Four eyecare professionals share their penchant for frame fittings that are en vogue.
For these successful retailers, eyewear is more than a tool for better vision – it’s a fashion accessory that empowers and instills confidence in the wearer. Each told VCPN of their general love of fashion, describing how they decide what frame brands and collections to sell: mostly a healthy mix of what they like and what customers dictate. Having clients who look good and feel beautiful is always fashionable – no matter the brand.
VALERIE VITTU, MARGOT & CAMILLE OPTIQUE
• Location: Philadelphia
• Opened: 2005
• Percent managed care: less than 1%
A native of Paris, optician Valerie Vittu opened Margot & Camille Optique in 2005, in a Philadelphia neighborhood she describes as “charming with no chain stores.” Her clients seek niche, quality choices, so Vittu stocks her shelves with brands that include l.a. Eyeworks, Smoke X Mirrors, Randolph, Anacolé, Jacques Durand, Kaneko and her own private label MargotCamille, made in France.
Vittu keeps inventory low, with only one to two frames of each brand in stock. Her typical customers, men and women aged 40 and up, are “past brands.” She went on to explain: “They are people who buy art from emerging artists, or support the small, local theater group. They love the fact that their glasses are unique and no one else has them.”
To find looks that appeal to them, Vittu said it’s important to fit clients well-both in comfort and style. “It has to be them, but better,” she said. “Until they feel amazing, it’s not a good frame. Looking good and feeling good: that empowers.”
MARY BONAME, OD, MS, FAAO, MONTGOMERY EYE CARE
• Location: Skillman, NJ
• Opened: 1997
• Percent managed care: 0%
A practicing optometrist since 1994, Boname’s practice provides patients with total and complete eye healthcare and includes a dispensary. “I always say that if you’re looking for eyeglasses at a place where you can also buy tires and toilet paper, this isn’t it,” Boname said.
While Boname relies on her dispensing optician to help choose eyewear brands to carry and fit patients, she personally loves to model different frames in the office, which she said often starts conversations about a brand or style with patients. When it comes to style, Boname believes fashion (and eyewear) should send a message without saying a word. “I don’t mind if everyone turns and stares,” she said.
Montgomery Eye Care carries brands such as Maui Jim, Fendi and Gucci; the most popular being Kate Spade for women and Silhouette for men, with Tom Ford a hit for both. She also began producing a private label called “Ivy League” (she’s a Cornell grad whose practice is about 10 miles from Princeton University) because more patients are asking to have brand labels removed from frames. Plus, she said: “The private label is equally, if not more, stylish.”
TERESA GELSI, TERRI OPTICS
• Location: Dobbs Ferry, NY
• Opened: 1989
• Percent managed care: 50%
When optician Teresa Gelsi purchased her father’s optometry practice at age 28, she renovated the entire interior, changed the name-and had many sleepless nights.
“I made a ton of mistakes along the way, and I learned as I went,” she said. A devotee of the Carole Jackson book Color Me Beautiful, Gelsi taught herself how to apply Jackson’s philosophy to eyewear fashion, regularly speaking at local women’s clubs.
With an optometrist on staff, Terri Optics offers eyecare as well as eyewear, and according to Gelsi, a successful dispensary comes down to having organized, well-thought-out displays and knowing what your customers want.
“What I love doesn’t always translate into what will sell here,” she said. “You can have a fashion dispensary with low, medium and high-end luxury collections if it’s presented well.” Gelsi carries brands such as iGreen, Etnia Barcelona and Coco Song. Her customers are currently hot on Barton Perreira, Bevel and Maui Jim sunglasses, although it isn’t the brand itself that is the the most critical aspect to selections, she stressed. “Our patients don’t care about the name-they want something functional that they also like.”
SUSAN BROWNELL, THE BENT LENS
• Location: Bozeman, MT
• Opened: 1982
• Percent managed care: 0%
An optician for 35 years, Susan Brownell describes herself as a cowgirl at heart who wears interesting and “wild at times” eyewear. “I can convince and help people to learn that they can be a little ‘out there’ with eyewear,” she said. “We can take you from maiden to vixen, if you want!”
Located in the historic downtown of Bozeman, The Bent Lens was purchased by Brownell in 2002 after having worked there since 1999. Brownell, who said she always looks to fashion in deciding what collections to sell, admitted some decisions have been “too ahead of the time” for Bozeman, so she has had to balance her taste with what she thinks her customers will be willing to try.
Brownell said that The Bent Lens carries brands that can’t be found anywhere else in the town. She loves Iyoko Inyaké (her largest collection for both women and men), J.F. Rey, Mykita and Face a Face. Proof Eyewear is also popular. Her customers do like to dictate their fashion with eyewear and are more conscious of quality and style than brand name, adding, “They know they can get something here that is unique and beautiful and interesting,” she said.