Alexandra Peng: Her Mission In Helping Asians See And Feel Better

By Ismary Munet

After designing and producing eyewear for 16 years, Alexandra Peng went from overseeing the process of European brand names to dedicating her time and effort into starting up an eyewear line TC Charton that was solely dedicated to making eyewear for Asians. AsianInNY was honored to host a media press conference for TC Charton at Vision Expo East and interviewed exclusively to talk about her background, her life and her design.

Born in Taiwan, she and her family moved to Argentina when she was only ten. Being the only Asian family in a German Swiss colony in South Argentina, she got used to looking different from everyone around her. When it came to Asian eyewear consumers, what she mostly heard was that they didn’t think they had the right features, and she even explained that many went to the extreme to say that they needed surgery done, “Having that realization… when these beautiful Asian faces say they believe they need surgery to fit these glasses, there’s a problem,” Peng said.

Peng thought that it would be possible to import glasses straight from Asia, such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan, in order to have a product that would fit the Asian market. To her disappointment, she found that not only is it in the U.S. that glasses don’t properly fit Asians, but that even in Asia the glasses weren’t properly suited and fitted for Asian features, “[Asians] don’t have as high brow bones, [don’t have] big eye sockets, we have higher cheek bones… when we are smiling they do these little lift-ups,” Peng said referring to non Asian fit eyewear.

Peng’s brand fits the Asian face, and stays on the face. The glasses are also FDA approved as medical devices, which isn’t the case with all sunglasses. The brand is truly made with every single angle of an Asian face in mind, “I look at your face, and I know which style will fit perfectly. That’s what I do,” Peng said.

Q: Tells us a bit about yourself, and your background. You were born in Taiwan, and raised in Argentina. How do you think that’s contributed to your work?

Peng: I was born in Taichung, Taiwan, and at the age of ten I moved to Argentina. Until today, all of my family is still there. I came here for college. I think the fact that I was growing up in a city where we were the only Asian family… I didn’t have anyone who was Asian. My parents were really good with speaking to us in Chinese, and keeping that up. But, when you look around in the media, it’s very easy to feel different… ‘Why are my eyes too small? Why don’t I look like that?’ Obviously, I grew up, and moved to San Francisco where there’s a huge population of Asians. I slowly started to realize there was nothing wrong with my face. The beautiful girls I grew up with, who thought they needed surgery, I realized there was something bigger; on the psychological level. It’s never just about a pair of glasses. They’re not just accessories. They function as a medical device. The only thing was that no there’s nothing wrong with your eyes, or with your cheekbones. They’re [European brand glasses] just not designed for you.

As a mother of three, and having to look for glasses since I was about eight, I didn’t want my children to go through that. I decided I was going to do it [design and produce glasses for Asians]. I didn’t know how to do it, but I decided to do it. I had to forget about all that [European style of design]. I had to go through three or four samples of prototypes until I said okay, good. I can wear them now. They stay put on my face.

A lot of people ask ‘why does she limit herself?’ To me, I don’t mind. There are about 15/16 million of us; not counting blasians, or half asians like my children. I don’t mind if I’m serving just a small sector of the market. I want the product to fit each one of them well.

Q: Why did you decide to name each frame after its muse. What’s the significance behind that?

Peng: Behind each style, the way I start to picture the style, I must have a face. I mean Asians, there are so many of us. Some of them are lighter, smaller, bigger, and have higher bridges. I tend to name the style after the person who inspired me to come up with that specific style and fit. It’s part of my design process. It helps to inspire me. It’s easier for me. Okay, I want to picture Dina. This is the style Dina might need… it’s because of that. There’s so many of us. There’s such a big variation. People ask ‘what’s your formula?’ There’s no formula. There cannot be a formula.

Q: Not only Asians, but others from different ethnic backgrounds like your designs. What do you think this says about diversity, and did you ever think this would be?

Peng: It’s funny. No one asked about the African American man in the picture. I wrote about it in my blog on the website. I always knew, because we have on our Facebook page, and people who just write to us, saying ‘Why? I’d like to see a Native American,’ or like blasians. There’s a large community. In the Caribbean, there are a lot of Cubans. In Cuba, there’s over 30 percent of people with some kind of Asian, Chinese, in them. But, I must not forget that… I don’t think I should lose focus of what I do. If other ethnicities benefit, I’m happy for that. But, I’m a very focused person. Like, what fits a black person, or what fits Asians… there’s too many differences. I cannot lose focus. It’s impossible to have something that will make everyone happy. I don’t have an illusion of this. That’d be impossible. So, if they fit, great. That’s wonderful.

Q: What’s the significance behind the name TC Charton?

Peng: The TC is my Chinese name Tze Ching, and Charton is my married name, because my husband is French, and it’s a French last name. But, it’s still me just as Alexandra Peng is.

Q: Tell us about your 2014 collection. What’s new? What inspired it?

Peng: The styles of TC Charton are more for everyday. They’re beautifully crafted. They’re styles that actually blend in better for each person. The styles of TC Charton don’t just fit well. They look well with your entire look. Alexandra Peng, we have more jewel tones, decorations, and details that are more jewelry. There are ten styles and they are for women only. With TC Charton, we start [with designs] from a baby to 100 years old.

Q: What other trends have you or have you not noticed among Asians when designing?

Peng: In this 2014 collection, for example, after three years, most Asians think they have a round face, or a wider face, but they do not. ‘Okay, I need a wider fit.’ I’ve been doing that. I have sizes that will fit them well. Let’s not forget that there are tiny Asians. Up to today, I don’t have a main frame that will fit Crystal’s [employee] husband. I need petite products that will fit petite sizes; just like clothing. Also, more styles, not just for lower bridges, but lower and wider.

Q: When you went to Asia, and found that there weren’t glasses that fit. What did you think?

Peng: To my surprise, no. That was the part that really blew my mind. I just don’t know how that’s possible. Even Asians in Asia don’t have glasses that fit them properly? But, yeah. It was mind blowing. I just couldn’t believe it.

Q: What do you want Asians and your clientele to know?

Peng: I want them to know that the product that fits them well, not just helps them see better, but feel better. I want my collection to not just be another eyewear brand. I have a mission… it must not only look good, and help you see better, but feel better… they must try it in order to feel the difference, and see the difference. I will continue to offer trendy styles, but that cater to professionals and college students to be able to find a style that you’ll be comfortable in. You could be a fashionista, or a conservative. I have a style for you.

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