“Have you ever thought about getting your eyes lasered?” asks a friend with corneas so exquisitely curved they put the Fibonacci spiral to shame. You, bespectacled and with an astigmatism so bad you probably shouldn’t operate a motor vehicle after sunset, have but one reply to this oft-asked question: you tilt your head downward and stare at them over the rim of your glasses. Though your friend with a 20/10 looks a little blurry, at this moment you are their superior.
The eyes are the windows to your soul, the adage goes, which makes your eyewear the window to the windows to your soul. And as we move into fall, Vancouver retailers have plenty of options to help you project your strongest features with stylish specs. Or, if you’re a glass-is-half-empty type, use them to run sleight of hand and distract people from your worst ones.
Eric Dickstein has been a fixture in Gastown since 2006, when he opened dutil (303 West Cordova Street). But long before he established what is likely your first stop in the neighbourhood if you’re looking for quality jeans, eyewear was his passion. Located five doors down from the denim destination is his recently opened and hiply designed shop Durant Sessions (315 West Cordova Street).
The eccentric and friendly owner is quick to demonstrate his vast knowledge on the subject of eyewear by identifying the glasses worn by his interrogator: a four-year-old pair of Dita Statesmans. (Key benefit: they make you look a bit like Michael Douglas in Falling Down, so you can order breakfast all day at any fast-food joint.)
“Fuck exclusivity. It doesn’t exist,” Dickstein proclaims. “You can go online and find it anywhere. It’s a little bit of a farcical conversation to be having with the consumer. It doesn’t exist. So I thought: how can we take an optical store to another level?”
The answer was customization. Onsite, you can tint your lenses or frames with a variety of house-concocted colours. With frames, you can get especially wild by, say, mixing up the colours on the outside and inside of the arms and rims, then switching the finish from polished to matte, or vice versa.
“We want to up the ante and really be a part of the creative process and also let the consumer be a part of the creative process,” Dickstein enthuses.
Creativity doesn’t stifle convenience, either. Dickstein claims you can pick out a frame, have it all customized, and wear your new glasses home in a few hours, provided your prescription isn’t too complicated.
Despite Dickstein’s skepticism about exclusivity, there are rare gems available in-store. There are thick acetate frames inspired by Bob Dylan from L.A. brand Jacques Marie Mage (starting at $628); subtle wooden ones from the Midwest’s Anni (starting at $628); and sleek metal designs from Japanese line Eyevan 7285 (starting at $398). The latter, Dickstein believes, embody the move away from plastic frames.
“It’s natural to shift when everything is one way. In fast fashion it’s really easy to make plastic frames, and it’s hard to tell a $350 plastic frame by aesthetic from a $58 plastic frame. With metal frames you can’t hide inexpensiveness,” he explains.
Down the block is another optical boutique that requires little introduction: Bruce Eyewear (219 Abbott Street). Bruce has been a destination for stylish glasses in Gastown for a decade and last year opened up a second location, Bruce Too, in Mount Pleasant (3553 Main Street). Its equally welcoming and knowledgeable owner Nada Vuksic also notes the move away from plastic frames. However, she points out a shift towards…well, it won’t be a big surprise if you’ve ever set foot in East Van.
“The trend is towards more artisanal products. People want uniqueness and they want craft. They don’t want mass-produced,” she says.
Styles she highlights utilize vintage vinyl records, courtesy of Hungarian brand Vinylize (starting at $509); welded nails, by German-designed, Italian-crafted line Kuboraum (starting at $529); 3-D–printed polymers, from Germany’s Mykita (starting at $629); and buffalo horn, on a collab between Mykita and Damir Doma ($2,299).
“Because of what we do and the product we carry, we’re really big on asking people to come in with an open mind,” she says to those perhaps weary of stepping outside their comfort zone and forking over more money to artisans. “Come in and let us take you on a little journey.”
You’ll be in good hands with her as a guide on your vision quest. Mykita has designed and named a pair of frames after her, and Vuksic deftly identified the well-worn, Bruce-purchased Statesmans as well. An employee at the store also noted the coating on the lenses is all but gone while giving them a complimentary cleaning.
“A frame is basically constructed to last two years with daily wear. And your prescription should be redone every two years,” Vuksic confirms, then suggests owning more than one pair might be wise.
“If someone goes to the opera and then is, I don’t know, a garbologist, you’re going to have different needs and different wants and you want different looks. It’s like having one pair of shoes that you wear to everything. You’d never do that.”
So time for a new pair, or maybe two. Sure, they’re likely making remarkable advances in the field of reshaping your eyeballs with lasers. But it’s probably best to put that off a few more years and maintain your superiority over those with better visual acuity by looking sharper.