Mark de Lange | Ace & Tate
Introducing classic designs with a contemporary twist. The best part? You no longer have to pay hundreds of Euros for a stylish and durable new pair of glasses.
Ace & Tate
offers Italian, handmade frame cuts from the finest acetate and fitted with high-quality lenses, all for the price of
(just!) 98 euros. Based in Amsterdam, the eyewear company was founded by magazine enthusiast with an eye for design, Mark de Lange (1981, Laren). We stopped by Ace & Tate's new office
on the Overtoom to talk about the concept and where they're headed next.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I’m cofounder of Ace & Tate. Previously, I was the Managing Partner of Global Grid Capital , an early-stage investment firm with a strong focus on tech startups based in Amsterdam. I guess you could say that with Ace & Tate, I wanted to do something for myself. I wanted to really create something.
What inspired you to start Ace & Tate?
When I was in New York City with my girlfriend in 2011, I purchased a beautiful but expensive frame for a pair of glasses. Back in the Netherlands I had to place prescription lenses and they cost more than the frames themselves. It surprised me because a pair of glasses didn’t strike me as a particularly complicated product to manufacture. What’s strange is that I have 25 different pairs of sneakers, but only one pair of glasses, and that I don’t wear my sneakers when I go out to dinner but I always wear that same pair of glasses. That’s when I started thinking, why can’t we offer affordable yet high quality and stylish glasses? Why is it that you can only find either lower quality pairs at high street opticians and expensive frames at optical boutiques? Why don’t I find the middle ground? So that’s what I did.
It started with research. I wanted to know how the industry worked, who the key players were, basically everything I needed to start my own eyewear company. I visited several glasses fairs, downloaded all the exhibitor guides and started calling, emailing and faxing (yes… the glasses world is an old one). I pitched my ideas at fairs and exhibitors scoffed - they didn’t think my concept would work. Eventually I came across a family-owned business in Northern Italy with more than 50 years of experience in making eyeglass frames. They were interested, and it really took off from there. We found a factory, accumulated funding, worked out our business plan, and created our first collection. Our designs are inspired by the great classic eyewear styles but updated with a contemporary twist. We also selected materials, and our main material (the one we named our company after) is acetate, a flexible and durable material that comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
How have you been able to cut down the costs?
The problem with eyewear is that just a few very large companies control the market, keeping the prices needlessly high. Add to that the incredible mark-ups that are the industry standard, and you have expensive glasses. In the traditional way, you pay too many people (the designer, the manufacturer, the licence holder and the retailer). We’ve been able to cut out several links in the chain and bypass traditional channels by selling online. We’re doing things on our own terms, and we’re able to engage with the customers directly.
You launched in June 2013. How’s it going?
It’s going very well, better than we expected so we’re very happy. People are very enthusiastic and happy with our products, which is really a reward for all the hard work we’ve put in. We’ve grown from 3 to 12 people and counting. They cover all aspects of the business, from an optometrist to a designer to a web designer to a logistics coordinator to a customer service manager. We take customer service very seriously, and by focusing on it, I think we can really distinguish ourselves as an eyewear company. Our products can be purchased on our website, but we have several showrooms so people can try the glasses on, find out what they like, and ask for advice. We make sure that our high level of customer service can be traced throughout the customer’s entire purchasing process.
Would you say that the city of Amsterdam inspires you?
I’m from Laren but have lived in Amsterdam for more than 13 years. It definitely feels like home now. Although we did consider launching Ace & Tate in a city other than Amsterdam, we decided to start here because of our existing network. The Netherlands is a pretty compact market to test products, and if it works here then it should everywhere else. I’ve never seen Ace & Tate as a Dutch company. We love Amsterdam but we have international ambitions and don’t want to be tied to a specific city.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The first thing I do when I wake up is look at what happened the day before. I look through the statistics and check my email. I’m usually late in the mornings – I jump in the shower, jump out, and race to work. I’m here the whole day. My time now is divided between the expansion of Ace & Tate (including the expansion abroad) and the creative side of things (I'm responsible for the brand and our products).
Can you name some of your favorite places in Amsterdam?
Where should I start… I’m a big fan of SLA , the Sarphatipark and the bookshop Mendo. If I’m talking about books then I should mention the American Book Center and Athenaeum Nieuws Centrum (I’m addicted to magazines!) I love my apartment. Recommend Foam and EYE Film Instituut. Van Dobben has the best filet americain sandwiches in the world. I frequently visit The Movies, and I’m a big fan of the restaurant Bak in the West and Rijsel in the East.
We’ve recently expanded to England and we're launching in Germany this summer. We’re not sure what the definition of a European player is, but we think it’s becoming an important brand in the eyewear industry in several European cities. With London on the map and Berlin on the way, we’re heading in the right direction.
Thanks Mark for this interview! For more information, visit the Ace & Tate website . You can also try on a pair of Ace & Tate glasses at one of the showrooms, including Hutspot in Amsterdam, and buy them online .