By Bailey Quam
Not everyone has experienced it, but many have heard stories about friends and relatives who have spent hours at a store feeling helpless and lost as they try to select a pair of eyeglasses. Iristocracy, a Madison-based company, is looking to transform that sometimes-intimidating process by giving customers a new –and virtual — option.
Founded by Natasha Vora and her silent partner in January 2012, Iristocracy aims to take eyewear somewhere it has never been. To make eyeglasses as accessible as other fashion accessories, the company has built a website that allows people to try on glasses using 3D technology. Iristocracy believes it is one of the first companies in the world to offer this type of virtual shopping experience to customers.
“We want people to see eyewear as the ultimate accessory, something that should be part of person’s outfit and an expression of their personality,” Vora said of the company’s ultimate goal.
With a history in the eyewear industry Vora believes that starting this new movement will be the company’s biggest challenge. Iristocracy will focus on helping each customer to find the right glasses and then accessorize around the selected pair. The website will include other accessories such as hand bags, watches and bracelets, handpicked by Creative Director Shayna Miller.
The company plans to use tools such as social media, blogging and news releases to help change the public’s perception about buying eyewear online.
“We need to show people that with our advanced technology, buying frames online isn’t as scary as they think,” Vora said.
Iristocracy has been self-financed thus far, but “the next couple of months will be key in finding investors,” Vora said, “In order for us to take the next step we need to find people who believe in our movement like we do.”
While Iristocracy will be the first company to use this 3D technology, there is competition in the online eyewear marketplace, Vora said. The first category of competitors is online warehouses that sell discount eyewear, “but nothing is exciting,” Vora explained. Other competitor’s websites offer more fashionable eyewear options but there is no substance in overall website design, she said.
However, unlike many online eyewear websites Iristocracy won’t offer eye exams or try to fit the lenses online. Instead customers will take their selected frames to a vendor of their choice for proper prescription and fitting. The cost of frames selected through Iristocracy will average about $300.
“We want the doctors to focus on the health of the eye and for us to focus on the eyewear people wear every day,” Vora said.
As Iristocracy moves to the next steps of its business plan raising money as quickly as possible is key, Vora said, but a good customer experience is also important.
“We are offering quality, hand-picked accessories and we are excited about sharing our product and our mentality,” Vora said.
Quam is a student in the UW- Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.