Gerard Masci, co-founder, Lowercase eyewear

Gerard Masci, co-founder, Lowercase eyeglasses (Photo courtesy of Lowercase)

When health issues forced Gerard Masci, co-founder and visionary behind the Brooklyn-based eyewear brand Lowercase, to take two years off from his career in finance in 2012, he left the experience feeling awakened, energized and with the unique opportunity to start life over. The idea to launch an eyewear brand came accidentally, he tells us in our podcast: “I was literally sitting at home on my sofa and I went to change my glasses because I change my glasses a lot.” He had a sudden insight:  “I really love this stuff. I don’t collect anything. I don’t have huge aggressive hobbies that I’m constantly pursuing. But pursuing new glasses was something that I kind of always did. And I never thought about it that way. That’s kind of where it all started.”

Masci quickly realized that the global eyewear market and supply chain is dominated by one company: the Italian giant Luxottica. Masci and his business partner, architect and designer Brian Vallario, knew that in order to produce the small-batch, high-quality collections they envisioned, they needed to bring the manufacturing in-house. Not only was this uncharted territory for Masci, who had no prior experience in design or manufacturing, it was an industry that had since become virtually nonexistent in the U.S. Masci believes that trends in outsourcing and price-conscious consumerism of the last few decades are the cause of this. “In that context, story and quality has a lot less sway in a purchasing decision.” But he feels the tide is turning, pointing to the farm-to-table movement as part of the resurgence of interest in where and how our products are made. “I thought maybe this is the time that the market might be interested in a locally made product and [getting] a little bit of clarity into the process.”

Today, the Lowercase team is part of the next era of American manufacturers that are setting up shop in the recently renovated Brooklyn Army Terminal, a mammoth structure in Sunset Park with a rich manufacturing history of its own. Lowercase launched its first collection in January of this year. Read our profile of the company here. –By Kim Thornton