How Far They've Come: Warby Parker








I was there when Warby Parker was just a website and a small hopefully bright office/showroom off Union Square. I had just started college, and I was living in this perpetual, almost na├»ve excitement that would show its head at the moment I found myself shaking a hand or watching another person's eyes light up as they spoke about art or their dinner. I was ready to learn about anything and everything, and  nothing had impressed me like my first visit to the Warby Parker showroom.

When I first met Neil Blumenthal, one of the co-founders of Warby, the line was pretty much brand spankin' new. He had emailed me to invite me to the showroom so I could learn about their system of buy one/donate one while also learning about their design process. I had never learned about eyewear as a facet of design, even though I've worn a pair since 3rd grade, so I figured I'd get an education. The showroom had their 27 frames and a monocle dotted amongst books and blonde pine shelves, arranged as if a child had been playing pretend with them and had gotten up to attend to their name being called, I was charmed immediately. The glasses looked expensive yet approachable in their casual arrangement. I would carefully pick up each frame and observe the bright afternoon light shine through the acetate and render each pair into a jewel. Neil went on to show me about how egregiously marked up commercial frames are, and at that point, Oliver Peoples was really the only name that would come to mind when I  thought about vintage-inspired frames while these guys managed to create the same damn thing for less and still donate a pair for every one sold, to someone in need.

I think about that day almost every time I visit their new showroom or one of their two flagship stores here in the city. They're all big, bright and beautiful, and I am so proud of these guys for pretty much changing the game while churning out new collections every season with an immense showing of integrity.

I tweeted about their Spring 2014 collection and their collaboration with Leith Clark (which totally took my breath away, I have these for school), and I came in yesterday intent on photographing that stuff. What I learned is that in the excitement of launching all these great new things for the new year, their incredible Palm Canyon Collection was pretty much glazed over and barely talked about, but lemme tell ya, I intend on talking about it because it was all so damn cool to see and learn about. Y'all don't even know.

So first off, scroll back up and look at that first photograph of the sunglasses I'm holding. Did you notice the subtle striped white marbled insets at the corners of the frames? This collection is all in the details, and the details start with the acetates themselves, which took a year to perfect. Now, acetate is made in layers of pigmented, plant-based cellulose plastic, and getting the right grain or the right dispersion of pigments and shapes is incredibly difficult because one has to deal with different temperatures and mixing processes- all done by hand, mind you.

So this collection, as you might be able to tell from its name, is inspired by the beach as a winter getaway, but through the lens (sorry, I had to) of the 1950's. Think Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. The acetates resemble wind-swept beaches and the clear blue skies against them. I've always been drawn to tortoiseshell glasses, buttons and combs- anything made of it, really, so the use of that look in this collection hits me right in the comfort zone as well. Tortoiseshell, although cruel in its obtainment, was a lovely precursor to plastic, and that presence of history always gets me. But it's the stripes just at the corners of the frame that make this collection sing for me. Each frame has them, and they're so much more beautifully subtle than the stroke of a brand name plastered all over the side, don't you think? The stripes serve as a reminder of their crafted-ness, of their classic appeal. I'm still geeking out over it all, and I intend on getting my hands on a pair once my damn paycheck comes through. Until then, I'm admiring the photos.

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