Interview with Melon Optics
Melon Optics recently released the new Alleycats into the wild and they have been selling like hotcakes within the MTB community. I managed to interview James Pointer one of the founders of Melon about the new cycling and MTB glasses and goggles on the market.
Hi James how is everything going this year for you guys?
Well, it’s definitely been a whirlwind few weeks as I imagine it has been for a lot of brands. We saw some major dips during march but the last couple of weeks have picked up again which is nice. Overall the last year has been great though, we’ve really invested heavily in product, team and content and we’re pumped on the reaction we’ve been getting to the Alleycat as well as the recent addition of Rob Warner and Olly Wilkins to the team.
So how did Melon Optics come to be born?
Originally it was just me looking after a mate’s house in a small village near the surf in the middle of nowhere in Indonesia. I’d saved up some cash and had put my mind to not working for someone else, so I locked myself down and spent a few months pretty much doing nothing but reading business and brand books, eating, playing table tennis and surfing. It was kinda like corona isolation is now (minus the surf). The idea of custom sunglasses came to me originally and then building the brand into snow and bike just came with time. It’s amazing how fast 6 years goes.
It’s been great to see your product line go from strength to strength and allow so much customizing. It’s been a breath of fresh air to be able to do that in today’s Market. Was the range of customization the plan from day one?
Yep from the day we launched, we’ve always been a custom brand. At the end of the day, we want people to have fun with their eyewear and as a brand, we want to provide you with an experience that leaves you with something unique and with your own personality added to it. It creates a lot more work than if we were to run it like a regular eyewear brand but we wouldn’t change it. It’s what makes Melon, Melon.
We have just seen the release of your new Alleycats. How did they come from design to production?
It was a little over a year long process from the time we pressed go, but the actual concept was in the pipeline for much longer. We started with the design side, getting Christophe who had previously created our Parker and Diablo goggle designs on board. From there it was a case of pulling together inspirations and concepts and refining them through sketches and technical drawings until we had the final 3D design. We knew from day one that we wanted them to be the best quality they could be so we started searching for a partner in Italy (the world’s home of sunglasses) and finally found the right one. At the same time we got chatting with Zeiss, who we were already working with on our snow goggles to get started on making sure the lenses were on point.
Once we were partnered up, it was a case of 3D printing, riding in, testing (and breaking on some occasions) multiple design iterations, until we felt we’d nailed the design. We then handed over the 3D design files to our manufacturing partner to start on the Alleycat mould and 3 long months later we had our first samples. Add in some fine tuning to the mould and another round of samples and we were finally happy with what we had created and ready to start producing them for real. It’s a long road from start to finish, but we’ve been stoked on the final result. It’s also been great working with Dino (our manufacturer). He’s part of a small 3rd generation family run business and getting to go out to Italy and tour the facility, eat some Pizza and build that relationship has been a lot of fun
The lens for the glasses is made by Zeiss who has huge experience in designing and manufacturing lenses which you have used on your snow wear goggles from day one. Was it difficult for them to manufacture a lens for the sport of Mountain biking given the harsh nature of the discipline out in the elements?
Despite being a huge company, Zeiss have always been great to work with, listened to our needs and managed to find the right product fit to bring our collection to life. Around the same time that we were finding our manufacturing partner, we went for a meeting with Zeiss at their Italian headquarters. We sat down and told them what we wanted and soon enough we had a solution, which was a trail specific tint that specifically enhances the colours that you’re going to be most in contact with when riding. Once we had developed some samples and given them a few tests, we were hooked!
In terms of keeping them safe from the elements, we made sure that all the lenses are impact resistant, have anti-scratch and Zeiss’ signature “Ripel” water repellent coating to ensure the best possible experience when riding.
How much testing went into the Alleycats before release?
A lot. Before we even started on the main moulding process we’d went through three or four iterations of 3D print versions, to make sure that they sat correctly on your face, fit well with as many helmets as we could get our hands on and most importantly didn’t fog up. Doing all that testing definitely meant that our time to get the final product to market was longer than we would have liked it to be (we’d originally planned for a September release but didn’t release until December), but one of the most frequent bits of feedback we now get is how they just don’t fog, so in the end it was worth it.
Were the aesthetics a huge factor in the design too as they have to be one of the better looking products on the market today?
We absolutely knew these had to look awesome. Whilst there’s a tonne of solid riding glasses on the market most just don’t look good. We worked really hard to keep looks and quality on an even pegging, it’s easy to get this wrong so we’re stoked we pulled it off!
With how well the Alleycats have gone down in the MTB community have you guys got anything else exciting in the pipeline?
We’ve got a few fun accessories and apparel bits that we’ve been designing over the last few weeks, which we should be able to drop this summer. On the eyewear front, we’re already brewing something up with our designer over in California that we’re planning to release spring 2021, so watch this space!
It was great to chat with James at Melon to get the back story on the company and what went into the new Alleycats. If you wish to take a look at the Melon Optics site and the Alleycats then I will include a link below. I’m sure we can agree that the looks of the glasses are fantastic and at £115 they are a bargain to be had too.
let us know in the comments below what you think of the Alleycats