Subverting tradition

Co-founder of Kite Eyewear, Asad Hamir, tells OT  about the brand’s new Eyebar concept

Kite Optical launches Eyebar

Kite Eyewear opened the world’s first Eyebar in London on Shoreditch’s Redchurch Street on 17 November.

The new concept came about from a desire to re-think the traditional format of an eyewear retail space while also raising the bar for eye care.

Co-founder of Kite, Asad Hamir, told OT that the Eyebar is a personalised retail experience designed to make people think differently about eyewear.  

“When someone comes in for an eye test, they’ll come through to the dining room area and have their details taken before going in for pre-screening and their eye exam. Once you come out of your examination, you’re handed over to a stylist,” he explained.
Every customer receives a complimentary eye test, which is followed by a one-on-one consultation with a stylist to help the customer find the right frames. 

Kite Optical

“All of our stylists are passionate and trained to recommend frames based on your hair colour, skin colour, or what you wear. There’s also the science side of the experience, and stylists are trained to take pupillary distances, height as well as your prescription to recommend the right frame,” Mr Hamir said. 

The Eyebar has 18 stations where a stylist is on hand to show customers different styles in a frame book, “plate up” potential frames, make suggestions and ask questions. He added: “If you don’t need any help and you just want to see certain styles that’s absolutely fine, or you can go for the full experience where the stylist guides you through to the right frame. It allows the flexibility of a light touch or a full-blown Kite experience.”

The pricing structure of Kite’s frames has been designed with transparency in mind, which was born out of confusion among existing models. “We wanted to make glasses simple, accessible and easy to transact,” Mr Hamir explained. Kite, which has partnered with Carl Zeiss for its lenses, also worked with the company on its pricing model. “The objective was to have a single price, regardless of prescription. Whether you’re a minus five, a minus ten, or a minus one, it’s the same price. Commercially it has to work, but we wanted to make sure the customer gets what they want,” he continued. 

Kite was co-founded by Mr Hamir with Amar and Adarsh Radia, the brothers who are also the founders of the London-based Bombay-café brand Dishoom. The Eyebar has been inspired by the hospitality industry and other retail sectors that have been “constantly reinventing the retail model,” Mr Hamir explained. 

The practice was designed by architect Asif Khan, and has been created to allow customers to circulate freely around the space without being bottlenecked towards eyewear. Displays of eyewear are sparse and the traditional wall of frames is nowhere to be seen. Kite is releasing its own new frames every two months, opposed to the typical launch model of every six months. 

“It gives the customer a chance to come in more often – there’s new styles and new recommendations,” Mr Hamir said. 

Optometrists at Kite make use of equipment such as Optos’ optomap and Zeiss’ i-profiler plus, which offers 1200 data measurements on each eye. Mr Hamir explained that this information makes it easier to achieve the right prescription, and optometrists can spend more time with customers. 

The Eyebar is based in Shoreditch, which Mr Hamir describes as a “natural home” for Kite among other design and fashion innovators. He said that Kite will be looking to open more new stores, but the next one will be about something else. 

He concluded: “It’s about keeping that innovation going so that people are shocked to see what Kite does next. People are craving experiences in a time when it’s so easy to transact online. I need to be able to come into a store environment and feel inspired. Whatever we do next has to be true to that.”