cool shades, bargain prices
Online sites Tortoise & Blonde and Warby Parker tout eyeglasses as accessories
There seem to be a slew of up-and-coming companies dedicated to one mission: Accessorizing eyeglasses the way a woman chooses a pair of earrings or a handbag.
New Jersey's Tortoise & Blonde and New York-based Warby Parker are such online sites that provide prescription eyeglasses to customers for around $100 a pair — a bargain deal compared to what you might pay your eye doctor.
Both companies will ship up to five pairs to try before you buy, and the customer service is impressive.
Tortoise & Blonde found Evan Weisfeld is an enthusiastic proponent of the eyeglasses-as-accessories viewpoint, and rotates seven pairs regularly himself. "How many handbags do you own? How many shoes?" he asked.
At Tortoise & Blonde, you can call up anytime to not just talk to a person, but a certified eye doctor. Run by a father-and-son optical team with more than 35 years of experience, the in-house team and on-staff eye doctor makes for nimble customer service that includes shipping a replacement pair overnight if you lose your specs. They even send hand-sign Thank You notes.
At Warby Parker, they'll refund your fee if you have to get your pupillary distance measured and get charged for it. When I accidentally sent them a contact prescription instead of an eyeglass prescription, they didn't tell me I was stupid — the exchanged my glasses at no cost.
In addition to operating a website, Warby Parker has showrooms in 10 cities, including Austin (at Bows + Arrows).
Also uniting the brands is a commitment to philanthropy. Both companies have embraced a Toms-like tradition of donating a pair of glasses for every pair sold.
Both companies carry a variety of vintage-inspired, hipster-approved lenses, with Warby Parker's frame names drawing inspiration from literature and Tortoise & Blonde from well-known NYC streets.
Tortoise & Blonde also has a musical connection, staging their soft launch at Austin's SXSW and following the music to Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and, later this year, Miami's Art Basel. The logo incorporates a guitar pick, and Tortoise & Blonde eyewear can be spotted on bands with such indie cred as Ra Ra Riot and Jukebox the Ghost.
Tortoise & Blonde founder (and son of the house eye doc) Evan Weisfeld told CultureMap that the brand hopes to eventually expand to include other accessories. "We'll always be dedicated to high-level design and low price points," he said.
Weisfeld is an enthusiastic proponent of the eyeglasses-as-accessories viewpoint, and rotates seven pairs regularly himself. "How many handbags do you own? How many shoes?" he asked. More than a couple, and I spent more on each than on a pair of your glasses, I told him.
It got me to thinking, with such a selection and that pretty price point, there's no reason not to buy a couple pairs from each.