Warby Parker is already well known for its effort to get consumers to spend less on fashionable eyeglasses — a typical pair of frames costs no more than $100 with prescription lenses. And it's made the leap from e-commerce to brick-and-mortar retail. Now Warby Parker, valued at more than $1 billion, is becoming a vertically integrated company: fast, cost-efficient manufacturing supporting a website experience that blends into brick-and-mortar retail.
Manufacturing is the last piece in a three-pronged effort to extend from design to distribution, cutting out the eyewear middleman. The company's new Sloatsburg, New York, factory, called the Optical Lab, integrates lens-finishing and assembly.
Although the frames are made elsewhere in the world, the Lab is designed to cut lenses and fit them to frames, a critical step because every pair of eyewear is by design a custom product. Warby Parker, which previously worked exclusively with third-party optical labs, says the factory lets the seven-year-old company deliver the finished glasses faster and at lower cost.
The New York City-based start-up returned to the CNBC Disruptor 50 list in 2017.
Read More FULL LIST: 2017 DISRUPTOR 50
"The Warby Parker model or strategy is to be vertically integrated," said co-founder and CEO Neil Blumenthal. "It's how we're able to sell a $500 product at $95 dollars. We design the frames ourselves; we produce them using the best materials out there; now we're able to insert the lenses ourselves and ship direct to customers, [which] enables us to cut out the middleman."