Nestled in the heart of South Seattle’s Columbia City is a place where eyeglass frames are more than just pieces of plastic that hold together prescription lenses. Here, a pair of glasses is a fashion statement with a fascinating story to match.
“One of our designers just released frames made from a tree submerged in the Mississippi River,” says Wink Eyewear owner Michele Bayle. For four years, Bayle has catered to those that want their glasses to reflect their fashion sensibilities.
“You put a fabulous pair of glasses on someone, they’re going to get noticed,” laughs Bayle.
She says Seattleites are especially interested in frames made with sustainable materials, and designers are taking note and creating frames made of everything from vinyl records to wooden beams of a building in New York City’s meat-packing district. The interest, she believes, started a few years ago when clothing companies began using glasses as an accessory. “Take a look at fashion spreads. Eyewear is now a major component.”
Spend a few moments in any of Seattle’s two dozen or so eyewear shops, and you’ll see, there is no one type of eyeglasses wearer. From bankers to hipsters, glasses have become the new “it” accessory. Online and chain retailers still make up a big portion of the market, but Seattle is different in that it can and has consistently kept specialty eyewear shops in business. Some customers are willing to pay upwards of a $700 for frames.
The newest kid on the Seattle “specs block,” is a shop that hopes to cater to those that want the personal touch, without the breaking the bank.
“People here were waiting for us,” said Lindsey Bernard, Regional Manager for SEE Eyewear.
The Michigan based retailer recently opened up a storefront on 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle and prides itself on unique, limited edition frames under $300.
“Before we arrived, we’d ship frames from our store in San Francisco all of the time,” says Bernard. “So often, customers would walk in and say, do you have a store in Seattle?”
If the Pacific Northwest is proof, “four eyes” is no longer an insult. A mundane necessity, is now a sexy accessory.
“Glasses are a reflection of a mood,” says Bernard. “The right pair of glasses can bring alive a wardrobe.”