One of the last things I did before the COVID lockdown of 2020 was travel to London to attend 100% Optical, the newer of the two major U.K. optical trade shows at the time. The trade show was filled with a lot of familiar brands in mostly smaller-sized booths catering to the British optical community in what I understood from many I met there, a more modern and inclusive approach. One of the highlights of the show in 2020 was the staged fashion shows, with dancers showcasing eyewear from just about every vendor showing their wares inside the ExCel Center in the Royal Docks area of London between Canary Warf and London City Airport. It was at this show when we first heard of COVID and almost everyone thought it was something only the Chinese would have to worry about. Little did we know that this was the last major trade show for over a year.
After a little over two-year hiatus, 100% Optical returned to The ExCel Center last month, running from April 23rd to 25th. Like just about every optical trade show over the last couple of years, 100% Optical was postponed several times and digitized as well to try and keep the U.K. Optical community up to speed on the optical world around us. During the intervening years, 100% Optical merged the other major optical trade show, Optrafair, to make 100% Optical the premier optical trade show. The doors to 100% Optical finally opened on Saturday morning, April 23rd and like Vision Expo in New York, there were hugs and high-fives all around.
The staff at Media 10, the show organizer put a lot of work into making 100% Optical a bigger and better event than ever and it showed. From the moment one walked into the doors of the ExCel Center, you could tell the show had grown up. 100% Optical is a contender. There were over 150 classes, seminars, and workshops. The booth spaces were bigger and brighter. There were dozens more exhibitors from across Europe and several from the United States, such as Erkers 1879, NW77th, Bevel, and Blake Kuwahara. We caught up with old friends from the UK and made plenty of new ones too.
The wonderful fashion shows were back and were packed once again. Covid was still on most people’s minds and many people were seen wearing masks, even though the U.K.’s mask mandate had long expired. Ventilation inside the ExCel Center was dramatically increased during COVID to bring in much more fresh air and unless you felt constricted in any individual space, most people went about their business as usual. I wore a mask on all public transportation and while riding every elevator or lift, as most European elevators are considerably smaller than the average American lift.
A lot was going on every day at 100% Optical including the 2nd Annual Love Eyewear Awards. A number of great companies won awards for a variety of categories of eyewear, including Kirk & Kirk, JF Rey, and Struktur. Just under 10,000 people attended 100% Optical and we can’t wait to see how much bigger and better the show will become in the years ahead. If you are considering attending a foreign optical trade show, 100% Optical is a great way to start, since there is no language barrier at all. Take a look at their website and pencil in London and 100% Optical into your 2023 plans. The 2023 show is scheduled to take place February 25-27 next year.