Traditionally, custom or bespoke sunglasses were something reserved for very wealthy individuals who have no problem with spending several thousand dollars on a unique pair of glasses or sunglasses in the material of their choice. Often these frames were made of water-buffalo horn, or even genuine tortoise-shell because it didn’t make sense to use cheap materials on an item that requires many hours of manual labor. This was exactly the experience Tim de Rosen had, when he was looking into getting a pair of custom sunglasses. Somewhat disbelieving, he started to do some research about sunglass companies in the U.S., Europe and Japan, and soon he realized there was no real affordable custom eyewear provider out there, and so he and Leslie Kent founded Atelier Eyewear in late 2013. The goal was to offer high quality sunglasses that were more affordable to the consumer. Today, I will review a pair of Atelier Eyewear sunglasses and discuss the pros & cons, and explain while poor customer service will even make a great product disappointing.
Update: When trying to reach their website, google send a warning message telling you that it may harm your computer. As such, we cannot recommend you shopping from atelier eyewear.
Atelier Eyewear – How It All Started
In the beginning, it was extremely difficult for Tim to find a manufacturer that would even be open to the idea of producing custom frames one-by-one rather than in lots of hundreds or thousands. Time and time again, the answer he received was: “it’s impossible!”. Nevertheless, he didn’t give up until he finally found a small family operated company in Hong Kong that was willing to give it a shot. Of course, that was just the beginning. Today most parts and materials in the sunglass industry come from Asia, where the majority of world’s sunglasses are injection molded using inferior parts. But Tim wanted to create something of lasting value that sets itself apart from the mass-market not just by the fact that is was customizable but also because he wanted to build something that lasted more than a few seasons. He opted for materials from Europe which are more expensive but of high quality. Priced at $325 (£245) including Zeiss optical or sunglass lenses, Atelier Eyewear’s custom made glasses and sunglasses are an affordable luxury especially compared to similarly priced “off the shelf” premium designer sunglasses that are so prevalent today.
Why Custom Frames & Sunglasses?
In this day and age, 60% of people who wear sunglasses have a frame with a bridge that is too tight. On top of that, 65% of all eyewear users have a frame is too wide, and 71% have temples that are too short. Most people are led by style only when they buy sunglasses, but sacrificing fit means pressure points on your ears or nose and sometimes even headaches, and who would want that?
The frames of Atelier Eyewear partner with the the renowned Mazzucchelli 1849 company from Castiglione Olona, Varese, Italy, which is world-leading in the manufacturing of cellulose acetate. Below, you can see what it takes to create the fine acetate sheets which are the base of Atelier Eyewear sunglasses. Atelier Eyewear currently offers 30 different acetate colors and styles so you will certainly find something that you like, and since it is custom, you can even combine different acetates in one pair of sunglasses, so you truly get a one-of-a-kind item! Furthermore, the metal hardware is sourced from Visottica Comotec and OBE, once again industry leaders in their field. Most importantly, the lenses are industry leading optics from Zeiss, which are optically superior to most lenses out there.
How Atelier Eyewear Glasses are Made
Before all of these quality materials can be assembled to a pair of unique sunglasses, the customer has to decide what style and color options they want. The Atelier Eyewear website offers a rather intuitive user interface, and the great thing is that they are constantly working on improvements, and the system works way better than a few months ago.
1. Choose your Frame
At the moment, you can choose from 14 sunglass frames and 16 optical frames for men. If you like, AE can even make you a pair of sunglasses with optical frames and vice versa. Although the website interface doesn’t allow you to do that, all you have to do is to get in touch with the Concierge, and Tim will personally help you to choose the perfectly fitting sunglasses for you. I would really recommend you take advantage of the free sunglasses consultation where they explain the options and answer all questions you may have in a 1-on-1 conversation.
If you just want to play around, you can upload a picture of your face, so you can actually see what a frame will look like on your face
2. Choose your Color
Once you have settled on the right frame, you can choose from 30 different colors and designs, with a great selection of tortoise-shell looks but also horn and bamboo acetate or solid options. Again, you can use their Visual Try On feature to see if it suits you or not. Last but not least choose the lens color. Like mentioned before, the Zeiss lenses used are second to none and rest assured you get quality optics.
3. Measure your Face
Unlike a bespoke suit or shoe, a facial measurement doesn’t really work and so Atelier Eyewear has come up with a refined software solution that uses the built-in camera in your laptop or tablet to measure your face in 3D. All you need is a credit card so the system has a benchmark that is can measure your face against. Once that is completed, you just have to make a deposit of 50% to get the order started. The entire interface is very straight forward and hassle free.
4. Handmade for You
Once the order is submitted, your frame is made just for you from scratch without any pre-cut parts or patterns. It takes over 180 steps to complete your sunglasses including hand polishing. It takes about 3-4 weeks before the glasses are sent to you worldwide for free with FedEx Express.
When I ordered my sunglasses, Tim and I decided to take it a step further and to design a frame inspired by the sunglasses worn by Cary Grant in North by Northwest. That way, we would have a full bespoke pair of sunglasses! Once he sent be the blueprint, I confirmed and the model went into production.
The first time around, they did a standard size with the new frame, and sent me the unpolished version of it for approval and the second time, they completed the frame with my measurements, and it fit like a charm. I have been wearing it regularly ever since I got it and I think it suits my style very well, although I would probably make them a tad larger the next time. What I really appreciated, was the service I received from Atelier Eyewear along with the swift shipments. The sunglasses are comfortable to wear, the optics are superb and the acetate is beautiful and sparkles with the sunlight. So overall, the product was excellent.
On the other hand, the packaging is definitely not what I expected from this kind of pair of sunglasses. Personally, I don’t really care about packaging but rather about the product and so I was totally happy, however I could see how some would consider the packaging to be rather average. It came in a simple black case with white embossing and interior. On the inside you have the sunglasses, a plastic wrapped cleaning cloth and a plastic wrapped care note, which looked not quite as luxurious as the sunglasses. Considering the pace at which Atelier Eyewear is moving, I wouldn’t be surprised if they have updated that by now.
In terms of service, I am afraid Atelier Eyewear is anything but great.
1. If you want to chat with people, you often are invited to chat, but when you do, nobody is actually managing the chat.
2. When I tried to called the phone number listed on the website, I was forward to a spanish mailbox, and never heard back from them
3. Emails remain unanswered, and if you are unhappy with Atelier Eyewear they simply try to avoid you, and refuse to keep their promises.
4. When I tried to reach the website I got a warning message from google saying that it may harm my computer. So at this point, we cannot recommend them.
So even though they promise you your money back, you might be very frustrated after the entire process. If you still want to take the risk, I suggest, you make sure you can file a chargeback with your credit card company before you order.
Altogether, I am very happy with the sunglasses but I am extremely unhappy with the service, and lack of communication. Also, I prefer to work with people who keep their word and Atelier Eyewear is certainly not one of those companies.
If you would still like to order from them, I suggest you really think about it twice and you make sure that you can get your money back in case something is not as promised.