The business entrepreneur speaks about eyewear
When did you first realise that you needed an eye examination?
I was about 14. While I was at school I found myself sitting nearer and nearer the front of the classroom. Eventually I still couldn’t see, and asked my parents to take me for an eye test. I really hated the idea that I might have to wear glasses.
Can you remember your first pair of spectacles?
I can. They were copper-coloured, and, to be honest, very dull and a bit stiff. I hated them. They made me look boring and I only wore them when I really had to.
When did you start to enjoy wearing glasses?
As I bought more interesting frames, I got a lot more attention and this was fun. I had to wear specs to see, and so they were a necessity – but as the availability of better eyewear improved, I began to be more confident with the idea. I had some RayBan Wayfarers, some Georgio Armani frames, some nice frames from Benetton.
How many pairs of frames do you own today?
I am not exactly sure. The number is somewhere between 300 and 400. I am gradually taking selfies in each frame and posting them on Instagram at @straightspex.
Do you have a favourite pair or make of spectacles?
My collection began with brands like LA Eyeworks, but I soon discovered the Belgian brand Theo, which has formed the mainstay of my collection ever since. They are eclectic, different, a little eccentric and quite distinctive. I don’t really have a favourite frame; it depends what I am wearing as to which frame I choose.
And a favourite eyewear style icon?
I am not sure I have an eyewear style icon as such, but Will.I.Am had some great frames on the other day, and the fashion writer Gracie Opulanza has amazing taste in spectacles.
Have you ever worn contact lenses?
I have never worn contact lenses. A friend of mine, who was a dispensing optician, once put a lens in one eye for me, and told me I might feel sick. That was it – never again.
Has wearing glasses changed your outlook on the importance of eyecare?
Wearing specs has informed me that there are many optometrists who are missing the power and impact of great eyewear. Too many frames are mundane; more style and flair wouldn’t hurt. I think promotions encouraging people to own more frames is important – once you have a second pair, other pairs certainly follow.
Do you think eyewear businesses will continue to grow?
I think the sector will continue to grow, and there are lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs to seize, but this growth is likely to be in unexpected areas. For example, there are a number of retailers expanding their prescription frames sales on the internet, plus look at charity initiatives like ‘buy a pair and send a pair overseas’ that are proving popular. Other interesting areas include spectacles recycling, plus opportunities in bespoke frames with specific colour-matching to the customer.
Currently a plural non-executive director and investor in start-ups, Jonathan Straight ran market-leading recycling bin-maker Straight plc – a company he founded 21 years ago.