A few weeks ago, I was alerted to an online store, Eyewear Envy, an online eyeglass store that specializes in frames that fit Asian faces. The shop is run by Katherine Manalo, OD, an optometrist who graduated from UC Berkeley’s optometry school, and is now based in Texas. She’s also a fellow Filipino healthcare professional, so of course I had to talk to her. Also, being your stereotypical nearsighted Asian American geek who also happens to love glasses–I do have about 7 pairs!–I was interested in knowing more about her.
What was the inspiration behind starting Eyewear Envy?
My mission in creating Eyewear Envy is really to make it easier for Asians to find glasses that fit comfortably and look stylish, particularly plastic frames. Like a lot of people, I have been wearing glasses since I was really young and still remember how difficult it was selecting a frame every time I had to get new glasses much less ones with any style (see photo). Frame styles have definitely improved since then, but in my experience it is still a challenge to find frames that fit an Asian face properly. I was on a mission to find a “perfect” plastic frame in Hong Kong earlier this year, and even there I could only find one or two that fit well. The culmination of that trip plus my previous failed searches inspired me to start the company.
What are the specific issues that make glasses for Asians so difficult?
The main challenge that many Asian people face with selecting a frame is finding one that will accommodate a less prominent nose bridge. This issue is not as important when choosing a frame with adjustable nosepads (most commonly frames made of metal material), but more so with frames made of plastic material, which are usually made without adjustable nosepads. Plastic frames have the potential to sit lower and closer on an Asian person’s face because of an anatomically lower bridge, which can cause the frame to rest on the cheeks and hit the eyelashes . This can be uncomfortable, and more importantly make it so that the person wearing the frame is not looking through the proper part of the lens and will see distortion. The other contributing challenge I believe many Asian people face is finding a frame that can accommodate high, prominent cheekbones. If a frame is already sitting too low and too close to a person’s face, then having prominent
cheekbones only compounds the issue.
Who is your typical customer? What are your most popular styles?
The site has been live for just a few weeks now, it’s very early but so far TC Charton has been our best selling brand. We have been getting more orders from California, New York and Texas. I am trying to reach out to Asian populations in all regions of the country.
Who are your major providers/manufacturers? How did you choose them?
Personal experience, trial groups, industry magazines and websites, and online research have provided me with these frame manufacturers, and I am constantly looking for more. Two of the main American companies I currently work with are TC Charton and Ono Optical, both based in California. TC Charton is the only company in North America that manufactures frames exclusively for Asian people. I also work with a couple of Chinese manufacturers which I located online. As the company grows and I can determine exactly what customers are looking for I can adjust the collection. The major frame manufacturers in America do carry a few Asian fit frames in some of their lines, but as of now I am trying to focus on frames that are not so mainstream and not as easy to find at optical chains and/or private offices.
Do you work primarily with American based manufacturers or do you also contract with manufacturers in Asia?
The frames are supplied from America and China. The collection consists mainly of plastic frames (with and without adjustable nosepads), although I do carry a few metal styles and some sunglasses.
What has been the response so far from your customers and providers?
It’s a little too early to accurately comment, but so far it’s been nothing but positive.
Have you come across any issues with the more technical aspects of making the glasses? Do you work with your customers’ optometrists to
ensure the proper fit?
The prescription lenses are made at our lab in accordance with the prescription information given by the customer. We always confirm the parameters and validity of the prescription with the doctor’s office before filling, as most prescriptions expire in one or two years depending on the state and practitioner. Currently we only fill single vision prescriptions (not bifocal or progressive), or there’s the option to purchase just frames and have the lenses put in by your optometrist. In fact, some people who don’t need eyeglasses even order frames without corrective lenses just for the look.
As far as the type of frame, on the site there’s a “Frame Guide” and “Lens Guide” with helpful information on selecting a pair and we are also available to assist via email or phone. If there are any issues with the fit or with any part of the glasses, we advise customers to contact us immediately for resolution.
I’ve also ordered a pair of glasses from her, so look out for my review of these glasses in a couple weeks.