The owner of Spectacle Emporium shares his passion for eyewear and frame design
How many pairs of spectacles and sunglasses do you own?
Currently, I own four up-to-date prescription glasses, but as my prescription hasn’t altered all that much over the past 10–12 years, I think I have about eight wearable frames. They’re the first thing I reach for when deciding what to wear, and I often dress to show off the pair I chose. Since the frames I have are of various colours and styles, I get the chance to play around with many different looks.
Can you describe your first pair of spectacles?
It was an oversized silver coloured double-barred aviator with a deep tear-drop. With my skin tone, the frame shone – it was love at first sight. I was 10 years old and I was so picky about what was on display at the opticians, I think I drove the optical assistant up the wall. She caved in and opened up a locked drawer full of unusual designs. I nagged my mum until both her and the assistant surrendered.
Do you have a favourite pair?
My latest pair, which is a model called Victor in Aqua by Kirk & Kirk. They are thick, chunky and full of fabulous colour. The frame dominates my features without being too glamorous. As the frames are made of quality Italian acrylic, they are light, while the colour is resplendent and durable. I even chose green Transitions lenses to complement the frame – I’m obsessive that way. In fact, a client of mine – an artist – decided to go for a hot pink titanium frame and I chose Zeiss DriveSafe’s default MAR tint in a fetching purple hue for them.
"I am passionate about eyewear. I delight in spending time trawling through my collections to find someone their perfect pair"
Who would you pick as your eyewear style icon and why?
I have never followed anyone for style tips. Sometimes I see celebrities with ill-fitting frames or in colours and styles so bland that I pull my hair out. But that said, Elton John and Will.I.am have both shown that you can look fabulous in glasses if you’re willing to shed your inhibitions.
Do you ever wear contact lenses?
Me? Contact lenses? If I could, I’d wear funky eyewear on the football pitch. It’s only when glasses become impractical that I wear daily disposables…or so that it gives me the chance to wear my awesome sunglasses.
How long have you worn spectacles for and what prompted you to go for your first eye test?
I remember being screened at school by the nurse with the rest of my classmates, most of whom rattled out the letters with ease right to the bottom of the chart. Then it was my turn. “A”, I said, and that’s as far as I could read without squinting. Consequently, I went for an eye test at my local opticians and was dispensed with the silver aviator.
How have eyewear trends changed during your time in the profession?
Styles ebb and flow with time, and often it’s a revisiting of days gone by. Yet for me, it’s not about following trendsetters, but people expressing themselves through their eyewear. I take pride in styling and educating my clients on quality craftsmanship and modern innovations – I’d rather see people wearing crazy eyewear than clones of clichéd tortoiseshell pantos, black rectangular styles or plastic frames with brash logos on the side.
How has frame design changed during your time in the profession?
It’s an exciting time in the world of craftsmanship – we’re seeing real designers with a real eye for detail grow. Those people are special, and each and every one of them ought to be cherished. New materials, wonderful colour matching, great shapes, and innovative hinges and designs have pushed the boundaries. The fact that there’s a great deal of exposure of celebrities wearing spectacles is part and parcel of these exciting times.
The other side of the coin is rather depressing – mass produced injection-moulded plastics are still churned out by the bazillion, big brands have hijacked the so-called ‘Made in Italy’ label and it’s difficult to trust such claims, while flashy logos gazump facial features. But big campaigns by the mega-rich chains will always sway the public.
As an independent practice, why is frames selection so important to you?
I can’t emphasise the importance of frames selection enough. I am passionate about eyewear. I delight in spending time trawling through my collections to find someone their perfect pair.
I’m determined to have fun with different styles and creations from passionate independent designers who seek more than just the bottom line. Yes, it’s pricier, but you can guarantee that good design can be the start of a wonderful conversation.
I opened my practice, Spectacle Emporium, for the sole purpose of curating distinctive eyewear and to change the perception of eyewear. We really believe that we can beautify Birmingham one face at a time.