Our mission is to transform people’s lives through better vision – enabling them to learn, work and be independent.

We’re working day and night to bring high-quality prescription glasses to anyone in the world, no matter where they live and how much money they have.

By 2050 over 5 billion people in the world won’t be able to see clearly without glasses. There’s a lot of work to do, we’d love you to join us.

Our story

Here’s where we impress the pants off you with all our past experience in optics. Except we didn’t have any. Zilch. Dresden comes at things differently – from the same place as you.

Our founders are two frustrated glasses-wearers. Because let’s face it, glasses are annoying. You lose them, you break them. You scratch them. You forget them. They’re fragile, expensive and hopelessly inconvenient.

The seed for Dresden was planted in 2000, Bruce Jeffreys, visited a friend in Amsterdam and tagged along to her DJ boyfriend’s gig – at an optometrist’s. It got him thinking about the whole glasses experience. Then a few years later, kids arrived. Who knew that grabbing glasses off his face and flinging them around a room would be so fun for them? Bruce went back to contact lenses and started wondering how to create a new experience for people who wear glasses.

A blank sheet of paper

Bruce went looking for a partner and found Jason McDermott a designer with equally poor vision. A natural fit. From there, the Dresden team formed in Sydney around a simple mission – putting the glasses-wearer at the centre of everything. Each of team came to the problem fresh, but were all (as glasses-wearers) asking the same questions. How did we get to this state of going into sterile shops, paying ridiculous prices and still feeling vulnerable and compromised? How could glasses be more functional, versatile and dependable, with backups when you need them?

WEEKEND AFR. Portrait of Bruce Jeffreys (yellow glasses) and Jason McDermott who have founded a glasses start up called Dresden Optics where you can swap out the parts of your frames.  Mobile specs shop with optical dispensing onboard. Newtown Sydney. Pic by Nic Walker, November 6th 2015.

Inspiration from Germany

We started by going back to a craft excellence we felt had been lost, where there was a direct connection between the making of a product and the person it was intended for. It’s something we associate strongly with German values of design and manufacturing.

We admire how Germany has maintained its traditions, yet has a hypermodern edge. Das Paradox of German design is also the essence of Dresden’s approach. Organic but technical. Playful and functional.

What has been fundamental in shaping Dresden is a desire to be closer to manufacturing – realising the impact we can make on the environment with recycled materials, and wanting to bring as much of the experience as we can in-store. We want things to be transparent and simple. So our price system is straightforward and you can see your lenses getting measured and cut to your prescription right in-store.

The start of a system

Our German design ideals were all very wunderbar, but it took a fair whack of Australian pragmatism to put things into action. The design of our own ‘system’ – a single frame style in multiple sizes – began with asking industrial design specialists Vert to research Australians’ face shapes and sizes and test frame styles via 3-D printed prototypes. Family, friends, neighbours and strangers were all roped in to model them and give feedback. (Danke!) The overwhelming favourite was the classic, enduring style that has become the Dresden universal frame.

We realised that with interchangeable parts, frame sets could easily be customised. So, four frame sizes and four lengths of arm, for the snuggest fit. Why not have some fun with changing out frame and arm colours and materials too? And interchangeable lenses cut in-store for more flexibility, functionality and convenience? Now, we had a system. Made to change.

ModularSystemColours

Making it happen

We evaluated loads of lenses for optical quality, scratch resistance, lightness and other non-negotiables. The lenses we chose are manufactured by the German-founded optics pioneer, Zeiss Vision, the company that revolutionised microscopes, telescopes, cameras and eyeglasses, and in 1908, brought the world something life changing – identical visual quality over a large field of view.

We met with lots of people who know about plastics manufacturing and talked about materials we wanted to use in our frames, arms and pins. Like marine waste, bottle tops, coconut husks, cardboard pulp. (Maybe even pasta, so if you were lost and starving, you could eat them.) Everyone was enthusiastic – until we added how they also needed to be really strong and flexible. We heard ‘Good luck with that’ a lot.

The final detail was perfecting our pin design for snug fit and an easy pop in and out action, without any need for tools. It took a few goes but we ended up with something pretty simple and smart.

Pin design
Frame design stress test

So here we are

We set up our main production facility in western Sydney, partnering with manufacturing company Astor Industries that, until we teamed up with them, was totally immersed in making car parts for Australia’s ever shrinking auto-industry. Good timing for both of us. We’re moulding our frames from a high-quality recyclable plastic and experimenting with a range of recycled materials.

We’ve also got a hobby injection moulder in our Newtown workshop, where we’ve brewed up experimental frames on the spot – one-offs made from milk bottle lids, plastic ocean waste, or even plastic keys from a discarded keyboard. We’ll give anything a try.

Hobby_molder_computer_keyboard
Hobby mold bottle top frames

To us, quality doesn’t mean perfection down to the last micron or shade of pantone. Yes, we’ve got 16 regular colours in our range. But between every run, we’re looking forward to some happy accidents. The industry standard is to purge before ingredients go in for the next batch, which means kilos of waste at every change. That’s not Dresden. Those in-between colours become specials in a ever-changing and unpredictable ‘blackboard’ menu. Yum.

It’s only the start

We’re on a mission. There are new materials to test, new colours to create, and we’ve built a mobile trailer to visit festivals and regional centres, making quality optics accessible to more Australians.

We hope you’ll be part of the experience.