When the e-mail from Warby Parker landed in our inbox, asking us to help them spread the word about their new eyewear collection, my first instinct was: in this small patch of the web, you are preaching to the converted. And I replied within minutes (and no, no money exchanged hands for the writing of this post, that is how strongly we feel about Warby Parker).
As bloggers, we receive offers on a regular basis we choose not to capitalize on. Would you have wanted to hear about jeans that lift your butt? Or instruments of torture – otherwise known as bustiers – that shape you into an hourglass? How about cheap kitchen gadgets that would have gotten lost in your junk drawer? The policy at C&S is that if we don’t use it or, preferably, lust after it, we will not talk about it.
I am one of those lucky people who never needed eyeglasses until four years ago. The optician was horrified when I told him I had never had my eyes examined. Why? I had perfect vision until the night I realized my arms just wouldn’t stretch any farther and the book print wouldn’t magically get any larger. My first experience at the optician was an eye opener (intentionally bad pun): you want me to pay what for my reading glasses? And that was after vision insurance was taken into account. And did I need a coating for the screen glare? Did I want progressive lenses? How did I know? I just wanted to see my book.
I was also the fashion conscious person with light-sensitive eyes who splurged on expensive sunglasses all her life until I found myself ashamed at having dropped $300 on a pair of Prada frames.
Neil Blumenthal, Andrew Hunt, Dave Gilboa and Jeffrey Raider – the founders of Warby Parker – asked themselves where all the eyewear money goes long before I did, and they happened to do something about it once they found out that “most high-end brands do not produce their own eyewear. Instead, they sell those rights to massive companies who design, manufacture, and sell branded glasses directly to optical shops. Those optical shops tack on additional mark-ups to frames and lenses before selling them to you.
[Warby Parker] cut out the middleman by designing and producing their own eyewear, then passing on the savings to customers. They effectively sell glasses wholesale (because it makes no sense for customers to pay for multiple mark-ups).”
All their glasses are priced under $100 and come with two bonuses: they are stylish and of excellent quality, and they “do good”. Every time I buy pair, I can rest assured someone in need of corrective lenses receives a pair. “Almost one billion people worldwide lack access to glasses, which means that 15% of the world’s population cannot effectively learn or work. To help address this problem, Warby Parker partners with non-profits like Vision Spring to ensure that for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need.”
But you don’t have to take my word for it (or Warby Parker’s). The company is a B corporation, i.e. “a company that has been independently evaluated by B Lab (a pioneering non-profit) and found to meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency”. Incidentally, it’s also one of the very few carbon neutral eyewear brands around and a living and working proof of a corporation that can do good, produce excellent products and be profitable.
Far too often (wait, nearly always), companies in a capitalistic system are beholden to the will of their shareholders, an altar on which employees’ welfare and product quality are willingly sacrificed to increase profits. But it doesn’t need to be that way, as a crop of companies like Warby Parker are proving.
But back to the glasses. I have loved every pair I have bought (three so far). Designed by their in-house team of designers, they are then manufactured by the same exact factories that churn out my old Prada glasses and every other high-end brand. If you don’t have access to one of their stores or showrooms, you can pick 5 frames online which are sent to you at no cost to try on and live with for a couple of days, and help you choose. For instant gratification, you can upload one of your mugs on their site and do the virtual try-on of as many pairs as you wish. If you need prescription, they will even call your doctor and send your glasses once ready (progressive lenses are now available as well).
I picked and chose some of my favorite frames from the new collection that is available in the States (and Canada) from today, and paired them with some outfits I am lusting after. Just for fun. But I encourage you to visit their site because it’s actually a good read and packed with many more tidbits that I could ever offer you here, including why the company is called Warby Parker (any Jack Kerouac’s fans out there?).
Check out the entire collection here
Images of the glasses courtesy of Warby Parker
Images of clothes courtesy of Vogue (Christian Dior), Zara and Boden US