Story by Liz Best
Each year, the Savannah College of Art and Design hosts SCADStyle, a 5-day series of events in Atlanta, Savannah and Hong Kong featuring creative individuals from innovative companies. This year, students in Atlanta were lucky enough to hear from Neil Blumenthal, one of the co-founders of Warby Parker.
Founded in 2010, when Blumenthal and three of his friends from Wharton Business School decided to launch a company that made eyewear affordable, the company now offers a variety of frame styles with their prescription lenses that start at a cost of only $95. The glasses made their debut in GQ magazine, and within weeks of their launch had a waiting list of over 20,000 people. But they're not just stylish; they have a social mission, too. Warby Parker partners with the Vision Spring organization to provide people in developing countries with glasses. Through what they call their "buy a pair, give a pair" program, they have now distributed over 1 million pairs of glasses to individuals in need.
Blumenthal spoke about Warby’s charitable work and also gave insight into how it is connected with their brand identity. The name for the company, for one, came from combining the names of two characters from one of Jack Kerouac’s personal journals, and they have continued the theme of literacy throughout the company’s stores and e-commerce site. Their first store was an homage to libraries, complete with custom desk lamps and ladders allowing access to a collection of their favorite books. They continue to keep all of their stores stocked with books, including the new Buckhead Atlanta location, which opened in September last year, and has experienced strong success ever since.
Blumenthal explained that before Warby tries something new they ask themselves if it has a compelling narrative and if it is authentic to Warby Parker. They use these brand filters to stay true to the identity they have created.