As someone who has worn glasses since my single-digit years, I have had plenty of time to cultivate an obsession. Spectacles aren’t something, like a shirt, that most people change regularly. Instead, you wear them every day, maybe accumulating a modest “wardrobe” over the years from which to choose each morning. They’re one of the first things people notice when looking at you, and quickly become an active part of your persona. Finding a great pair of glasses is truly a transformative affair.
Predictably, I’m always on the hunt for new interesting frames. Although I’d walked by dozens of times, I finally stopped into E.B. Meyrowitz, famed optician of the Royal Arcade, during my last trip to London. Sheel Davison-Lungley was kind enough to give me a few moments of her time, and to explain what makes Meyrowitz and their spectacles unique.
Let’s start with the glasses themselves. The mainline, for both men and women, starts with the highest quality acetate, in a wide array of colors. Vibrant blue, deep crimson, and an almost-glowing chartreuse sit alongside the typical whisky, imitation tortoise, and black that we’re all used to seeing. Each frame shape is hand-made in runs of twelve, in a variety of colors and a standard size. But, if you decide you want the color of Frame A, the shape of Frame B, and a slightly larger/smaller this or that, Meyrowitz can, for a relatively modest fee, make anything to order. As if that wasn’t enough, about ninety percent of the frames are made in England. Production is slowly expanding to France, Germany, India, and Marrakech. “Everything is more lovely when made by hand, and that’s what we believe in,” reflects Davison-Lungley.
If you’re in for something truly extraordinary, Meyrowitz also does frames in water buffalo horn and certified, ethically-harvested shell. No black-market gimmicks here, just the real, guilt-free thing. The horn is extremely porous, and, over time, will absorb natural oils from your face and alter slightly in color. Thus, each pair becomes entirely unique after a few months’ wear. Tortoise shell is just the opposite – pristinely fine-grained, and shines almost like glass. The material is one of the most beautiful nature offers, and they feel completely weightless once you put them on. I put a pair on myself, and it took all my willpower to remove them before leaving the shop.
Let’s be honest though, there are lots of places to get good looking frames that fit reasonably well, with lenses that get your vision where it needs to be, and all for a fairly modest sum. But, if “reasonably well” and “good enough” are what you’re after, Meyrowitz might not be the right fit for you. If you come to Meyrowitz, you’re coming because you want the very best. The best product, with the best service, and the best in optics. An optician by training, Davison-Lungley begins by making sure any pair of spectacles does their job, and then comes design.
The E.B. Meyrowitz Family
If you do a quick search for E.B. Meyrowitz online, you’ll come across a French website, for a Parisian firm of the same name. There are, in fact, three E.B. Meyrowitz remaining (there were many more in the past), and all three are now completely independent. Davison-Lungley is extremely up front about that fact that “We don’t advertise. We never have, and I wouldn’t like to if we can prevent it.” The business functions mostly by word-of-mouth recommendations. “Someone will walk by, come in, like what we do, and then tell a friend, a brother, a mother, or what have you. What we really like here is working with families.” A perfect example of practice what you preach, Davison-Lungley runs the business with her two sisters, and her son has also shown a keen interest in getting involved.
Upon your first visit, you’ll be welcomed with open arms, invited to try on as many frames as you’d like, and offered advice on what might suit you best. And then you’re free to go. “In no way do we make the customer feel like they need to have something. I know it’s a practice that happens in every shop, where they always say ‘Don’t let them go.’ But not here. We want them to go home and dream about our glasses. Hopefully we’ve made a piece of art, and when you get home, you say ‘I can’t do without that.’ When someone comes back, now that’s a joy.”
When asked if she has received any really wild requests, Davison-Lungley frankly replies “People who come in here are generally quite clever. They don’t come in here and ask for silly things – they do want to look good. They want to look good for themselves. I believe, and our customers generally believe, that if you feel good inside, it reflects who you are. People don’t come in here to show off. I hate that. They want to look elegant and fantastic. Something that fits them.” Sometimes the fit is even a bit too fantastic. “I have people who come in and say ‘I’m so sorry, I went to sleep in them. They were so comfortable, I forgot to take them off.'”
Like most great products, Meyrowitz’s glasses are, in the end, all about the people who create them and the people who wear them. The relationships that develop between people through something as simple as eyeglasses is miraculous. Regarding the customers she has had the pleasure to meet over the years, Davison-Lungley muses “It’s a joy to meet these amazing people. We don’t know too much about their private lives, and we don’t want to, but when they come in here, they’re part of the family, and it’s such a privilege to be a part of that. When we go on holiday, we find that we miss our people, and that’s really special.”E.B. Meyrowitz
6 Royal Arcade
London W1S 4SF
+44 20 7493 5778