You’ve probably seen the designs on some of the most stylish top-tier A-list celebrities like Beyoncé, Alessandra Ambrosio and Gigi Hadid. Korean pop sensation Rain had them bedazzled with diamonds and was spotted on stage with the customized piece. Even BAZAAR Singapore’s editor-in-chief Kenneth Goh doesn’t travel without it.
We’re talking about AM Eyewear – an Australian-based cult luxury eyewear label that’s been around the block since 2002. For 15 years, the brand has produced designs that struck all the right chords with their function, snug fit, and radical form, winning hearts of the public and international celebrities alike. But just what sets the brand apart, and what’s the story behind the brand? Founder Simon Kumar Ponnusammy sits down with BAZAAR and shares with us AM Eyewear’s story, his recipe for success, and more. Though Ponnusamy is based Down Under, we discovered his secret link to Singapore (surprise!) as the interview rolled… Given his major success in the business, we as Singaporeans, couldn’t be more proud.
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1) How did the AM Eyewear business come about?
It was born through my passion for design, beautiful things and because I wear glasses. At the time (2002) I couldn’t find a frame that I really loved so I researched it and realized I could do it better.
2) Share with us your growing up years. How has this impacted AM Eyewear’s business?
My mother worked in the fashion industry when she was younger and she would often point out features of design. She’d also tell me stories of her time in the industry as well her travels with my father. In the 60’s she lived at Bondi Beach and had an office in Surry Hills (both in Sydney Australia). It sounded amazing, and 50 years later I’m doing the same.
3) We heard you have connections to Singapore. Is this true?
I come from a very proud Singaporean family — my grandfather was a well-known Headmaster of the Princes Elizabeth Primary School, and he was on the Singapore Olympic committee and he fought to defend Singapore from the Japanese.
My family has held positions in the Singaporean Parliament and they have owned prominent businesses. Former Singaporean politician S. Dhanabalan (who has held multiple positions in the Singaporean government’s cabinet including Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister for National Development, and now is a member of the Council of Presidential Advisors) is my dad’s cousin, making me his nephew. I grew up hearing stories of accomplishment and I naturally wanted to make my family and my heritage proud.
4) In what ways have you made Singapore proud?
Even though my product is stocked in 44 countries, it feels extra special every time we get a new purchase in Singapore because I feel like it’s an achievement in the country where my family is from.
5) With a 15 year history under your belt, what was the moment that made you go “Yes, AM Eyewear made it!”?
To be honest I never feel as if AM Eyewear made it however, it’s more of a feeling of “Yes AM Eyewear is making it”. One point in time that stood out though, was being sent a photo of Korean star Rain in a pair of AM (Eyewear’s design) covered in diamonds.
6) Speaking of celebrities, we have A-listers from Justin Bieber to Beyonce who have been spotted wearing your designs. How does that make you feel?
There is something really cool about seeing a celebrity wearing something you have designed and these days in a world of social media and gifting wherein a lot of other companies are giving away so much of their product in the hope of getting a celebrity to wear something on Instagram. I love knowing that the celebrities wearing my product have more than likely gone out and purchased it themselves.
7) Is there anyone you’d like to be seen with your pieces?
I’d love to see Karl Lagerfeld in a pair of AM’s because he’s an amazing designer. So for him to make something I designed as part of his ensemble would be an amazing honor!
8) What draws people in to your designs and makes them loyal customers?
I think one of the key elements to our customers staying with us is our fit – I’ve spent many years listening and researching facial structure over different territories and I design our eyewear so that it’s comfortable despite if you’re Asian or Western. We also use materials like titanium that make our frames very lightweight.
9) Why is “Be Kind To Others” AM Eyewear’s slogan?
Because if we all make a conscious effort to “Be Kind To Others”, the world would be a much better place.
10) What is your recipe for business growth?
A quality product, good customer service and great staff.
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11) What are some lessons that the public can learn from your journey?
Coming from an Asian family I was always told to study however, I personally believe passion can be more powerful than study. But of course, having both is the best.
12) Do you have some tips you’d like to share on sustaining a business in a competitive business of fashion?
Stay true to your own values and embrace your unique selling proposition. You will build a loyal following that love your product and you will grow as others discover it.
13) How much further do you think you can push your brand to?
I’ve only just started! The more we get people discovering the brand, the more we get requests for stockists.