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Wooden spectacle frame maker Banton eyes new manufacturing move

TWO young entrepreneurs who run Scotland's only maker of wooden spectacle frames are moving the business into mass production to keep pace with demand.

Lucy Ross and Jamie Bartlett, both 24, have decided to scale up production after winning a following

around the world for the frames they produce in North Lanarkshire.

The designers have won orders from China, the USA and France. Ms Ross and Mr Bartlett make

around 20 sets of frames by hand a day in a workshop at the bottom of the garden at her home in

Kilsyth.

With opticians in the UK and overseas keen to market the frames, the duo are preparing to outsource some production work in readiness for a big increase in sales.

Their Banton Frameworks business is planning to open a shop in the trendy Shoreditch area of London where the spectacle frames have been well received.

The company's potential was recognised by judges in the latest round of the Scottish Government-

funded Young Edge awards. Banton Frameworks was awarded £5,000 towards the costs of launching the London outlet and supplying its first wholesale customer.

Banton is in talks with an investor based in the City who has expressed interest in backing the founders'expansion plans.

Ms Ross said Banton was pleased to have found a manufacturer based in nearby Blantyre that will

be able to produce frames in batches of 500.

She expects to sell the first batch within three months.

The founders have been delighted by the success of a venture that started as a final year degree show project when were studying design at Glasgow Caledonian University.

"I've been wearing spectacles since I was 13 and I was getting bored with the spectacles that were on offer in the usual places," said Ms Ross.

She and Mr Bartlett decided to experiment with wood as it was readily available and liked the results.

"Wood is such an interesting material and it's really accessible. The tones are very flattering against the

skin, much less harsh than plastic. The finer details of the wood, such as the grain, make each pair of frames really interesting," said Ms Ross.

The design students began with sunglasses and moved on to spectacles after winning a good response to their first product at a trade fair in London in Autumn 2012.

After winning support from Business Gateway and North Lanarkshire Council, the business has developed a range of 10 frames which the founders make using aviation grade beach wood.

They sell the frames for £130 to £140.

The designs are named after Scottish innovators such as John Logie Baird, inventor of the television,

and tyre pioneer John Dunlop.

Baird's are boxy like an old-fashioned TV. Dunlop has circular eyepieces like a tyre.

The spectacles are fitted with leather ear pieces for comfort.

The lenses are fitted by opticians.

Ms Ross said Banton is in talks with Nadeem Lalani, whose family run some opticians in London, about a possible expansion funding deal.

Business Gateway helped Banton to develop its business strategy and to access funding from North Lanarkshire Council for equipment.

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