Living on the Gold Coast of Australia, people often associate it with surf, beaches and a laid back relaxed lifestyle. That definitely is a big part of it but the beauty is there is more. A growing culture of art and design, alongside the addition of some fantastic restaurants, bars and cafes have started to changed the outlook of this coastal city. While it is still growing and has some way to go in the area of menswear, it is comforting to know that there are some places to go to get your unique design fix. One area of design that can be a tough task finding the style you want is eyewear. I am thankful to have found an optometrist in Burleigh Heads that not only is brilliant with eye health but also has unique and fashion oriented designer frames with a great selection of men’s styles. The retail store is Envision Optical. I met with owner, Andrew Bowden, and talked with him about the different aspects of being involved in the eyewear and eye health industry on the Gold Coast. If you are on the Gold Coast, be sure to visit the James Street store in Burleigh Heads to see for yourself.
TMHS: Thank you for being part of The Man Has Style! Can you tell me more about how you came to be working with eyewear and eye health.
AB: Well, it’s pretty simply the thing that ended up first on my uni application form! I had always been science orientated and chose optometry in the end because of some family background, primarily because I wanted to work in health care and own my own business one day. Over the first few years of working in optometry, I developed my passion for great eyewear. I started on the coast in the mid nineties and after a few years moved back to Brisbane where I worked three years in an independent practice in New Farm, renowned for its different pieces. I really developed my appreciation for eyewear as a piece of art/fashion that can truly help define your look on a given day.
TMHS: You have four stores across the Gold Coast with your main store in James Street in Burleigh Heads. How does this store stand apart from the others?
AB: Well it’s not really our main store as such but it’s certainly what my wife and I call our “concept store”, for what we want the Envision brand to represent for the eyewear connoisseur. It’s the location that we decided would be the representative of the fashion side of the Envision brand. All the locations have cutting edge eye care technology so we can provide top-level optometry care. All of them have some great brands and ranges of frames and sunglasses, however Burleigh was the location we decided would carry the ranges that were different and not so mainstream. So, you’ll find ranges and brands that are not widely known, alongside having a true story behind the brand that we appreciate and we feel others will too.
TMHS: This store is a great place to find frames that are more unique to the fashionable buyer. What inspired you to make the focus of this location more unique?
AB: Well, when the previous partnership I was in, which was across 10 locations on the coast, came to an end, I decided that in the four locations I would end up with, we would concentrate on providing the absolute best in leading edge eye-care. Additionally, I also wanted to fuse this with a great retail experience. The locations are all very diverse and James St had the potential to evolve into a really cool village precinct with the diversity of shops, coffee dens and bars that we are now seeing. I wanted to have one location that was like our concept store for what I wanted the Envision brand to be. It was the one with a bit more focus on the retail side of optometry. The aim was for it to become the destination of choice for Gold Coasters and visitors to the coast for eyewear with a difference.
I always felt, and indeed had feedback from people, that “there aren’t any cool frames on the coast”, as well as, “I buy all my frames down south or overseas because there’s nothing special here”. I wanted to change that. My wife is an artist and designer and we both love art, great design, literature, music and individual expression rather than mass trends. This location we could evolve into a little place to go for the “different stuff”. We knew there were people who appreciated quality and unique styles, we just had to provide ranges that would excite and interest them. It’s evolved into exactly that. Styles you won’t find anywhere else on the coast. Michael, my Dispensing Manager at Burleigh, has a fantastic eye for finding the right style and fit for each face, plus all the technical knowledge to ensure that the seeing bit works too!
TMHS: It’s great that you are also a big believer in education and teaching people about eye health. There are so many new developments that many people don’t know about. How do you integrate fashion and eye health in your business?
AB: Our internal mantra in all our staff training and meetings is “educate, educate, educate!”. The name Envision came about partly through me wanting a name that represented our role in providing visual solutions that are unique to each individual, to enhance their ability to live their life and enjoy it. Vision is so important and so precious. I believe most people don’t know what they want, or indeed what’s available to achieve that. Our job is to let them know what’s possible. I feel like much of our modern consumer society is about dumbing things down and this is certainly true in the optical industry. Yet, like so many other fields the examination equipment, the lenses and frames, are all so much more technologically advanced than ever, so it’s imperative that we let people know what the digital scanning equipment we use does to help us maximize their eye health through early detection and prevention of eye problems.
Educating on the best options for achieving optimum vision and eye health, including nutritional therapies, alongside how much goes into making the latest spectacle lens designs, that can ensure crystal clear vision is important. There are literally hundreds of different lens designs and it’s like comparing a phone camera to an SLR in image quality. There’s a reason the better lenses give you clearer vision and it’s our job to explain that so people understand why we recommend them. We utilise iPad technology to visually demonstrate various eye conditions and treatment options using animated educational clips. We email these to patients to help them better understand their condition and process the information later because we all know we forget what we’re told at medical appointments. The iPads are used to explain the various lens design and treatment options like tints, coatings and thinner options again to help people better understand, what really are, quite technical solutions.
TMHS: Having worked as a designer for most of my adult life, I am quite particular in what I like. For me, it’s not just about the basic frame, but the quality in the detailing. You showed me a pair when I was in visiting you recently and I loved the hinging detail. Can you tell me some more about this brand/designer.
AB: They are my new frames! They are the Australian Brand ISSON, model LORD J by Sydney designer Catherine Freris Federici. We met through her role as Australian distributor for some really great brands like LA Eyeworks and Claire Goldsmith. We really like what she has done with the ISSON range and made the decision to bring it to the coast. Catherine’s brand motto is, “Imagination rules the world”. The brand has a great mix of kooky styles and classic interpretations. There are optical and sunglass ranges and though you may not have heard of them, they are sold in 29 countries and have been around for 10 years. I love the hinge on the Lord J. It’s a very unique hinge plate design Catherine uses in her sunglasses and has introduced to some frames in her new optical collection. ISSON is just one of the brands that really resonate with what I want Envision to be for people. The source of something unique and special. You’re not going to see everyone wearing the frames.
TMHS: What is strong in men’s styling of frames at the moment in the Australian market?
AB: There is still a lot of really cool heavy acetate retro shapes but we are starting to see raw metals like the surgical steel used in IC Berlin coming through. Angular, industrial vibes but very lightweight and comfortable.
TMHS: Prediction for style going forward for men’s frames and also sunglasses?
AB: Industrial tones and greys. Larger shapes, more aviator and double bridge retro seventies and eighties styles. Materials like titanium, surgical steel, carbon fibre and recycled wood. Sunnies are tending to be larger size and polarised.
TMHS: What designers/brands do you feel currently lead the way with frames and sunglasses in men’s style
AB: IC Berlin, William Morris London, Isson, Tom Ford, Roger Henley. Plus, can’t go past the Maui Jim suns for our Gold Coast lifestyle.
TMHS: What are your personal favourite frames? Tell me more about the design and designer. Also for sunglasses.
AB: There’s too many! I currently have optical frames by LA Eyeworks, ISSON, the Australian bespoke designer Roger Henley, the French range DILEM and the awesome German range IC Berlin. ISSON and Roger are beautiful unique hand crafted high quality Italian acetate frames made in Australia. Roger Henley is an Adelaide based artisan designer who has made frames for over 20 years and he produces less than 1000 frames a year. He has an amazing variety of colours and shapes that he works with. LA Eyeworks are an LA brand created 30 years ago by two optical dispensers bored with what was available in the marketplace. They are really fun and quirky at times and have a huge following by stylish celebs.
Dilem are a unique French range that have interchangeable frame temples (sides). So you get two pairs with the frame and you can change colours and the look of your frame very easily. They are handmade in France and are really light and comfortable to wear. IC Berlin are predominantly a metal range: very industrial vive, flat metal finish, surgical steel, screw-less hinge design and very light and comfortable. They have some great suns. For my sunglasses, I love some of the brands we have like William Morris London, ISSON and Superdry, but I can’t go past my Maui Jims, living on the Gold Coast. They are the best polarised lens and I’ve had so many pairs I can’t keep track of them.
TMHS: Who are some of the brands in men’s frames that you stock?
AB: IC Berlin, De Stijl, John Varvatos, William Morris London, Tom Ford, Isson, LA Eyeworks, Roger Henley, Dilem and Superdry.
TMHS: It’s great to see you are involved with some fantastic charity organisations. Tell me more about why you chose these charities and why this is an important part of your business.
AB: I believe in compassionate capitalism and helping those in our society that really need a lift up. My mum has actually worked in International aid development for many years after she finished being a high school teacher, so contributing has always been important to me. I decided early on that there were too many good causes, so we have focused on vision related charities for our support. I believe in thinking local, yet remembering we are a global community. I decided we would have a local, national and international vision related charity that we support. We support the awesome international organisation Optometry Giving Sight, The Guide Dogs and a local Gold Coast Blindness support group. We also act as collection centres in our branches for used spectacle donations that get send overseas to help those who can’t afford specs to see.
TMHS: Three things you can’t do without in your day?
AB: Seeing my wife and two boys, a good coffee and music.
TMHS: Where can readers of TMHS find out more about Envision Optical?
TMHS: Finally, why should the men of the Gold Coast visit Envision Optical in Burleigh Heads?
AB: We are passionate about looking after your eyes and ensuring you have the best possible vision to enjoy everything you do in your busy days. We create custom solutions for each individual patient/client. Also, we have very unique eyewear ranges that will help you express your individual style.
– Story by Sarah Crawford, Founder, TMHS
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