Making innovation in Marrickville

Bruce Jeffreys and Siobhan Toohill
Bruce Jeffreys and Siobhan Toohill

Siobhan Toohill and partner Adrian Wiggins were back in form on a recent Friday night with their Out The Front/Design Friday events, but this time, bigger and definitely out – into bigger premises.

The events are a kind of irregular private soirees for design, sustainability and innovative thought leadership with speakers and plenty of networking (Toohill is group head sustainability and community with Westpac and Wiggins is a digital media specialist).

In the past they’ve been held in at the Toohill/Wiggins’ Newtown house in inner city Sydney, but this was at the &Company warehouse premises in the industrial ‘hood of neighbouring Marrickville.

Anna Lise De Lorenzo

Anna Lise De Lorenzo

Among the three speakers was &Company founder Anna Lise De Lorenzo, who has been working for years to foster and curate Australian design and has now wrangled a board, some funding and not-for-profit tax-deductible status for her venture in the warehouse.

Jackie Ruddock

Jackie Ruddock

Jackie Ruddock, chief executive of The Social Outfit, spoke about her project employing refugees to design and make boutique clothing for the group’s outlet in Newtown. But it was Bruce Jeffreys, founder of GoGet, who pretty much stole the show with his chat about his new venture called Dresden Optics, which produces inconceivably cheap glasses (to wear) made from things like recycled plastic and found beach objects.

Now why is it so immediately captivating when a man who’s been hugely successful in business stands in front of an audience and, when the host asks him about his business strategy, answers, “What strategy?”?

Day by day, whatever comes along, Jeffreys says.

Except making these glasses was not something created in a day. It took all the years since Jeffreys’ original inspiration in 2000 to find a model that would be truly disruptive. Read the story on Dresden Optics.

The big news, though, is that these glasses, with lenses made on the spot while you wait, and frames made from recycled plastic  at a factory at Lakemba that until Dresden came along only made products for the (shrinking) automative market, cost an amazingly low $49.

How does he do it?

First, there’s just one frame. Many colours but just one frame.

Next on Jeffreys’ journey to upend the natural order of capitalism in the world of optics is to pick up his glasses-making collateral and take it where they really need something new and creative, he says: Melbourne. Yep, Melbourne, via a run of rural towns, offering a product the locals will no doubt love the price and be amazed at the concept, all the while selling and spruiking from a van, ignoring all the rules.

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