Mark Mason is the founder of Ayres London, a brand that was created when he realised there was a gap in the market for cases for your glasses that would stand the test of time. With sustainability at the core of what they do, having a product that looks and feels good is always their focus. If you’re ready to buy the last case for your glasses ever, then this is the brand for you. Plus, Mark is a pretty inspiring character.
We spent some time with him to find out more…
Tell us about the journey that lead you to launching your brand Ayres London…
It’s been an interesting journey! Around 2014 I started needing to wear glasses for the first time in my life. I invested in a quality pair, but was somewhat surprised when the case supplied fell apart the first time I sat on it! The same happened with the next, and the next, and I started to think that there must be something out there that was both more resilient and aesthetically pleasing. I was also aware that I have my grandfather’s case from the early 1960s which, whilst somewhat perfunctory, was much more aligned with what I was looking for. I started to formulate a view of what I wanted, and in September 2014 pitched at a design to market company who thought I was on to something. Fast forward to 2021 and here we are selling our cases across the world!
Building a sustainable brand is at the core of what you do. Why is this important to you?
I think we have all woken up to the vulnerability of the planet, but that there is also something to be gained personally by investing in quality. We simply can’t continue to perpetuate the disposable world that perhaps grew out of the 1950s and 1960s, and I think this is resonating more and more with people. That’s also aligned with the fact that, for some, there is an inherent value in having some thing that is both durable but also nice to look at and to touch and feel.
How would you describe your brand in three words?
Conscious, elegant, imaginative!
You promise that your cases will outlive your customers. How can you guarantee this?
Our cases are milled from solid blocks of aerospace grade aluminium. We’ve driven over them, and dropped them from a fifth floor balcony! Of course, there are elements which are vulnerable and subject to wear and tear- the hinges and the springs within them. Our case is designed such that these can be easily accessed and the spring, or the whole hinge, replaced.
When people buy your cases, they will never need to buy another. With this in mind, how do you plan on scaling the brand?
They may not need to buy another, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t want to! Our case currently comes in two sizes and two colours. We already have customers whom have purchased more than one case for their different glasses and sunglasses. In due course, we plan to be able to offer a wider range of colours, sizes, and materials. Our case also sets the tone for the ‘DNA’ of our brand both terms of style and what we stand for. I see that as a starting point for future diversification into other product territories whilst retaining our personality.
What advice would you offer to anyone wanting to launch their own business?
Do it! It won’t be comfortable at times, and it will be a roller coaster, but you’ll learn a huge amount about yourself and better to have given it a go and been brave than live with the ‘what ifs’!
Talk us through an average day in your life…
This is where it gets complicated! I’m a Consultant Cardiologist and still working in healthcare! My main role is now in healthcare leadership and I’m a Medical Director in a large organisation. My day, therefore, involves a lot of meetings! Ayres London for me occupies my evenings and weekends. As we scale, clearly I’ll be increasingly reliant on the team to deliver the day to day running whilst retaining a strategic oversight to ensure we’re heading in the right direction.
How much has social media played a role in the success of your brand?
Social media is and will be increasingly key to our success. I think even the biggest names in luxury are embracing the potential it brings and I think it will increasingly be where brands survive and thrive. I certainly wouldn’t profess to be an expert, but my impression is that people are and will be increasingly discerning in how they engage. This means that brands such as ours have a real opportunity to both enter the consciousness of a customer base we might previously have accessed, but it also affords the ability to develop a genuine relationship with our customers which simply wouldn’t have been possible before.
Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?
My favourite destination is France- I’m a complete Francophile! My bucket list destination, thanks to Ewan MacGregor and Charlie Boorman, is to ride a motorcycle across Mongolia! It’s one of the last great wildernesses and it would truly be a privilege to go there.
What is your go-to quote when lacking motivation?
Goodness, that’s a good question- I love a quotation!
There’s Hemingway- the mark of a man is grace under pressure
Lincoln- better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than open your mouth and remove all doubt! (Love that one!)
My professional philosophy- surround yourself with talented people and bask in their reflected glory! In my mind, not so much about using people which is perhaps how it comes across, but about giving great people the space to be great. Aligned with the Steve Jobs quote about recruiting smart people to tell us what to do, not to tell them what to do.
Probably the most grounding, humbling and inspirational from Maya Angelou- people will forget what you said and what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.
What’s next for you and the brand?
For an increasingly broad range of people to be both aware of us and to trust us. That means that they know what we stand for, and that this is aligned with their values. We’re still relatively young, but are building the long term credibility that we associate with many brands in luxury market.
What does self care mean to you?
That’s a really interesting and pertinent question! I think recent history has taught us that we need to be kind both to ourselves and to others. Keeping sight of what’s important is key for me. That means, of course, the people we love but also to be measured in being self-critical- to look for the things to be proud of as well as areas to develop.