Expertise and family values in independent design

Morel Eyewear, based in Jura, France, invited press to learn more about the brand’s approach to production, sustainability, and design

A close-up image of a designer’s hands sketching the hinge of a new spectacle frame design. The hand holding a biro pen is in focus, along with the sketch, but all else is in blur, The desk is scattered with a keyboard, parts off frames, and more sketches.
“We’re very proud of our heritage,” shared Amélie Morel, communications director at Morel Eyewear, welcoming journalists to a press day on 14–15 June, hosted at the manufacturer’s facilities in Morbier, France.

The fourth-generation family business invited journalists from trade press across Europe to visit the facilities, nestled amongst the winding roads and lush green mountains of the Jura region, to see the new collections and learn about recent projects undertaken by the company.

Re-launching production

Morel recently relaunched production of acetate frames at its headquarters, enabling the company oversight through the “A to Z” of the design and manufacturing process.

Barbara Hébert-Motz, trade marketing and digital manager at Morel, explained that the launch of in-house production provides a way to ensure the transmission of knowledge around making eyewear.

She shared that the launch was accelerated because the team felt so much knowledge had already been lost and felt a sense of responsibility to ensure the skills were passed on.
Morel Industrie, the new production arm, aims to manufacture 50,000 frames in the first year of the workshop, a goal that the team are confident will be met or exceeded. The company hopes to make between 10% to 15% of frames on-site. Being a mid-sized business had its benefits for the process of establishing production, as it only took a year for the project to go from concept at the end of 2021 to launch in September 2022.

New branding, refreshed operations

The business has been opening subsidiaries around the world to support distribution, and now operates 17 subsidiaries, following the recent opening of Morel Turkey and Morel Australasia, and has 150 Morel reps.

The company’s largest markets are North America (39%) and France (35%), with 19% in Europe (excluding France) and 7% exported around the world.

Morel has been undergoing a rebrand in recent years, and the latest stage of this evolution sees a reshaping of how collections are organised within the eyewear house.

Previously, Morel approached its seven different collections as distinct brands. However, the team realised this meant telling several different brand stories to the customer. It was also a lot for sales reps to recall.

The new segmentation takes advantage of the themes that unite the collections together.

“The idea was to focus on and to recreate the main message around the Morel brand, to capitalise on the Morel name, because as a midsize firm its stronger for us to invest in one name with three collections, rather than eight names,” Hébert-Motz said.

We’re very proud of our heritage

Amélie Morel, communications director at Morel Eyewear

‘M’ regroups the collections previously known as Marius and Nomad and is a “promise of affordability,” the team said, offering frames across a range of sizes and styles, from classic looks to colourful models.

The ‘Morel’ line brings together Lightec, ÖGA, Koali and Azure around a theme of ‘comfort,’ with Hébert-Motz explaining: “It’s our key collection and core of our business, representing about 75% of turnover.”

Frames in this collection feature the signature Morel hinge, designed to enhance the comfort of the frames, while the styles have been completely redesigned.

Morel also announced the launch of a new segment for the business in reading spectacles, seeking to bring its expertise to a market that, the team explained, they saw being sold in pharmacies.

“We created products for the opticians… for them to have good, affordable and quality products in readers,” Hébert-Motz explained.

Finally, the ‘Marius Morel’ collection regroups 1880, which focuses on retro-inspired frames, and the Marius Morel range which recreates vintage styles.

This line offers a ‘promise of authenticity,’ the company said, with a small number of SKUs and a focus on vintage and retro looks.

“It’s a way of showing all the expertise we have inherited over the years,” Hébert-Motz shared.


CSR: product and plastic

The Morel company made a decision to engage in a new corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach two years ago and has made several improvements since.

Yannick Jacob-Eyer, brand development director for Morel, shared: “It’s really a global approach. It’s not only communication or talking about recycled acetate and that’s it. It’s much more than that.”

The topic of CSR is large, Jacob-Eyer noted, and so the company has started by focusing on three pillars of product, people, and the environment: “As you can see, we live in the middle of nature, so it is really key.”

The company sought to decrease the use of plastic, starting by reducing the use of plastic bags used to package eyewear.

“All the frames are packed in bags. The frame is in a bag, the temple is in a bag. So many bags. So, we suppressed some and we changed also to biodegradable bags from a corn-based plastic,” she explained. “We produce more or less one million frames a year, so two million plastic bags have been supressed.”

All the frames are packed in bags. The frame is in a bag, the temple is in a bag. So many bags. So, we suppressed some and we changed also to biodegradable bags from a corn-based plastic

Yannick Jacob-Eyer, brand development director for Morel

Describing frame cases as “the headache of the optician” as these can be bulky, the company has introduced foldable cases and reduced the volume by three and weight by two. This makes it easier to transport and takes up less space in practice.

Working across departments, Morel has moved to working with 80% recycled and recyclable stainless steel.

Recycle and repair

Morel has partnered with a company based 20km away from the facilities, in Oyonnax, to collect waste acetate from eyewear production for recycling.
The waste material, from Morel and other manufacturers, is collected, sorted by colour, mixed and injected as new blocks of acetate.

The new acetate can then be used in eyewear production, and any waste collected again.

One limitation of recycled materials so far has been the range of colours possible, Jacob-Eyer shared, but noted: “I think the process will be improved in the future.”

Non-obsolescence of the product is an important part of the lifecycle of the frames, and Morel emphasised that all of its frames can be repaired, with the factory stocking a “huge amount” of spare parts. The company suggest that, “the team can always find a solution to repair your frame.”

Frames left at the end of a season are offered to the local optometry school for trainee optometrists to learn.

Currently 2% of the company’s frames are destroyed at the end of a season, but the end goal is “to have zero frames in the bin in 2025.”

Partners and projects

Previously Morel would update its point of purchase (POP) marketing materials three times a year, but it has sought to reduce the POP produced by 40%.

Production of POP has also been moved away from China with some made in Germany and France.

Rep suitcases have also been created by a local supplier – based in the village next to Morbier, where the Morel facilities are located.

The company has seen concrete results in updating its demo lenses. Morel worked closely with a partner in Italy, Divel Italia, for more than a year, in order to develop demo lenses made from a recycled and recyclable material.

“At the end we can say we were the first ones to equip 100% of our frames with these lenses,” Jacob-Eyer shared.

Moving to new demo lenses means a saving of six tonnes of plastic per year, she noted, adding: “You can’t imagine the amount of plastic that comes only from demo lenses.”

Recycling of the demo lenses depends on the country where the practice is based. In France, an association collects demo lenses directly from practices, or demo lenses can be placed directly into the recycling bin.

While Morel helped to develop the lenses and was the first to use them, the company are now sharing information with “competitors and friends.”

Describing the work as “necessary to do,” Jacob-Eyer acknowledged that the demo lenses do cost more, but this cost will decrease as usage increases.

On site

“People in this company are the engine of our progress, and I was really surprised with the engagement internally, because people are ready to change and happy to be part of this,” Jacob-Eyer said.

Morel has invested in making the company an enjoyable place to work, from the facilities themselves, to sight tests, a gym, and local organic food.

“We receive a lot of trainees and work study students in the company. Everywhere in every service, we welcome some young people to discover the company and to learn,” she explained.

People in this company are the engine of our progress, and I was really surprised with the engagement internally, because people are ready to change and happy to be part of this

Yannick Jacob-Eyer, brand development director for Morel

The company has begun an investment on its parking facilities, installing photovoltaic shades with the intention of becoming independent with its energy use.

The 70m long installation will have space for 50 parking places, featuring 390 bi-facing panels, and with 10 charging stations for electric cars.

“With the photovoltaic shade, we will be completely independent with electricity. It’s a big project, and I’m nearly sure we will be the first company in this area proposing such a shade,” Jacob-Eyer said.

Biodiversity is also a passion for the team, and management of waste forms a part, working in partnership with other organisations for reintegration.

Visible from the facilities, Morel has installed 19 hives, producing its own honey, while they have also invested in replanting projects, last year investing in 7500 trees in the Jura mountains.

Furthermore, the company is working to reduce paper use and moving to digital systems, and has been part of the United Global Compact for two years.