Are you ready for this? Meet the man who Puts the ‘K’ in KITE, ‘F’ in Flight. An individual who understands Design, Fashion and Quality! Who you ask…only the Founder and ultimate KITE Guru (Drum roll Please) Asad Hamir!
First impressions of KITEs big boss are completely in-sync with KITE. Asad oozes personality, style and he’s a man who knows what he wants. Gallantly sat in his Central London office, Asad tells us about his ‘Blank Paper approach to KITE, FIFA, and flying Kite’s with his Father'. Read on fellow KITERs
How did you come up for the concept of KITE?
My family has been in the optics business for the last 40 years, with my mother being the first qualified optometrist, having come over from Uganda in the 70s, graduating she opened an opticians business with her brother and sister which grew to 4 stores. Her business stood for providing amazing quality designer glasses, fantastic customer service and brilliant eye care. The industry became a family trade and amazingly since then 40 of my fellow cousins have become Optometrists (no this is not a typo- you read right, now put that tongue back in), dispensing g opticians and Ophthalmologists. I qualified myself in 2006 but have been in the industry since the age of 16, having worked in my mums business.
Salim and I (also my first cousin and optometrist), my co-founder sat down about 2 years ago, we reflected on the industry that we love and felt that it had really lost its Mojo.
Innovation from a frame design perspective was at an all time low, designs were un-inspiring and repetitive. Product quality was on a downward spiral as manufacturers went in search of better margins. From an experience perspective we looked at the current high street offering in opticians, and compared it to some of the aspirational retailers on the high street known for world-class customer service, like Apple and Zara – there was no comparison.
Using all of our experience in the industry, we wanted to create a brand that stood for innovation in eyewear design and fashion, unbeatable product quality, fantastic healthcare and with the most knockout customer experience of any retailer on the high street. We wanted to re-ignite the values that my mother had used to start the family business all those years ago, and rejuvenate the industry that our families all love.
Why KITE as a name?
The inspiration for the name came from reading Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. In Afghanistan, the Taliban banned Kite flying, but their fall meant that Afghans could fly Kites once more. Kite flying is known locally as “Gudiparan bazi” and it became a symbol of freedom and happiness. Having read this book and seeing what Kite’s stood for – a breath of fresh air, reaching new heights, soaring above and the excitement of flying a Kite, I knew KITE was the name for our brand.
There was also the design of a Kite; whilst they may look effortless there is a real science behind Kite design and flight of a Kite. The Kite mark is a British standard for quality and excellence, which fit our quality values. And most importantly there were the memories from my childhood days of flying Kites with my dad in Devon – happy childhood memories and dreams (Awwww little Asad)
Where has the inspiration come from for the KITE Brand Marque?
We wanted a Strong brand marque that stood for everything that a Kite stood for – Strength, simplicity and elegance. The Marque is a strong shape that can be used in a number of different ways, different colour's and varying patterns & one that is an immediate identifier for the brand.
How did thing’s get started?
Things started pretty slowly…We spent the first nine months or so really thinking through our proposition, and building our ELITE team & network consisting of brand specialists, graphics designers, eyewear designers and industry contacts. When you are creating a brand though, I do think you need to properly think through your proposition, who you are and what you stand for before jumping into the next stage of actually developing the brand. Several branding sessions later, KITE was born, ready to take flight.
One of the challenges but also the most exciting thing about developing KITE as a brand was that we started every conversation with a blank sheet of paper approach, forgetting about what the industry does, what competitors do – we are a brand that want to stand for going above and beyond for our customers.
Who designs the frames & where?
The eyewear design community is a very niche world, with only a handful of designers all over the world. We work with the very best designers in Britain and really push them to innovate our product with our design ethos around modern designs pushing trends, product quality, different materials and comfort for the customer. Having been a glasses wearer my whole life, there is nothing more annoying than poor quality, poorly fitted glasses that produce those horrible red marks on your nose and that pinching feeling behind your ears – we want KITEs to guarantee an all-day comfortable wear. (They honestly do, no really pop into store don't just take my word for it)
Where is the product made?
We have chosen Italian manufacturing as for decades the gold standard for the best quality has been there. Our factories are based in a place known locally as the “valley of the sunglasses”, called Belluno, where apparently sunglasses were first invented to protect Farmers eyes on the dolomites from UV protection. In the factory we use the most innovative techniques available for eyewear manufacturing with the highest level of polish and finishing available. No expense is spared and an uncompromising process to produce glasses of the highest quality.
When starting KITE was having the right staff important for you?
I've been a retailer my whole life and retail is ALL about the right people. We are very picky with who we hire, and don’t necessarily just take people from within the industry. Richard Branson one of my inspirations, talks about hiring based on 'Personality' and that is what we do. We hire people that can create memories for our customers.
Why did you choose Stratford Westfield for your first store?
Again being a retailer my whole life, I wanted to “play” on the greatest stage of them all, Europe’s largest shopping center – Westfield Stratford, with a fantastic captive audience. KITEs product and price point is for everyone, and we think the demographic fits the brand perfectly.
Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the store design?
When we approached Fourmation (Chris & John below) our design agency the brief was simple; 'Blank sheet of paper', forget about whatever Opticians do today and lets ditch the 'STERILE' for 'STYLE', lets create an experience people will LOVE. We wanted to create an experience that was closer to fashion – ambiance, colour, lighting, vibrancy and that incorporate elements at the cutting edge of technology and digital. Everything in the store design has been tailor made for us, designed meticulously from ground up.
Our Selfie mirrors are something I’m especially proud of – technology and software we have developed ourselves. They are 46” 1080P HD Touchscreens that allow you to take pictures of yourself in your favorite KITEs, with a cool filter applied and share to social media. Our testing rooms are cutting edge with the latest Carl Zeiss equipment, retinal cameras to provide customers with the best eye care. We have even thought of refreshments and offer fantastic Nespresso coffee, carrot juice (carrots are good for your eyes!) and if you are lucky carrot cake at the weekends! It’s a fun experience and that’s what we wanted, to give you that same fuzzy feeling when buying a pair of heels, but instead when buying glasses #Sigh
Is KITE your first business venture?
No KITE is my 2nd 'proper' business. I had a number of small enterprises at university to pay my way through student life, but they don’t count! (Then there are the rest of us still paying back a Student Loan)
My other business is Telenomics, a Telecoms company that I’ve been running for the last 6 years – we are O2s largest Franchise partner and employ 250 people in the UK for which I am the CEO.
Which KITEs do you own?
I've got a few pairs! – Fournier, Boundary, Rivington, Pacific, Martino. I'm just trialing one of our new pairs due to come out end of September, plus I cant wait for the metals!
Do you have a favorite?
It has to be my current pair the boundaries which I have in the TWR and the Camo Havana colour – my favorite colour in the range.
What’s your life like outside of work? Do you have any hobbies?
Huge video game fan here! I'm eagerly waiting for FIFA15 to come out on the PS4! I love my food but I’m more pizza and kebabs than fine dining. I try and keep myself fit - go to the gym, play a bit of squash and love to socialize and meet new people.
What’s the future for KITE?
Over the last 4 months we have established a pretty solid foundation, its now about growth and continuing to push the collection harder. We will double the size of the collection by the end of October - new shapes, new colours, new materials and new trends.
Store growth is going to be important we are looking for new sites in London as we speak!
What does it feel like to see the finished products proudly displayed in your store?
It feels good but nothings better than seeing your product on someone’s face. I’ll be honest when we opened we were pretty nervous as we had taken some big risks to start KITE and not really cut any corners in expense. You are asking yourself – ‘Will people like it, Will they like the product, Will they connect with the brand?’ I’m glad (and a bit relieved!) that people are enjoying the experience and are purchasing the product, and nothing makes me happier than smiles on our customers faces plus uber cool glasses too :)