses and see how we look. Traditional production samples take up to four weeks to produce.
Shamus We’re also big on social media, which our dad never was. He wouldn’t have understood the importance of branding. Both of us are millennials, so we do. We spent quite a bit on getting our branding right. We curate everything you see in our store, from designs to displays. But one thing our dad is really good at is customer service. He trains the staff and ensures service is top-notch.
What’s it like working with family?
Silas Good design is a very subjective thing, so you have to be ready to have a lot of… different opinions (laughs). Many times, my dad or brother might design something, and my mum will go, “I don’t like it. But if it sells well, she’s like, “Okay”. But if it’s the other way around, she’ll be like, “I told you so!”
David Working in a family business comes with its own challenges, but the rewards far outweigh them. We have a succession plan underway and I’d love for the business to get passed down to the younger generation, with the same principles of trust, love and integrity intact.
This story first appeared in the December 2019 issue of A.