Tom Davies: Eyewear done right.
Let's do a little head count here, how many of you guys wear optical glasses?
Okay, so quite a few of you. I guess that was predictable.
Now how many of you wear glasses in any capacity, primarily sunglasses?
If I was delivering a Ted Talk (Ted hit me up, I’ll do it for free) I would be remiss to not see everyone’s hands up in the air. This would be my mic drop moment. The collective moment that everyone in the auditorium understands that the glasses industry is gargantuan and that it affects pretty much everyone.
I would walk up and down the stage, looking intently in the eyes of random members of the audience to emphasise my point. Boom.
But on a more serious, I have always been terribly interested and fascinated by glasses, even before wearing prescription lenses.
Understandably there is a palpable aesthetic that people enjoy about glasses however, let’s strip that away for a second and grasp what glasses are.
Well in their optical and sunglasses form they are medical devices.
They help you see your loved ones, read your favourite books and shield your eyes from damaging UV rays. Perhaps this may be a bit extreme but my glasses are to me what a Ventolin pump is to an asthmatic. With something that has such an exhaustive list of advantages, that lives on your face for around 10-15 hours a day for an average of 2 years and also needs to looks like the bees knees, why are the general public so budget averse? Why when confronted with a £500, £600, £700 pair of glasses people suffer sticker shock?
Firstly it’s important to understand whether this demand for budget eyewear is warranted. All industries have different prices, points, none more than the fashion industry. You can either buy a wrist watch from Casio or a Rolex. This is completely based on an individual’s disposable income and what they personally value. However, that particular analogy starts to fall apart once you realise that a wrist watch isn’t a medical device. Besides telling the time it doesn’t provide the same kind of urgency and demand for your everyday life that a pair of glasses do. Perhaps orthopaedic or bespoke shoes are more akin to this comparison and let me tell you, those are not cheap. Now if you take a trip to YouTube or Google and type in “should I invest in my glasses”, you will be overwhelmed with these debunking articles and videos detailing the shady reality of the eyewear industry and how you are being ripped off by the transnational conglomerates, in particular a company called Luxottica. They all ask the same question, “why are glasses so expensive?” But in my opinion this is the wrong question. It should be “why do glasses cost what they cost?”.
Let’s dive in to some interesting fundamentals starting with: who is Luxottica?
Well they are an Italian company andthe biggest eyewear company in the world that manufactures, sells and insures eyewear across the world via its subsidiaries. According to a report in 2018 Luxottica controls approximately 80% of the world’s eyewear industry, manufacturing and designing for Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Tiffany, Bvlgari, Armani, Prada and many more. They also own the largest eyewear brand in the world, Ray Ban. If that isn’t enough they also own the largest sunglasses retailer in the world, Sunglass hut.
This is not another article slating Luxottica so I am going to make this awfully simple.
Is Luxottica the Illuminati? No. Is their monopoly on the eye wear industry good? No. But have you ever heard of Facebook? Volkswagen? Estee Lauder…?
The reason why I mention this Italian giant is purely because the (negative) exposure they have received has unfortunately solidified the idea in the general public’s mind that glasses are essentially cheap overly priced pieces of plastic or wire with thin plastic lenses coated with superfluous coatings that do nothing - to me, this is a problem.
It’s a problem because what (I assume) started as a critique on Luxottica frames has become an unfair, arbitrary editorial on the entire high end eye wear industry!
In every industry you will find things that are not worth their high price tag, however, to paint an entire echelon of industry with the same paint brush is unjust.
Now, I have owned a few of these ‘high end’ glasses and does the quality blow me away? Not really. Am I surprised? Not really.
For any veteran listeners of the podcast you will know that I am not a big fan of big box brands where the consumer is paying for marketing and brand tax, we pride ourselves on working with brands that put the consumer first and are leading innovation in their field.
Enter Tom Davies.
Who is Tom Davies? Aside from being an absolute badass, Tom Davies is the founder and owner or his namesake eyewear brand and London clinics Tom Davies. He has been in the industry his entire career spanning over two decades and has managed to remain just as passionate and enthusiastic about designing frames as the day he started. That level of devotion is exhilarating and truly contagious. He is known for his handmade bespoke glasses but after getting to know him and the brand, what they offer is so much more than that.
The Tom Davies locations across London have some of the most epic eye testing facilities I have ever had the pleasure to witness and experience. It’s like stepping onto the set of A Space Odyssey that’s jam packed with Zeiss equipment; it is extraordinarily impressive! In fact, I have confirmed with numerous sources that the TD outlets have equipment that not only rivals, but outshines that of a hospital . They’re so good that they’re able to catch certain eye illnesses, cancer, glaucoma, eye pressure, shape and the list goes on.
Before I delve deeper in to the discussion at hand, I would like to digress and share with you the experience of getting a new pair of bespoke glasses with Tom Davies.
How long is your typical eye test? Well the longest I had ever attended was 25 minutes but 7 minutes was taken up by the optometrist taking a bloody phone call. This eye test is around an hour, the optometrist was exceptionally attentive to every single detail and made sure every measurement was done completely accurately. Once the eye test is completed the optometrist will then walk you through all the test results, if there are any issues they will be flagged immediately and a treatment will be recommended. This is something that, of course, cannot be replicated via an online outlet and even can’t be matched by the majority of big box eyewear stores. Once again, I would like to reiterate, glasses are essentially medical devices and the eyes are some of the most sensitive organs in the body. The team at TD understand that and treat your eyes with the upmost respect and care.
Once the eye test is concluded here comes the fun.
You are then encouraged to peruse the collection Tom has in his beautiful stores, this can range from titanium to acetate to horn or even gold and silver. A professional in the store will spend another hour (or as long as it takes), to help you find the perfect glasses that not only fit your face, but will stylistically reflect your personality.
Taken with Nikon Z6 edited on Snap Seed
Measurements will then be taken of your face and notes are made of how the frame must be altered to fit your face perfectly. This was an absolute pleasure, appreciating that you are in good hands provided a level of confidence and excitement in the selection of my new glasses that I had never experienced before. It was the knowledge that, whatever frames were chosen, they would be made to fit perfectly my face and lifestyle.
Fast forward a few weeks, I arrived for my final fitting and I was lucky enough to have the man himself there, Tom Davies.
We ended up talking about headphones and hifi for most of the fitting and had to quickly wrap up the fitting in the final 20 minutes but it was this that showed me how much of a master this guy is.
I had gone for a pair in Tom’s precious range, made of solid silver with prescription Zeiss lenses. I slid them on to my face and exclaimed, “They are perfect!”.
Taken with Nikon Z6 edited on Snap Seed
Tom raised his hand to his chin, tilted his head to the side and grimaced, “Not really…” and held out his hand.
I passed them back. He bent them around a bit before returning them to me to try them on again.
I swear they felt like a different pair of glasses! They immediately felt more comfortable, sliding down my nose less. He then stood up sharply, felt how the frames were sitting behind my ears, bent them again and boom!
Now they really were perfect.
This process is the epitome of making something look easy. I walked away wearing the best pair of glasses I had ever gotten that for once fitted me perfectly. This filled me with delight, but also befuddlement. Why aren’t bespoke glasses everywhere? There is nothing else similar that I can think of, aside from a watch or a wedding band that you wear every day for years. But the difference is that a watch or a wedding band doesn’t help you see.
As I have mentioned previously, rather than asking “Why are glasses so expensive?”, we should be asking “Why do glasses cost what they cost?”. I will be doing a few podcast episodes on this so I’ll keep it brief.
Taken with Nikon Z6 edited on Snap Seed
Not all glasses are expensive and the reason why most ‘designer’ frames are expensive is the precise reason why designer clothing is expensive, because you are paying for a brand. Something I like to call brand tax.
Are cheap frames a great deal? I don't think so, as I have described in previous posts and podcasts, I gauge value by its total satisfaction and cost per use. My total satisfaction for the Glasses Direct glasses were very low because they didn’t last me very long, and therefore not a great deal in my books. Most of the time they are cheap because either the materials and construction is cheap, with little going towards the design, research and development of them, or, the company has bought the frames in bulk which can significantly reduce the price.
Tom Davis on the other hand is definitely high end materials wise but is offering more than the product. It’s a product that is designed around your health, lifestyle and enjoyment from the moment you enter their stores – it’s designed to become a part of you. This is what I like to call a no brainer. I for one can unreservedly say that Tom Davies is producing my favourite eyewear on the market and I can't see myself wearing anything else. We only have two so treat your eyes the way they were meant to be treated.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth podcast episode all about this experience!