Keep an 👁Eye on These Eyewear Startups
Searching for eyewear used to be the same every time: go to the eye doctor, get a prescription, order glasses from their office. It was expensive and you were always shopping from the frames the doctor provided. That has all changed. Startups have entered the eyewear arena and the value proposition is too good to walk away from. We tried 3 different eyewear startups. Here's what we thought...
At this point, Warby Parker has pretty much become a house-hold name. Their program allows to you try 5 frames for free at home. If you like one of the styles, you can order them with your prescription through their website.
Their online shopping experience is awesome. You can't do virtual try-on with their glasses, but you can view them in an animated 180 degree view on a model, which helps shoppers understand scale easier. They also have a mobile app, which makes it easy to make your selection when you're on-the-go. For busy people, the home try-on takes away a lot of the inconvenience of glasses shopping.
The frames are inexpensive, starting at $95 including the prescription. As a person who regrettably dropped $1k on a pair of glasses that broke 2 weeks later, this is a pretty attractive proposition. They're also stylish frames.
The down side is only that the quality of the frames is not the highest and because of their popularity, there's a chance you'll be looking across the subway platform at someone wearing the same ones.
Topology is a younger startup than Warby Parker, based in San Francisco, CA and started by MIT-grad, Eric Varady. The quality of their product in incredible and their experience is different from any other eye-wear company on the market. They're using state-of-the-art proprietary virtual try-on that actually fits and machines custom glasses for each customer.
A quick video of what it's like using the app!
The experience is really unique. With this product, you take a video of your face using prompts in the app, it then uses that data to construct an underlaying 3D understanding of your face shape. From there, you can try on and make adjustments to a range of base shapes they provide.
The app is only available on iOS, so if you're an Android-user, you'll have to borrow a phone from a friend to complete the transaction. The glasses are less expensive than designer frames from the doctor's office, but more expensive than some of the other startups in the space coming in at $349. The trade-off is much higher quality, fully customized frames.
JINS is a Japanese eyewear company which offers quality prescription glasses starting at $60. What makes them unique is that you can visit their retail-locations, try on glasses, and walk out 30 minutes later with a pair of glasses, voila.
If you're in a bind and near one of the JINS shops, you can walk out of there with glasses in 30 minutes. There is no place in the US that I've heard of where this is possible, especially at their price point. They can do this because JINS has automated lens cutting in their brick and mortar stores. The price and speed makes buying glasses feel like any other kind of accessories shopping rather than feeling like clinical, high-impact decision.
Something I wasn't aware of until my adulthood was the concept of glasses with an Asian-fit. I am part Japanese, so I can run into trouble finding glasses that pass the 'smile test.' For me, most glasses I try on hit my cheeks when I smile. I have found that trying Asian-fit has helped resolve some of these issues for me. JINS does offer an assortment of glasses for this exact case.
While the JINS assortment is not quite custom, they offer a wide range of different frames in their stores and online!
Currently, the only US-based JINS locations are in California. They are in both LA and San Francisco. If you're not in those areas, to try this service you would either need to travel, or roll the dice ordering frames on their site.
If you're in the market for eyewear, we hope this helps! Happy hunting! 🤓