At the age of 32, Mark de Lange started a revolution in the eyewear industry: offering stylish and high quality frames at a fair price. Ace & Tate combines craftsmanship with fresh design, allowing their customers to update their spectacles for every occasion.
It is Thursday morning, just before opening time in Ace & Tate’s flagship store at the Huidenstraat in Amsterdam. In passing, Mark de Lange quickly catches up with one of the sales assistents, telling her about family life and his upcoming marriage. We are just on our way to the opposing cafe, when Mark casts a glance at the shop front, before making an abrupt turn and re-entering the store. ‘Can somebody please give the windows a clean?’. The whole event seems characteristic for De Lange, not just for his high level of approachability (one of the brand’s trademarks), but also his eye for detail and penchant for micromanaging. Mark admits having difficulties ‘letting go’: “We’ve hired a bunch of really talented people, in all aspects of the business. But sometimes I still have the feeling that I know it better. That can be frustrating for others.”
"I love the process of a product being made, being able to hold something you have dreamt up in your hands. I think it is very rewarding.”
Mark de Lange grew up in Laren and moved to Amsterdam at the age of eighteen. Entrepreneurship was part of De Lange’s upbringing. “My family is from the shoe business and used to have stores. Later, my father started his own company, importing brands from Italy and England. So growing up, I spent a lot of time in shoe factories.” Comparing the two businesses is difficult, in the eyes of De Lange, as commerce in general has changed so much over the past fifteen years. “But making a physical product is still very similar. That is why I chose to do something that has a physical component to it: I love the process of a product being made, being able to hold something you have dreamt up in your hands. I think it is very rewarding.”
“I like to think I am more of a curator; generally agreeing with all the cool stuff that the team comes up with, or I steer it in the right direction."
Although he used to be very involved in the actual design of the glasses, his role has shifted to controlling the brand experience. “I like to think I am more of a curator; generally agreeing with all the cool stuff that the team comes up with, or I steer it in the right direction. The best part of being at the head of this company is having an idea and seeing that idea becoming a reality. Thankfully, being the founder, I get to push my ideas through whenever I feel passionate about something.”
Forecasting is another favorite task of the visionary CEO. “What is the future of the brand and where are we headed? And, importantly: What can we do to become a more sustainable company?” De Lange explains about the research project that he recently commissioned, which focusses on determining the most harmful parts of their value chain and coming up with new, less harmfull solutions.
But sustainability is already at the core of Ace & Tate’s philosophy in designing classic eye wear with a modern twist. The frames are consciously created to last longer than just one season. Mark explains: “For me this was always part of the idea. Glasses are a medical instrument to begin with, but we attempt to change the way people buy glasses by embracing them as a lifestyle accessory. Also, they have to suit you well. Seeing as the particular shape that you feel comfortable with does not change as much as fashion cycles do. In my opinion a glasses company shouldn't be too trendy or too hyped. I would like our company to make good quality and stylish products that survive the test of time.’
“I am boring as hell in the way that I dress:
it is usually a blue or gray sweater and a pair of jeans.
But I am becoming more discerning when it comes to quality."
Trendy wouldn’t necessarily apply to De Lange’s personal style either, who describes his relation to fashion as ‘antagonistic’. “I am boring as hell in the way that I dress: it is usually a blue or gray sweater and a pair of jeans. But I am becoming more discerning when it comes to quality. I like well-made products and that is what attracts me to a brand like Salle Privée. They make truly well-made stuff. It is always a basic, but the very best in that category of basic.’
Thanks to De Lange’s love for music and the arts, Ace & Tate has an impressive track record of creative collaborations. Last year De Lange, a beginning art collector himself, has even launched the Ace & Tate Creative Fund, helping creatives realise their dreams with every purchased frame. De Lange: “When we started out, we got so much from the creative community. The people we worked with would always tell us about this personal passion project, that they lacked the resources or the time for. So as we got bigger, we started to think how we could help these creatives in return, and started the Ace & Tate Creative Fund. The board is formed by a lot of interesting people from the creative scene: filmmaker duo Lernert & Sander, the guys from It’s Nice That and Mario Lombardo, a cutting edge art director from Berlin. In the future, I’m hoping for the Fund to become an integral part of the brand, using both our online and offline channels to create a launch pad for creative talents.” And once the passionate entrepreneur sets his sights on a project, we can be sure that bright ideas will turn into realities.