An Eye for Design: Building An Affordable Luxury Brand
Kumar Arora is entrepreneur meets designer.
His mother, a student of all things art and his father a scientist specializing in nano coatings for eyeglass lenses, Arora was surrounded by inspiration. Watching, observing, studying, a student of Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University and an Economics major at the Ohio State University, it seemed as if he was destined to create something big, something of his own one day.
“Rogue Eyewear has been a project well thought out over the years but is finally coming to fruition.”
While the concept was in the back of his mind for years, it was a plan that was set in motion after Arora partnered with a fellow Clevelander, Glen Infante, of the streetwear brand, iLTHY in late 2011. “Working alongside (Infante) gave me the knowledge of brand identity, and resources for Rogue. I have been fortunate to be a part of its story.”
In 2012, Arora headed to Milan for the optical conference MIDO, and was further inspired to hit the ground running, designing sample styles on his trip back home.
Although Arora’s concept was inspired by favorites including “SUPER Sunglasses, Oliver People’s, Maui Jim, and the ever popular Rayban,” his concept was unique: to build an affordable luxury brand.
“The name Rogue itself described my state of mind when designing the pieces and starting up with this venture. The concept came about because I was angry. Everywhere I would go, I would see so many brands doing great things in much bigger cities and always charging such high prices for luxury. I wanted to change that. Rogue Eyewear is a departure in every possible way: from materials, to cost, to being home grown…without compromising in any way.”
How to marry two things that are usually seen with irony? Arora laughs, “That’s not an easy thing to say. Luxury and affordable are generally two things that never tend to work together. The problem today is that people equate luxury with expensive. Can’t blame them either — thats just how society has been conditioned. We’ve achieved this by conveying that in our branding and imagery, working with some phenomenal manufacturers, and quite simply – just not over-inflating the goods itself. No one actually ever said you actually have to pay $300 for a piece of plastic.”
Although Arora assures that his frames are affordable, he notes “when coming up with the brand, the number one factor in its creation was to make sure that no expense was spared. From packaging, to look books, to the materials, I wanted to make sure I can deliver a product that can stand the test of time and stand next to the bigger eyewear giants.”
Arora prides his brand on the fact that it was built here in Cleveland and very meticulously so.
“Everything from investment, to design, to product development was done by my internal team. I want to keep working ‘out of the box,’ so much of our marketing, materials used are different than other brands. I can’t give everything away, but as seasons go by – it will be easier to achieve this for us. It’s really important to have everything feel finished. I’ve got a dedicated group from packaging, to customer service, to operations, to design. While we might be an independent and up and coming brand, I did not ever want the customer to feel that we are almost ‘too small.'”
Arora excitedly reports quick growth for the company and much excitement for the future. He secretly dishes on the next line, which will feature materials never used or thought of before.
All of this brand development, Arora admits, is a process that grows and changes day by day. “I’d like to think in the process of brand development, there are often times “human” qualities one can see. A brand can represent an actual person, a state of mind, a philosophy, or even an emotion. In the case for Rogue…it was the feeling I got towards the optical industry having been involved for much of my life but never actually having created something on my own. In essence, the brand is truly an extension of myself.”
His recommendation for new designers on the same path? “Seek out every puzzle piece before developing a brand. From manufacturing processes, to capital, design, to operation, to even potential distribution channels.”
Arora, with an eye for design and a passion to match, encourages his colleagues to push themselves as they build their own dream product.
“Most designers stick to what they know and never venture out and try to learn other parts of their own business or new skill sets. That’s too easy. Get down to the gritty stuff and master each part otherwise your brand won’t have a fighting chance.”
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