When Drift founder couldn’t get manufacturing equipment, he made his own.
When Chris Mantz set out to start up his Drift Eyewear manufacturing operation in Chicago in 2009, the then-27-year-old learned a quick lesson in why there was no competition in the handmade-in-the USA eyewear market: There was no equipment available. “No one here was making glasses,” he says, “and there was just no knowledge base.” Mantz proceeded to import the necessary equipment from Asia, or build his own. In some cases, his DIY machinery has outperformed equipment he subsequently purchased as an upgrade. Drift, which Crain’s Chicago Business says may be “the hippest eyewear brand in America,” is now carried by 120 retailers in six countries. “There's a legitimacy to (Drift) that you can't fake,” says an LA retailer who carries the line. “It's just this side of bespoke, handcrafted in Chicago, and imbued with this sense that the product is beautiful and real and tells a story.”