I tried to do the Warby Parker thing. I really did. Not just the brand – but the aesthetic too. I’ve worn glasses for 20 years! And it’s only recently that they’ve gotten cool, so I was excited to have cool, hipster glasses. Except, I could never get excited about them. Neither the shapes nor the sizes ever really worked for me, and as excited as I wanted to be, something always seemed lacking. And again – these are not just Warby Parkers, but hipster glasses in general. I needed new glasses for a while – my supply of contacts had dwindled so much that I only wore them for special occasions, and the rest of the time I just didn’t wear my glasses, but carried them in case of emergency (or in case of meeting Mondo Guerra). Then, my glasses outright broke, which inspired me to finally re-order my contacts, but I still wasn’t inspired to buy glasses. Until I happened to wander into my friendly, local eyeglass shop, Fine Arts Optical. I happily spent the next hour trying on what felt like every pair in the store.
On my third visit, I ran into Ray Ascher, the current owner of what happens to be multi-generational family business. We got to chatting, and I delightfully looked on as he showed me frames his mother had designed, or that had been designed by someone in the family as far back as the 30s! See, ever since 1930, this family has put out four collections of eyeglasses a year, like clockwork. They design prototypes that they sell to brands or manufacturers. They also have their own in-house line of custom dyed frames, and frames made from ethnically sourced horn. Everything in the store is one of a kind. Of the two frames that I bought, my eyeglasses were designed for Emmanuelle Khanh in Paris, but never sold outside of Europe (note: this type of glasses have been on my mind for two years). My sunglasses are a prototype that were never put into production. How special!
You can find fabulous Ascher family frames at several locations in the Bay Area, including Optical Works on Polk Street in Russian Hill and Phoenix Optical on College Avenue in Rockridge.