Konrad Billetz is the co-founder and CEO of Frameri, the first and only interchangeable frame and lens system for prescription eyewear. I recently met him at the brands New York City launch, and shortly thereafter, saw the wunderkind on Forbes‘ 2015 30 Under 30 list – not bad. Here, he tells us story to Life+Times and fills us in on why it all started with a BB Gun.
Life+Times: You’re the first company to create prescription glasses with interchangeable lenses. Where did this idea stem from?
Konrad Billetz: Well, I’ve worn glasses since an eye accident when I was younger. I always wanted to own a few designer frames and be able to wear my normal glasses as sunglasses. One day, sitting on the beach in Montauk, I kept putting my sunglasses over my frames and it didn’t make sense to me why I couldn’t just pop sun lenses into my frames. Immediately, I started searching online to find someone making interchangeable and stylish specs. When I couldn’t find anyone doing it, I figured it was a great opportunity to make glasses better.
L+T: Consumers, when creating their frames, are able to choose from three different lens shapes – Tidal, Terra, Aerial. What are the differences in each shape?
KB: When we were creating the first designs, we studied a lot of faces, and I mean a lot of faces. Each lens shape is designed to compliment the most common face shapes. Aerial is more of a reader-style shape, Tidal is our most versatile shape – the shape for everyone, and Terra is made for people with “big heads.” We were getting so many requests from people saying they had ‘big heads’ that we decided Terra was a must. We have three new super-secretive shapes that we’ll be releasing in the upcoming months.
L+T: You’re based in Cincinnati but the frames are handmade in Italy — what’s the creative culture in Cincinnati like? How has this helped your business?
KB: Cincinnati has to be one of most creative places I’ve ever experienced. They have one of the top design schools in the nation (UC DAAP) and have a plethora of design and ad agencies due to the corporate headquarters of P&G, Macy’s, and Kroger being right up the street from us. Everywhere you look in Cincinnati you see great design – even the logos on the police cars are impressive. Being in Cincinnati has really helped us significantly. The entire community of designers, photographers, and creatives in general have been really supportive of us. Everyone wants to help and contribute to our mission, so we end up getting a lot of creative work either significantly discounted or free. Thank you Cincy!
L+T: You invented something called “The Key,” which is unique to Frameri. Can you tell me a little bit about this?
KB: Ahh, “The Key.” It’s really the technology around our entire system. It’s the ring that we ‘glue’ around your lens that makes snapping in-and-out over-and-over again possible. When we were designing it we wanted to make sure it was very elegant and simple, but still allowed some customization of color for the customer. We currently have three colors available. It’s the perfect way to add that extra pop of color to your specs.
L+T: You were shot by a BB gun as a kid. Are you a daredevil?
KB: I would definitely classify myself as an adrenaline junky. I love living on the edge. My dream is to earn my pilot’s license, pack a single bag, and explore all the corners the world.
L+T: What are your rules for getting dressed in the morning?
KB: Is it cliché to say “forget the rules and be yourself?” I feel like that’s what I tend to do. Generally speaking, I like to stand out without it being overly obvious. I also will create excuses to wear more layers. Layers let you change on whim, which I love, hence Frameri.
L+T: You were recently named one of Forbes 30 under 30. What an accomplishment. What are your plans for the business. Where do you plan on taking it?
KB: We plan on really pushing the envelope in eyewear. We already are becoming a company known for colors that no-one else has – a big benefit of being able to change frequently – so we’ll continue to keep those fresh each season. As I mentioned before, we’ll also be releasing new lens shapes and frame designs and have a few confidential brand partnerships in the works. Above all, we want to keep listening to our loyal customers and keep finding new ways to surprise them.
L+T: You’ve met me. Do you remember my face? Hope so. Now, what frames would you recommend to grace my face?
KB: Haha, of course! The safe answer would be to tell you to go for the Ida frame in the Terra collection in Granite, Sky, or Navy. It’s very similar to what you already wear, but the lines and cut make it way more dramatic. If you want to step outside the box, I’d say the Magellan frame from the Tidal collection in either Clear or Cheetah – it’s nothing that you’ll be used to, but getting outside your comfort zone is always a good time.