[7 MINUTE READ]
Happy Friday everyone and welcome back for another Friday Founder interview! This week in the UK our national lockdown has lifted and, although it has been replaced by a tier-based restriction system, in London shops and restaurants can now reopen. That alone is cause for celebration!
In equally exciting news, this week we had the opportunity to chat to Antonin Chartier, the CEO of Jimmy Fairly. Jimmy Fairly is the eyewear brand that creates accessible quality eyewear with a positive social impact. For each pair bought, Jimmy Fairly donates a pair to someone in need.
As someone who has worn glasses and contact lenses since the age of 7, I couldn’t be more thrilled to find an eyewear brand with not only gorgeous frames but such a beautiful mission to help those who need it most. You know the drill, grab your espresso and just keep reading...
Welcome Antonin. I’m so excited to chat to you. Could you start by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel it has influenced you today?
Thanks for having me. I’m excited to chat to you too! Well, my father was a commercial director and my mother worked in the voluntary sector. Today, I realise that both of their positions have influenced me in their own way. I always knew I would launch a company, and a company that enriches people’s lives was the perfect marriage of my two passions; business and social change.
"I wanted to create something that could be beautiful, useful but more than anything, that could enrich people’s daily lives."
It really is! So when did you decide to start up Jimmy Fairly and why? Was the timing important?
When I had the idea to create Jimmy Fairly in 2010, I was 23 years old and in university studying psychology. I wanted to invent something that could be beautiful and useful.
One day, I realised I needed glasses so I went to the optician. While I was there I naively said to myself: “How can such a simple object cost the price of an iPhone?” When I started my research, I realised that a multitude of intermediaries came to take their share of the cake and that eyewear was no longer interested in us, the customers.
How sad. At CAROLINA GMX, something we are really interested in is how businesses are tackling climate change and considering issues of sustainability. How does this factor into Jimmy Fairly as a business?
When Jimmy Fairly was born in 2010 the idea was to create something bigger than yet another new start-up. I wanted to create something that could be beautiful, useful but more than anything, that could enrich people’s daily lives.
Doing the right thing is in our DNA as a company. Even as a small business, we have always done our best to be fully responsible for our actions and aware of the ecological impact that our beautiful collections could leave behind. I believe people want meaningful shopping experiences that contribute to conscious consumption and longevity and in turn, have a positive impact on society.
The sad reality is that glasses are a product that is almost impossible to recycle 100%. However, we believe that it is possible to create beautiful glasses that respect the environment by creating responsible production without waste. We are a young independent French brand and we certainly do not have the means to innovate as larger companies do, but we are deeply passionate about what we do and committed to leaving a positive impact on the world. This year has been tough for our brand, but we are committed to maintaining and developing a fair, sustainable and eco-friendly company.
That’s really inspiring to hear! Do you think people are more conscious of the materials and fabrics in their clothes nowadays? If so, why?
Absolutely! People are becoming more and more conscious of the way they consume and that makes me really happy. Personally, I’m working on ways to reduce my ecological footprint and waste on a daily basis, and we are doing the same at Jimmy Fairly.
2 years ago, we developed a capsule collection using bio-acetate and today, I’m proud to tell you that - despite the current climate - we are working really hard to pass 100% of the acetate we are using into bio-acetate. Hopefully, in March 2021 it will be available!
That’s fantastic! So what were your biggest challenges in starting up Jimmy Fairly?
The biggest challenge was understanding how we could make the brand profitable so that we could get a salary each month! At first, Jimmy Fairly was a 100% online business and after months of losing a lot of money, we thought it was the end. It was a really rough time, trust me. Then we started watching our customers more closely and finally realised that we needed to open some physical stores!
Thank you for your honesty. It’s brilliant that you were able to watch and learn from your customers to turn it around. What other strategies do you think have been key to the success of Jimmy Fairly?
Focusing on the customer, always. People don’t really buy prescription glasses online, especially when they don’t know the brand. We actually took advantage of a French law, which dictates that for customers to receive their €200/year eye health subsidy for prescription glasses, online opticians must have a physical location to receive their customers and process returns if required. Rather than have customers visit an office hidden in a building, as most other brands did, Jimmy Fairly’s answer to this was to open a showroom. This became a place where customers could come and experience the brand first hand, and in turn, the brand could gain real-time feedback from our customers.
It sounds like you’ve been really flexible and paying attention to what your customer wants. What is your favourite thing about your job?
My favourite thing is seeing my team grow as humans through the values of Jimmy Fairly. Everyone has learnt that we can create beautiful eyewear without being expensive or inaccessible. Beauty is not about price, it’s about creativity.
I couldn’t agree more! Do you have a favourite store that you have opened?
Today, we have 53 stores across France and London and I have to say that I’m particularly proud of two of them. The first one is located in the heart of Le Marais in Paris, rue des Francs-Bourgeois. At the time we designed the store we already had 10 others, so for this one, I wanted to create something special, curated and truly beautiful where our customers would feel good.
The second store is located in the heart of Toulouse, in the south of France. Toulouse is a historic city for us as it was the first place we had opened a store outside of Paris. We wanted to provide an amazing customer experience for our loyal toulousains and so, in 2020, we decided to open the biggest store we have ever opened in Toulouse! The idea was built entirely around the customer experience, featuring an exclusive offer of ‘Glasses ready in 60 minutes’. While customers wait, they can indulge in Jimmy’s lifestyle; tasting the delicious barista coffee with friends whilst lounging in Jimmy’s bar, or visiting our ‘All Eyes on You’ room of mirrors, dedicated to the Instagram lovers. That room offers our customers infinite ways to capture their best angle!
Oh my goodness, I’d love to visit that store. It looks stunning! What do you think makes Jimmy Fairly stand out?
First of all, we try to lead by example by doing the right thing. For every pair sold we give a pair to someone in need with the help of non-profits.
Secondly, all our new collections are made in ecological acetate. We believe that we can create beautiful glasses with high-quality materials, and make them affordable by cutting out the middleman. We want to make our customers smile and have an amazing time with us in the process! That’s what makes us different from the others.
"The most meaningful moment of all was when I realised that we had given more than 400,000 pairs of glasses to people in need with the help of our non-profit."
That positive energy definitely shines through Jimmy Fairly. Could you describe your biggest “pinch-me” moment?
Starting my brand at 23 and hitting 100 million euros in sales a few years later is something I’m pretty proud of! Another special moment was when I did a presentation in front of 250 people working for the brand, all jobs created by Jimmy Fairly. It was incredible! I think the most meaningful moment of all was when I realised that we had given more than 400,000 pairs of glasses to people in need with the help of our non-profit.
Wow. That is a real achievement and testament to the brand you have created. Congratulations! What inspires you?
People who challenge the status quo and people trying to excel in what they do (even if they’re not the best in the world). Also, my pug Fairly inspires me every day with her enormous energy!
Aw, I love pugs! What does an average day look like for you?
Work work work. Then the thought: ‘Oh, maybe I should work less?’ Then, more work.
Haha, I’m guessing the work/life balance is still a work in progress then?
I would say so. I’m definitely working on it. It’s difficult at the beginning when you’re creating a business from the ground up.
I can imagine. What words do you live by?
“Everyone thought it was impossible until someone did it.”
I love that! What’s next for Jimmy Fairly?
We want to become the future of eyewear by making choices that are better for the planet and for its people… Then, go worldwide baby.