“I decided I would make them a statement piece”
Renata Puertas, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, shares her eyewear icons and what it meant to be a part of Faces of Moorfields
17 November 2021
How many pairs of spectacles and sunglasses do you own?I currently own three pairs of sunglasses and four to five pairs of spectacles – depending on whether you count the broken ones I still keep. Because I really love them, I still hope one day I can fix and use them again.
What frame shapes, colours or styles do you usually go for?The large, oval-rectangle sunglasses (Audrey Hepburn-style) are the best. They go well with the shape of my face and are extremely comfortable. I usually stay away from aviators. They are amazingly fashionable so it is a shame I never managed to pull them off.
As a rule of thumb, I prefer acetate frames. They lack nose pads which is a lot more comfortable for me as I had a broken nose and previous surgery. The weight is also paramount.
Since I am going to wear glasses, I feel they might as well be a statement piece, just like a handbag or a pair of shoes. They need to complement and frame your face, and help bring out the best in you. Like make up, one should use complementing colours and preferably bright ones. I have them in red, green, yellow, tortoise, brown and more recently bi-coloured.
I was extremely honoured and humbled to be featured alongside people who went that extra mile
Can you describe your favourite pair?My favourite pair is from the Belorussian designer, Dzmitry Samal, based in Paris. This is the pair I wore in the cover picture for Faces of Moorfields, part of the Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust's week of 'reflect and reconnect'. This event was held in order to recognise, thank and celebrate our team – frontline and non-frontline – who worked non-stop to respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Who would you pick as your style icon of glasses wearers and why?Audrey Hepburn was the first: a fashion icon. But there is also something deeper about her story and how her life changed as a child, yet she carried on, changing her art but still following her passion. More importantly, until the end of her life, she continued to tirelessly advocate for children’s rights as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
On the more extravagant side, the 100-year-old Iris Apfel needs to be mentioned. She has a sense of humour and individuality that I truly admire, including how she carried herself through adversities and didn’t let people tell her what she could or couldn’t do.
Both women are style icons as glasses wearers and are also people who persevered above all.
How long have you worn spectacles for, and what prompted you to go for your first sight test?My first sight test was around school entry time and all was fine. However, I first noticed something was off when I was around 14. We lived in a building with underground parking and every afternoon, when I arrived home from school, I noticed that I could less clearly read the cars’ licence plates on the other side of the parking lot.
My mum took me for a test and that is when I started using glasses – infrequently – for distance. Soon after, I was trained to wear contact lenses. I sympathise with patients: it took me almost six months to be able to put in and remove my lenses on my own. At the time, I was invited to a debutant party and wanted to see my friends without glasses: that certainly sped things up.
Do you wear contact lenses?I became allergic to contact lenses about five years ago. I suffer from giant papillary conjunctivitis and despite treatment, I cannot wear contact lenses for more than a couple of hours without wanting to rip them off my eyes. I can only wear them for the family photos during a wedding. Also, since becoming presbyopic, I find that even if my myopia is under-corrected, I cannot find a comfortable monovision range with contact lenses.
How important is eyewear to reflecting your personality?Since becoming allergic to contact lenses and having to depend on glasses, I decided I would make them a statement piece as long as they are comfortable and, more importantly, fulfil what they are supposed to do: make my vision better.
Do you wear glasses in work, and what is important to you in the frames you wear for this setting?I work as an ophthalmologist and for the close and medium range of distance I can work without glasses. I also find it more comfortable not to have my glasses on while looking down the optics of the slit lamp machine. I feel I can have a nicer, wider field of vision if the eyes are closer to the optics, which most glasses don’t allow.
For surgery, I do prefer to wear my larger frames with multifocal lenses. They allow me to see small objects such as a 10-0 nylon needle – which is teeny tiny – at the same time as operating down the microscope and controlling the cataract machine parameters.
What are your top three tips for selecting the right pair of frames?
- The first and easiest tip is comfort: if you need to use something hanging on your face and over your nose, it needs to be something that you barely notice
- Go with the shape of your face. Most of us are aware of what our face resembles: a heart-shape? A square? Is it oval or round? If you don’t, someone in your family will do, usually our mothers – they always know best. Once you find it, there are tonnes of infographics on the internet to help you find the best fit for your shape
- Make sure that you would like – or you wouldn’t mind – wearing that frame for several days in a row. With my larger Dzmitry Salmans I am always happy. I don’t think a day goes by without someone commenting on how striking they are, and they are incredibly comfortable.
A quest to find the perfect replacement
For sports I had a sunny yellow pair from PQ by English designer Ron Arad. They are an ultra-light one-piece frame in 3D-printed nylon without assembly, without screws, and with built-in hinges. Simply amazing.
Those were broken during lockdown, right after I had their lenses changed. So I entered a quest to find another pair. With lockdown, no one was producing it or had it in stock. I contacted his atelier, and they didn’t have it. Even their warehouse in Italy was closed due to COVID-19 and they could not help me either, though they were amazingly friendly.
I ended up contacting Design Optical in Rome, Italy, the optical store from which I brought the original pair. They didn’t have the same colour, but were able to produce a brown one from their stock, one size smaller, and I could have my new lenses fit, as the size difference was not that great. I still keep the sunny yellow one in case one day I can fix it (or find the same frame).
Renata Puertas is a Brazilian ophthalmologist who moved to London in 2007 for a fellowship in glaucoma and has since taken on several roles, currently working as a locum consultant ophthalmic surgeon. Puertas is the audit lead for glaucoma, and head of the surgical user group at the Oriel – Moorfields’ new hospital building. She is the safety and quality lead in glaucoma, and also works for A&E. Alongside this, Puertas also enjoys teaching – helping medical students to fellows, nurses and optometrists.