GLASSES AS WORKS OF ART
An optical store has opened at Benjamin Eye Institute, properly named Bella Optique. There, you can order glasses from the best companies in the world, such as Matsuda, Gold & Wood, Blac, Tom Ford, Gucci Runway, Sospiri, Dior, Tom Brown, Dita, Res Rei, Thierry Lasry, and others. I asked Arthur Benjamin why an optical store of this level was needed.
Why the sudden decision?
It wasn’t at all sudden. For the past five or six years, I have noticed that almost all people who wear glasses have deteriorating vision. Why? Because there are a lot of consumer goods out there. Cheap glasses are sold everywhere, and many people order glasses on the internet. I’ll give you a simple task; find frames that aren’t made in China.
Gimme a second; I’m looking at my sunglasses. Yeah, there it is.
It would take a lot of time and effort to find something like a German, Finnish, or English toy. Glasses have become a particular problem that I have observed in those that don’t want surgery, or had surgery, and need them.
But it’s your prescription, isn’t it?
It’s our prescription. We give it to the patient, they go get glasses somewhere, then return and say, “I can’t see.” We check and see that the glasses are made poorly, and furthermore from such terrible material that it’s not surprising when people complain. These glasses are not for vision or human consumption at all, but purely for the joy of saving money. No artisanship, no mastery. That’s why we decided to tackle this matter ourselves – not the manufacturing, but by choosing the best frames and lenses.
And this is how the optical store came into being?
We worked long and hard on it. In our store, you won’t find any cheap frames. Only Japanese, German, Danish, Dutch, and all are of a high quality. By the way, many years ago we had an optical store at BEI, and there are patients that still wear those glasses. There were a number of reasons why it closed, but all these years I’ve dreamed of opening a new one. And now it’s come true. It can also be said, though, that the store was created at the request of the people who are tired of junk products.
How is business?
Even better and busier than we could have imagined! People are happy to buy these gorgeous glasses.
But who makes these prescriptions a reality?
We work with three laboratories, two of which are in Los Angeles and one in New York. It’s only three because this quality of lens is only made in these labs. Today, there are optical stores on every corner, and on every other corner there’s a laboratory, but all these (with rare exceptions) are different. I did progressive glasses myself for the first time in my life at age 50, and I was stunned in a good way. And this is me, who also did LASIK. The quality of your perception of the world changes depending on what lens you’re looking through. I could talk for a long time about all kinds of optical parameters and coatings. Or what could be done if you have cataracts but don’t want to be operated on, yet your vision is worse, especially at night or in the sun. Discomfort arises from the fact that a clouded lens dissipates light. To neutralize this dispersion, a negative effect of cataracts, you need special lenses with a special coating.
Do I understand correctly that, thanks to these magical glasses, a person could prolong their condition before an operation?
For a period of time, sometimes a significant one, people can improve their vision and delay the operation. During all these after closing the previous store, I was burdened by the thought that we were now without it, because I want to be able to offer my patients everything that can improve their vision. You can get a LASIK or cataract operation, if you please. We have the best laser and diagnostic equipment to date, not to mention 20 years of successful experience. You want contacts? Go ahead. And if you’re afraid of getting an operation, you don’t need to go anywhere else. We will do everything to improve your vision with glasses, and they’re the best in the world.
I, by the way, remember the previous optical store, and it made quite the impression.
Our current one, Bella Optique, is on another level. I brought in a real expert, Julie Zarrin, who has 30 years in the industry. And she has a collection of frames that can’t be found anywhere else – not on Amazon, ebay, or the company sites themselves. The fact of the matter is that there are frames that the manufacturers don’t sell to just anyone. I have a secret – we have glasses that you can’t buy anywhere else in Los Angeles.
Where do you get these glasses that you can’t find anywhere else?
They came to us and took a look at the office, the store, and the prices, and they felt it was on their level. The image wouldn’t be lost. If you opened a store tomorrow, they won’t give you these frames. They don’t want their glasses sold next to just anything. The process of making the best glasses is very difficult and expensive, actually in an exclusive laboratory, so therefore at a high cost. Beside the unique materials, it’s also manual labor.
Some readers are gonna wave their hand and say, admittedly frightened by the cost, “I don’t need a Ferrari, I’ll take a Camry.”
So that we don’t scare anyone off, let me repeat that we have special packages, because we buy these as a collection. When you buy a Chinese frame at the nearest optical shop for $100, that cost them $2-$5. And here we have designer Japanese frames, for which you pay $500, but originally cost $250-$300. And that’s not so expensive for something that you have on your face 16 hours a day.
You have named Japanese and European companies, but is there nothing decent in America?
We have beautiful glasses from the American company Dita, which is on par. You have to understand what handmade frames are. We have the lightest Danish frames made of carbon fiber that I didn’t even know existed. They are 3D-printed, and making one such frame can take a week. When you hold it in your hands, it feels like it’s from another world, made of alien material. Those glasses are in the $1000 range, clearly. Or the Matsuda products – it’s a family that previously made samurai swords, but now makes famous eyeglasses. Or Gold & Wood, a technology where they take the finest layers of wood and press them with titanium or gold. But it’s not necessary to buy the most trendy or luxurious. There are slightly more modest titanium glasses that you can buy, and you’ll have them for life. Titanium doesn’t rust, bend, or cause skin reactions, unlike cheap ones coated in nickel.
We’ve said this already, but many people don’t know that you can buy glasses with an FSA or HSA.
People think that money in their FSA or HSA can only be spent appendicitis, a fractured arm, or the like, and don’t even suspect that glasses or LASIK are also included. If you just buy glasses at Neiman Marcus, then they won’t cover it. But if it’s in a medical office, that’s fine. Whether the frame is expensive or cheap, they don’t care. All this can still be done before the New Year; it’s coming up!